The Honus Wagner T206 issue is the most popular baseball card of all time. With all due respect to the Mike Trout Superfractor that recently sold for a record amount, the tale of the Wagner card has been spun for more than a century and the card is even fairly well known outside of the relatively small circle of baseball card collectors.
Of course, as the story goes, Wagner did not agree to be included in the massive T206 set. The only problem was that the artwork for his card was already secured and cards were printed with some even making their way into packages of cigarettes early in the printings. But Wagner’s card was ultimately pulled and his card, along with the card of Hall of Famer Eddie Plank, was shortprinted as a result. Today, even in bad condition, Wagner’s T206 card almost always sells for seven figures, even in lesser condition. The artwork for the card was taken from an image by Carl Horner.
A very small amount of collectors can afford a six- or seven-figure Wagner but the good news is that similar looking cards are available at a fraction of the cost. That’s because the Wagner portrait pose on that card is found on a slew of other less expensive cards. Sure, just about any Wagner is expensive with almost all commanding four figures. But a $2,000 Wagner is at least affordable for a much larger amount of the collecting population.
While the image was used in even more sets than the ones featured below, here’s a look at some of the other popular cards sporting this iconic Wagner image or some slight variation of it.
1910 E90-2 American Caramel
The E90-1 American Caramel set featured the 1909 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Issued in 1910, the cards are significantly rarer than most of the cards from American Caramel’s larger, more popular E90-1 set. That set included players across all of the major leagues and was distributed from 1909-11. This one solely covers the Pirates — and only about half the team, at that.
The E90-2 set is different from E90-1 in that all 11 cards featured only portrait poses of players. Wagner’s card is no exception and he is seen in basically the same stoic image that is found on his T206 card. The obvious difference is that the orientation is reversed and his jersey is a slight variation from what is seen in T206.
The card is not nearly as expensive as Wagner’s T206 card but you can still expect to pay $2,000 or $3,000 for it, even in low-grade condition.
1910 Tip Top Bread
Similar to the E90-2 American Caramel set, the 1910 Tip Top Bread set also was released the year after the Pirates won the World Series and was a celebratory issue for the team.
The set is noticeably larger, even though it includes some executives and miscellaneous non-player cards. It includes 25 cards and, just like the E90-2 cards, includes only portrait pictures of the players. The star of the team, Wagner, is of course featured. And this one looks closer to the T206 iteration with a more complete upper body pose. That’s due, in part, to the shape of the cards. These cards are much more like a square shape instead of the narrower rectangle seen in T206 or the E90 cards.
This is another Wagner that is not a cheap card. Even in poor condition, it usually starts around $5,000.
1911 M116 Sporting Life
One of the cheaper cards on this list is Wagner’s 1911 M116 Sporting Life card.
Here, we’ve got a card looking very similar to the E90-2 card with Wagner facing in the opposite direction. And we’ve got yet another uniform variant here with no ‘P’ or ‘Pittsburgh’ being displayed on the dark-collared jersey.
The Sporting Life cards are well known for being inexpensive. High-grade commons can be bought at starting prices around $100 or even less in some instances. But prices for the bigger names like Wagner are, like everything else, getting more expensive.
A PSA 2 of this card sold earlier in 2020 for $3,100 on eBay. It can be bought cheaper if in lesser condition but many of the Sporting Life cards were well preserved and it is more common to find mid-grade cards being sold more frequently than low-grade cards in some instances.
1909 E254 Colgan’s Chips
Another option is a unique kind of collectible that came packed with little tins of round pieces of gum.
The 1909 Colgan’s Chips “Stars of the Diamond” discs measured approximately 1 1/2″ in diameter and featured black and white portraits of players. Each card had the player’s name and team printed around his picture and the backs contained an advertisement for Colgan’s Chips products.
Fairly good quality examples can be found for under $3,000, sometimes much less.
1910 E103 Williams Caramel
When it comes to lookalikes, Wagner’s E103 Williams Caramel is extremely similar to his card in the pastel-colored M116 Sporting Life issue.
Wagner’s again facing to the left here and we’ve got a jersey match that’s basically identical as the one on the M116 card. Even the small shaded triangle near the collar to the left side of the card is seen in both places and the wrinkle patterns in the jersey are identical, too.
But that’s sort of where the similarities for those two particular cards end. The M116 Sporting Life card was distributed for a publication while this card was a candy card, distributed by Williams Caramel. The E103 Williams Caramel card is also significantly rarer. For example, PSA has graded more than 100 of the M116 Wagner cards but only 20 of Wagner’s Williams Caramel cards.
The difference is seen in price, too. Low-grade Wagner cards from this set generally start in the $4,000 – $5,000 range.
W600 Sporting Life Cabinet
Another set where the same Wagner image is found is the W600 Sporting Life Cabinets set.
This is not really a card, per se. Rather, it’s a photograph. These cabinets were offered by Sporting Life and they are photographs that are mounted to cardboard. Here we see the same, classic Wagner portrait pose.
Like the 1910 Tip Top Bread card, these cabinets are a bit less narrow than the cigarette cards so we end up with more of a square image. As a result, the picture of Wagner is more inclusive of his upper body and it’s less of a cropped image. It’s also worth noting that Wagner has a second photograph in the set. While that one is also a portrait, it is an entirely different picture and shows Wagner in a suit as opposed to his playing uniform.
Believed to have been issued from 1902 through 1911, these cabinets are quite rare. Heritage sold one of Wagner in his baseball uniform for more than $40,000 in 2017.