One of the best copies of the most recognizable baseball card ever made is about to go on the auction block.
Robert Edward Auctions will offer a T206 Honus Wagner graded SGC 3 (VG) in its Summer Auction, set to open this week. It will carry a $1 million reserve, but expectations are that it could bring the highest price ever paid for a single sports card. It’s the highest graded Wagner to reach the auction market in six years and one of the five best known examples of the card that’s been the face of baseball card collecting for decades.
Remarkably, the card coming to auction spent more than 30 years in its original form, never graded by the Houston, TX area collector who owned it. It had originally been acquired by TCMA founder Mike Aronstein on Long Island, NY in 1973.
SGC authenticated and graded it in 2012 and it was sold that year for over $1.2 million. The card then sold privately within the last two years, according to REA, again at a higher price. It was at that time when it was transferred to the newest style of SGC’s black and white holder, according to REA President Brian Dwyer.
The population of T206 Wagners professionally graded VG or higher hasn’t changed in six years and they rarely come to the open market.
SGC has graded four Wagner cards at the VG 3 level with three additional VG examples graded by PSA, one of which sold through REA in 2015 for over $1.3 million. There are only four Wagner T206 cards graded higher and all are in private collections: NM-MT 8, EX 5, EX 5 (miscut), and a VG-EX 4. All were graded by PSA.
The current record price for a T206 Wagner was set in May when a PSA 2 copy sold for over $3.7 million at Goldin Auctions. In February, a low-grade Wagner card owned by the late Joe Garagiola sold for over $2.5 million.
Owning one of the several dozen T206 Wagner cards known to exist is almost never a losing proposition and in the current market, prices have increased at an even faster pace. Anything less than a seven-figure sale for even the worst examples is now relegated to hobby history.
“This is an extremely rare opportunity to acquire one of the finest examples of the most famous and most desirable baseball card ever. The quality of this card positions it near the top of all known examples, and it could be a very long time before we see another one this nice,” Dwyer remarked. “This is an exciting time in our field, and I believe that timing is right for this card to become the most valuable card ever sold at public auction. This is the Mona Lisa of baseball cards.”
In early June, a 1916 Babe Ruth Baltimore News card sold for an undisclosed price that’s believed to be somewhere in the $6 million neighborhood, which would be the most ever paid for any sports card. In January, collector Rob Gough spent $5.2 million on a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 9 in a private deal through PWCC Marketplace. A LeBron James rookie card sold privately through PWCC reportedly also matched that figure. A recent transaction involving a 1/1 Steph Curry rookie card was said to carry a $5.9 million valuation.
Bidding for the Wagner card and the rest of the items in the auction begins July 23 on REA’s website and concludes August 15.