With one T206 Honus Wagner card set to possibly challenge the all-time record price for a baseball card, a second one will reach the auction market not long afterward.
SCP Auctions will be offering an Authentic (Restored) example of the hobby’s most famous face in its next major catalog sale. The card is also expected to bring a seven-figure final hammer price.
SCP Auctions President David Kohler told SC Daily that the card has been in the collection of a long-time, prominent hobbyist who acquired it 20-25 years ago. SCP has placed a $2 million pre-sale estimate the card, which will be in the company’s upcoming Fall Premier auction, expected to open in late September or early October.
SCP last privately sold a Wagner in May 2019, a PSA Good 2 specimen that went for $1.2 million. Since that time, the market for most rare trading cards has skyrocketed. Earlier this year, an SGC Authentic restored Wagner once owned by Joe Garagiola brought over $2.5 million at auction while a PSA 2 sold at auction for $3.7 million in May.
Theories for the scarcity of the Wagner card have varied. The widely accepted legend is that Wagner did not want his likeness associated with the marketing of cigarettes. Though Wagner was a known tobacco user, some believe he did not want to encourage kids to do the same. The other theory is that Wagner and the American Tobacco Company could not agree on a dollar amount he deemed worthy for the use of his image on their products.
By the end of the promotion in 1911, it was more than clear that Wagner’s card was the most elusive of any player in the massive set that included both major and minor leaguers.
A story in the October 12, 1912 issue of The Sporting News indicated a local sportswriter hired had been hired by the tobacco company to get Wagner’s permission but was turned down by Wagner who “did not care to have his picture in a package of cigarettes.” Wagner, the story says, paid John Gruber the $10 Gruber would have been paid by the ATC for the use of his image, stating “I don’t want my picture in cigarettes, but I don’t want you to lose $10, so I’m enclosing check for that sum.”
It’s believed that only about 60 Wagner cards survive today.