Carl Horner’s famous image of Honus Wagner that appears on the world’s most famous baseball card wasn’t just used to sell tobacco. The studio portrait appears on other collectibles, including a remarkable photo composite that pre-dates the T206 set by more than five years and will soon make its way to auction.
The Wagner image is part of a composite that features Horner’s images of the National League champion 1903 Pittsburgh Pirates. It’ll be one of the attractions in SCP Auctions’ summer catalog, along with another composite of Horner’s photos of the American League champion Boston club, including Cy Young. The composites are special in that members of the two squads that competed in the first 20th century World Series are showcased.
Only a few Horner composites are known to still exist. Each measures approximately 17”x21” and has spent the last several years in a private collection. The minimum bid for the Pirates piece is $5,000 while the Red Sox composite will open at $3,000.
Born in Sweden, Horner was a productive portrait specialist who became well-known in baseball circles. His photos wound up on numerous tobacco and candy card issues of the Deadball era.
The Pirates composite, which uses the “Pittsburg” spelling common to the time period, is titled “1904 Champions” but actually refers to the club’s 1903 pennant win. At the time, teams were considered “Champions” until another club assumed their reign. Player-manager Fred Clarke is in the middle with Wagner joined by Tommy Leach, Ginger Beaumont, Hans Lobert and other stars.
The Boston composite features well-known images of Hall of Famers Cy Young and Jimmy Collins along with Bill Dinneen, Freddy Parent, Buck Freeman, Chick Stahl and other key players.
“Photos by Carl Horner, Boston” is printed in the lower right of each composite, each of which according to SCP officials, have been well taken care of and remain free of any significant wear.
The auction opens August 3 at SCPAuctions.com.