It’s a crazy story involving a T206 Wagner, a 1990s sports restaurant, a chef, Charlie Sheen, Mr. Mint, the FBI…and presidential pardons.
If you know the story of the “All-Star Café Wagner,” you probably don’t know all of it. While the Gretzky-McNall Wagner has had its own taste of federal law enforcement, this Wagner card is one with a story that’s even more interesting.
In a new piece for Sports Illustrated, reporter Jon Wertheim details the 1990s story of the card, once owned by actor Charlie Sheen, who loaned it to a newly-opened New York City eatery, only to see it placed in an unlocked display case and stolen.
Fronted by Andre Agassi, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Griffey Jr., Joe Montana, Shaquille O’Neal, Monica Seles and PGA Rookie of the Year Tiger Woods, among others, the first All-Star Café was a 34,000-square-foot, three-story monstrosity with seating for 650 at the midcourt circle of Times Square.
“Jealousy. Greed,” the All-Star Café’s former executive chef Thomas Gartland told Wertheim recently when asked the reason behind his motivation to steal the Wagner, a T206 Sherry Magee and an uncut sheet of Goudey cards including the rare Nap Lajoie that was unfortunately cut up. “It’s like we wanted to live bigger lives.”
Partnering with others who wanted to profit from a less than well thought out plan to steal the cards, a plan was hatched. They would create a fake Wagner to put in the case and sell the original. There were no security cameras in the restaurant.
They wound up selling the cards to Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen, the hobby’s highest profile dealer who soon realized he’d been sold stolen goods.
It was a sloppy mistake that led to the group’s undoing and transporting the stolen goods across state lines made it a federal case that impacted the four men who were charged.
One of them, Benny Ramos, who had no prior criminal record, was given a presidential pardon just a few years ago. Ramos and a retired FBI agent who worked on the case spoke with Wertheim for the just-published story, which is definitely worth your time.
Sheen eventually sold the “All-Star Café Wagner” and it has changed hands at least two more times, most recently in 2013 when it realized $402,900 via Robert Edward Auctions.