This is the big one for Rally Rd. At least as far as sports collectibles go.
The “Holy Grail” of baseball cards — a 1909 Honus Wagner T206 tobacco card with a Sweet Caporal back— goes on sale Friday at noon on the company’s website.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Rob Petrozzo, who co-founded Rally Rd. with childhood friend Chris Bruno three years ago.
This card is commonly known as the “Nun’s Wagner” and is shellacked. There is no grade on the card, other than it being authenticated by SGC. The serial number for the card is 1277779-001, and the card has a wonderful story.
Rally Rd. is a mobile platform that allows collectors to buy shares of valuable memorabilia at a fraction of the cost. The company specializes in selling shares of high-end automobiles, but Bruno and Petrozzo decided to delve into sports collectibles.
Friday’s offering will open at $52 a share, and the company making 10,000 shares available for a market value of $520,000. That’s a much better opening than what was originally projected — 5,000 shares were going to be offered at $99 apiece.
After the initial offering, the card will be “closed” to new investors until the first trading window, which generally occurs 30 to 90 days after the end of the initial offering.
To say the Rally Rd. folks are excited is an understatement.
“This was our vision when we started the business,” Petrozzo said. “We wanted to present the best pieces of history to the people who truly appreciate them.”
There are many cool stories surrounding the T206 Wagner, but the “Nun’s Wagner” may be the most compelling.
The card originally belonged to Thomas V. Callahan of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. He bought the card as a 12-year-old in 1936. The card was not in great shape and was shellacked, but Callahan held the card until his death in York, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 3, 2010.
Through the years, Callahan became involved with the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore. His sister, Jane, was a member of the order and was known as Sr. Mary Vincent Callahan.
Sr. Mary Vincent belonged to the order for 56 years and was a professor of chemistry and physics at College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Thomas Callahan had lived in Englewood, New Jersey, and worked for the Ford Motor Company in New York. Thomas Callahan never married, so when Sr. Mary Vincent suffered a brain aneurysm during the late 1990s, he moved to Stewartstown and stayed by her bedside.
Sr. Mary Vincent died in October 1999, but her brother continued to visit the Roman Catholic-based order of nuns. When Thomas Callahan died, he left his estate — including the Wagner card — to the nuns.
A hint of the card’s value was in the safety deposit box that contained the Wagner, according to The New York Times.
“Although damaged, the value of this baseball card should increase exponentially throughout the 21st century!” the note read.
The card back shows some paper loss, like it had been pasted into a scrapbook.
Sr. Virginia Muller, the order’s former treasurer, decided to do some research on the card to determine its wealth, the Times reported in 2011. She was stunned when she saw the value of other Wagner cards.
“I very carefully put it into the back of my files,” Sr. Virginia told the newspaper. “Then quickly insured it.”
The nuns consigned the card to Heritage Auctions, which sold the card nine months later for $220,000 ($262,900 including buyer’s premium) to Philadelphia cardiologist Nicholas DePace. The Rally Rd. website originally listed the value of the card at $495,000, but the offering price has since jumped $25,000.
Rally Rd. has already had good success with its two previous sports memorabilia offerings.
Earlier this year, a 1952 Topps card of Mickey Mantle that graded near-mint (SGC 7) was snapped up in a matter of minutes by 264 investors at $132 per share.
The second offering opened in late October. Rally Rd. offered a 1971 game model autographed jersey from Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays during his final season with the San Francisco Giants. The jersey, which had an autograph on each side of the stained uniform jersey There is an autograph on each side of the stained uniform front.
The Mays jersey offering, at $28.50 per share and 2,000 shares available, was bought out within 15 minutes of it hitting the market.
Even with a card as valuable as a T206 Wagner, there are risks involved. The $520,000 current value could drop — or it could rise. Just like the stock market, an investor needs to balance hopes with reality.
The Rally Rd. website’s FAQ page explains the risks succinctly: “There’s no guarantee that there will be a buyer offering your desired price when you want to sell.”
Petrozzo said the Wagner card is something special, and he believes collectors/investors will feel the same way.
“For me, this is a card that I have never seen in person until now,” Petrozzo said. “Even having access to it at all was something I never thought was possible before we started Rally.
“It’s real history. That’s especially true when a card has a story like this one in particular.”