You’re familiar with the artwork that became the most famous baseball card ever made, but what about the photograph? A few original images of Honus Wagner produced inside Carl Horner’s Boston studio in 1903 have survived to this day and one of them is on the auction block where bidders are already circling.
The 3 ½ x 4 ¾” image of Wagner, dressed in his buttoned-up baseball uniform and smiling ever so slightly, is the headline attraction in the July catalog at RMY Auctions. It’s being offered publicly for the first time. Within four days of the auction’s launch, bidding had already topped $10,000.
Still attached to its original white mount from Carl Horner, the photograph was trimmed by an artist at a Cleveland newspaper over 100 years ago and has two small pinholes but is considered the second finest example of the photograph still in existence. The photo also has what RMY calls “a hint of artistic enhancements done from publication.” There is a June 16, 1913 file date on the back, owing to a newspaper decision to mark each photo for its archive.
Horner is known for photographing hundreds of deadball era players at his studio in Boston, which at the time was home to teams in both the American and National Leagues. Wagner was just one of the players who sat for a portrait. The photos were used for a variety of purposes with newspapers being one of the key repositories. Thanks to the limited distribution of the Wagner inside American Tobacco products in 1909, the image used to create the famed T206 Wagner baseball card is Horner’s most famous photograph.
The photo is one of more than 1,000 in RMY Auctions’ July online catalog which closes for bidding on July 14.