A T206 Honus Wagner owned by the late Joe Garagiola sold for just over $2.5 million early Sunday morning at Heritage Auctions, establishing yet another new record for the world’s most famous baseball card. The card, graded Authentic, was acquired by Garagiola in trade for his final big league uniform and other items.
The price smashed the previous record for an ‘A’ grade, but was nearly double the record for any card at the 2 (Good) level.
The “Authentic” designation from SGC relates to the card’s failure to meet minimum size requirements. Likely pasted into a scrapbook at some point, it also suffered from some paper loss and has a crease but that didn’t deter well-financed bidders in a ravenous market for sports collectibles.
The former catcher and NBC broadcaster is believed to have swapped other pieces of his collection including a 1933 Goudey set and his old 1954 Giants uniform for the Wagner.
“Hat, jersey, pants, socks, even the jacket he used to wear around in wintertime,” says Joe Garagiola Jr., general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1997-2005.
“I am also very sure there was no money involved. That was not anything he ever did. That’s a very important part of the story: He had the true passion of the real collector. Dad would trade things. He would be in touch with other collectors. He worked hard his whole life and could have written checks for any of this. But he chose not to.”
While the price of the Wagner was surprising, other auction results were stunning as massive amounts of money continue to pour into the market. The lone PSA 10 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson rookie card, which last sold for $115,000 in 2012, soared to $1,005,600. The card was once owned by former major leaguer Dmitri Young, who owned some of the hobby’s highest graded post-War rookie cards and sold them all through SCP Auctions in 2012.
Two other cards that had originally been purchased by Young–rookie cards of Rod Carew and George Brett, each graded 10–went for $176,000 apiece while a Rickey Henderson rookie he once owned sold for $168,000.
One of the 25 PSA 9 1954 Topps Hank Aaron rookie cards also smashed the former record when it closed at $645,000. The previous mark was $358,500, set less than five years ago.
A PSA 8 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie card blew past the former record of $207,142, netting $615,000. A 1952 Topps Mantle, also graded 8, went for $885,000. The highest graded 1917 Collins-McCarthy Babe Ruth, an SGC 8, netted $660,000 while a 1916 Sporting News M101-4 Ruth rookie card rated 3.5 by SGC went for $444,000.
In all, 29 items sold for $210,000 or more including the 20% buyer’s premium tacked on to all winning bids.
High-end memorabilia sold included a 1916-18 era Babe Ruth bat, with provenance to a 1940s hitting exhibition during an NFL game in Philadelphia. One of only two block-letter Ruth game bats known to exist, it sold for just over $1 million. A 1912 Honus Wagner bat, the only photomatched Flying Dutchman gamer in the hobby, sold for $900,000.
A 1979-80 Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers rookie jersey, photo-matched to his first NHL home game, drew a crowd of bidders before the hammer fell at $624,000.
An original 1947 news photograph of Jackie Robinson, the same image used to create his Leaf rookie card, sold for $360,000.
Items from the career of late Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Jake Scott were part of the auction, topped by his Super Bowl VII ring from the Miami Dolphins’ 17-0 perfect season which sold for $138,000.
A pair of red, white and blue shoes gifted by Kobe Bryant to LeBron James in 2002 when the latter was a high school phenom in Ohio, earned a $156,000 price.
The second part of the auction was scheduled to close Sunday night.