When you ask most collectors about Honus Wagner, the famous T206 card instantly comes to mind. But Wagner has a much earlier and much more scarce card. In fact, a lot of avid collectors don’t even now about Wagner’s not-so-famous Henry Reccius Cigars card.
Henry Reccius was a cigar manufacturer in Louisville, Kentucky. Like many tobacco companies, Reccius turned to advertising trade cards to help promote his business. Trade cards were a form of business card that served as an advertisement. Accompanying an ad and information about the company was often a picture of a subject. Trade cards had pictures of all sorts of things but some had images of generic sports scenes or even specific baseball players.
Reccius turned to a young baseball player known (at the time) as Hans Wagner. Wagner had a 21-year career in the major leagues mostly starring with the Pittsburgh Pirates and helping that club win the 1909 World Series. Before he joined the Bucs, however, he was a member of the Louisville Colonels from 1897 to 1899. Reccius teamed up with Wagner to produce a trade card using his likeness.
The card shows a young Wagner and calls Henry Reccius the manufacturer of the “Hans Wagner ten-cent cigar.” The card also mentions five-cent cigars, has Reccius’ address of 2606 Elliott Avenue and his telephone number printed on the front of the card. Only found most recently in 1998, the card is relatively new to the modern trading card industry (although it had also surfaced in a 1950 Sporting News ad).
It obviously isn’t known how many of these cards were printed but we know that hardly any have survived. Today, there are only two Wagner Reccius cards that have been graded.
Dating the Honus Wagner Henry Reccius Card
Trying to determine the exact date of the Honus Wagner Henry Reccius card has been as difficult as finding copies of it. Because Wagner is pictured with the Louisville Colonels, the widespread belief has been that it is from 1897 to 1899 when Wagner was a member of the team. However, an auction for a cigar box using the same image was discovered to have been printed much later in the 1910s-1920s.
In addition, Major League Baseball historian John Thorn indicated that a search for Henry Reccius in Louisville records does not show him living at the address on the trade card (2606 Elliott Street) until 1904. There are some questions about this as Reccius was shown to be living on Elliott Street as early as 1891 (with a house number not specified). Thorn’s research is a strong piece of evidence for a later card. However, personally, I’m not sure the post-1900 dating will ever be confirmed until an exact residence can be pinned to his 1891 location.
In short, no conclusive date for the card has been established. Even if believed to be a post-1900 issue, pinning down an exact date still seems incredibly difficult because the listings indicate Reccius was at the 2606 Elliott Street address for many years.
The Henry Reccius card was also important because it is one of the issues that seems to debunk a popular myth about Wagner. Many believe that Wagner’s T206 was pulled from production because he was against the use of his image on tobacco products. But Wagner is found on this card and other tobacco-related issues, including the cigar box, that was known to have been produced after the T206 card. More likely is that the cigarette cards were easy to get and popular with youngsters and Wagner didn’t want to see youngsters smoking or spending money in tobacco shops to try and get his card.
The specific reason for the Wagner card being yanked early in the printing of the T206 cards may never be known. But Wagner’s appearance on other tobacco-related products makes it harder to believe that the reason was because of a strong stance against that industry.
Honus Wagner Henry Reccius Card Value
With any limited issue such as this card, pricing is not easy to determine. Hunt Auctions sold this card back in 1998 where it fetched $15,400. It would likely sell for more today, but it’s hard to imagine it approaching the seven figures that Wagner T206 cards sometimes command.