The highest graded example of the famed T206 Honus Wagner baseball card has found another new home a little more than six months after selling for a then-record shattering price of $2.35 million.
SCP Auctions reports the card was sold to an anonymous private collector for $2.8 million last week. The announcement was made public Thursday morning.
The recent history of the Wagner card is well documented. It was once owned by Wayne Gretzky and former Los Angeles Kings’ owner Bruce McNall and also became the top prize in a national contest conducted by Wal-Mart. It was dubbed the “Holy Grail” of baseball cards but its origin is somewhat of a mystery. One of the card’s earliest owners maintains it was found at a Florida flea market in the mid-1980s, cut from a production sheet and later carefully trimmed to create the exceptionally sharp edges and corners it now exhibits.
It was the first baseball card ever graded and authenticated by Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA), which normally will not grade cards it believes to have been trimmed. True or not, the story has never affected the value or interest in the card, even after the publication of “The Card”, a book which attempts to chronicle the history of the Wagner.
“The T206 Honus Wagner card is an icon, not only in the field of baseball card collecting, but in the larger field of Americana,” said David Kohler, president and CEO of SCP Auctions. “We are privileged to have been involved in the sale of this card, not once but twice.”
Kohler told Sports Collectors Daily his company didn’t expect to sell the card just months after buying it.
“We just received an offer that was hard to turn down. It made sense for the principal owner who had actually expected to keep it for many years.”
PSA has authenticated, graded and encapsulated 28 of the known T206 Wagner cards. Of those, only two have earned grades of 4 (VG-EX) or better, three examples earned 3 (VG) status, with the remainder garnering either a 1 or 2 due to substantial wear or significant physical imperfections.
Kohler says it’s possible the new owner may be identified later this year or early next year.
It is estimated that less than one hundred examples of the T206 Wagner have surfaced. Numerous myths have been perpetuated and debated over the course of the last century, as to the reason for its scarcity. One of the prevailing theories was that Wagner, one of the premier players in the history of baseball, insisted that he be paid by the tobacco company for the use of his image causing the production of his card to be halted. A more common, and well-documented theory is that Wagner simply did not want children to be influenced into buying tobacco products just to get a “picture” of him, and thus forced the early withdrawal of his image on this principle.
“It’s been a great marketing tool for us,” Kohler said. “It’s brought a lot of notoriety to our company along with the Bonds baseballs and other vintage cards and memorabilia we’ve sold. It’s been fun and handling things like this is why we come to work every day.”
Said Dan Imler, managing director of SCP Auctions: “For many collectors, owning any example of a T206 Honus Wagner card is the crowning achievement of baseball card collecting. Approximately 70 collectors in the word are fortunate to own one. This example, graded PSA 8 NM-MT, is universally recognized as the ultimate baseball card treasure. We are proud to have had a hand in placing it in a good new home.”
The Wagner sale still pales in comparison to other rare memorabilia outside the world of sports.
“We’ve come a long way over the last 15 years or so in terms of respect. If a painting can be worth $100 million, who’s to say a baseball card can’t be worth $10 million?” said Kohler. “You never know what will happen down the line.”