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BASEBALL TRADING CARDS


1909 T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card

Trade cards from "White Border" series (T206), issued 1909-11 to promote sixteen brands of cigarettes and loose tobacco distributed by the American Tobacco Company.

"I don't want my picture in any cigarettes, but I also don't want you to lose the ten dollars, so I'm enclosing my check for that sum" Honus Wagner wrote to a fan.

The 'Jumbo Wagner'
1909 T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card with PSA grade EX 5-MC

Only six hundred 1909 T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Cards were printed before Honus withdrew his permission to print the tobacco cards - and only 50 to 60 surviving cards have been authenticated. Many of the T206 Honus Wagner cards in existence have rated low on the PSA grading scale, because of poor quality.

However one card stands out amongst them all - so rare that it has been given a name: The 'Jumbo Wagner'.  All eyes are on this extraordinarily rare tobacco card in February 2013 when Goldin Auctions will feature the 'Jumbo Wagner' (pictured) in their Winter auction.

Initially sold at auction for USD$1.62 million in 2008, the 'Jumbo Wagner' is set to break records again. The sports collectible market is buoyant and with historical price increases it looks like this auction will could set a new overall price record for the sale of a T206 Honus Wagner.

The 'Jumbo Wagner' received a Graded EX 5 (MC) on the PSA grading scale. Only three existing Wagner cards have a PSA rating of EX [5] or better. But the thing that makes 'Jumbo Wagner' stand out is the card has unusually wide borders due to a miscut. These dimensions far exceed the standard size for a T206 baseball card which preserves a Near Mint example within its boundaries.

“The PSA EX 5 (MC) 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner (serial number 15385994) is, without question, one of the top examples of this historic card known. The technical grade includes the MC qualifier. The card was given this designation by PSA due to its oversized nature. This particular T206 Honus Wagner stands out from other known examples and therefore gives it placement as a top-notch specimen" President of PSA, Joe Orlando said.

T206 Honus Wagner Recent Sales

 2000 - a T206 Wagner with a "2" on the PSA's 1–10 grading scale sold for $75,000.
 2000 - the Gretsky PSA “Near Mint 8” Wagner card sold on ebay for USD$1.35 million
 2004 - a PSA PR-FR-1 Wagner sold for $109, 638.
 2005 - PSA 2 card sold for $237,000.
 2005 - in the same auction, a PSA 1 card sold for $110,000.
 2005 - PSA PR-FR-1 sold for $132,000
 2005 - a T206 Wagner owned by collector Frank Nagy sold for $456,000  through Mastro's auction company.
 2005 - PSA Grade 2 Wagners sold for $236,705
 2006 - PSA Grade 2 Wagners sold for $294,338
 2007 - February - a record $2.35 million was paid for the Wagner card once owned by NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky through SCP Auctions.
 2007 - September - SCP Auctions brokered a sale of the Gretsky card for US$2.8 million
 2008 - a graded 1 set a new record for a low-grade card, selling at auction for $317,250.
 2008 - memorabilia dealer John Rogers paid US$1.6 million for a PSA 5 Wagner
 2008 - Philip Weiss Auctions of New York sold a SGC 3 graded Wagner card for $700,000, with an 13% buyer's premium added, the realized price was $791,000.
 2008 - Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick paid $2.8 million for the controversial Gretzky card PSA “Near Mint 8” Wagner card.
 2009 - a PSA PR-FR 1 Wagner sold for $400,000
 2010 - a PSA Authentic/Altered Wagner sold for $219,225.
 2010 - Catholic nuns from Baltimore sold a Wagner card in poor condition for $262,000 through Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries to Nicholas DePace, a New Jersey cardiologist.
 2012 - a VG-3 graded T206 Wagner card for more than $1.2 million.

Baseball Cards Collecting

With all of the high-profile (and high-priced) auctions in the news these days, there may be a misconception that collecting is only for wealthy art patrons. Sometimes simple things — items we all may have — can become prized collectibles. Take baseball cards, for instance.
 
Baseball cards first appeared in the late 1880s, when tobacco companies with names such as Gypsy Queen and Lone Jack issued them as a publicity gambit. After the turn of the century, bubble gum makers started to do the same. Almost immediately young boys (and more than a few grown men) began trading their favorites back and forth.
 
Card collections can be based on anything, such as local players, cards solely from the year you were born, or even major leaguers who attended your college alma mater.
 
Cards are graded from "Mint" to "Poor," with many grades in between.   They're judged on their condition, rarity, age, the player portrayed, and the number of individual cards printed.  The wonderful thing is you can still build what could become a world-class collection of baseball cards, all for the price of a few packs of gum!

Baseball card values, like values for everything else in the world of collecting, are often increased as much by mythmaking as by the truth.

And in the case of the now world-famous Honus Wagner card of 1909, the only truth we know for sure is the increasing amount of money the card sells for when it comes up at auction.

The 1902 Topps T-206 Honus Wagner set a record price for the most expensive and collectible trading card when it sold for $1.26 million US dollars in 2000 - not bad for a "simple" baseball card.

Honus Wagner card: its value is no myth
Honus Wagner baseball card:
its value is no myth

 

Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh, National League, from the White Border series (T206) for the American Tobacco Company

Issued by American Tobacco Company
Date: 1909–11
Medium: Commercial lithograph
Dimensions: Sheet: 2 5/8 x 1 7/16 in. (6.7 x 3.7 cm)

Trade cards from "White Border" series (T206), issued 1909-11 to promote sixteen brands of cigarettes and loose tobacco distributed by the American Tobacco Company.

 Honus Wagner was a shortstop, star hitter and great fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1897 to 1917.  He was one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 in Cooperstown, New York and retired in 1917 with more hits, runs, RBIs, doubles, triples and steals than any NL player.

 During his rookie year of 1897 Honus Wagner hit .344 and batted over .300 for 17 consecutive seasons, winning eight National League batting titles.

 It's said that he was an early pioneer in the anti-smoking movement, insisting a card issued in 1909 with his likeness be removed from tobacco packages for fear that children would start smoking.  That would account for the card's rarity.

"I don't want my picture in any cigarettes, but I also don't want you to lose the ten dollars, so I'm enclosing my check for that sum." Honus Wagner wrote to a fan.

 But then, Wagner was well-known for always having a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek.  His picture even appeared on cigar boxes and cigar bands, so some say the Wagner story is just that, a story.

 But in the end, it doesn't really matter.  Sotheby's sold a Wagner card to hockey great Wayne Gretzky and a partner in 1991 for $451,000.  The Wal-Mart Company bought it from them (for an undisclosed amount) and it raffled the card off on what would have been Wagner's 122nd birthday.  In 1996, the lucky winner put the card up at auction.  This time it sold to a Chicago businessman for $640,500.

American Tobacco Cards: A Price Guide and Checklist
by Robert Forbes, Terence Mitchell

 

Note: Auction Watch reports that a Honus Wagner baseball card sold at Sotheby's New York in November 2004. "Among the premier highlights to be offered is the iconic T206 Honus Wagner card. In 1909 the American Tobacco Company issued its landmark T206 set of baseball cards which featured virtually all of the baseball players of the day. Honus Wagner, a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and one of the first stars of modern day baseball, was the finest hitter of his day. The reason for the rarity of his card (approximately only 50 are known to exist) has been debated for decades. It has been suggested that due to his objection to having his name affiliated with the marketing of cigarettes, he was successful in halting the production of his card and consequently few were ever circulated. This rare survivor, the third finest known example, is estimated to sell for $375/500,000."

Cards from the White Border series (T206) for the American Tobacco Company

Schmidt, Detroit

Keeler, New York

Chase, New York

Knight, New York

Demmitt, New York


A complete pictorial set of the T206 which featured every baseball players playing at the time is found on flickr.  A complete set of T206 baseball cards is 523 cards: including 389 Major Leaguers and 134 Minor Leaguers.  With 523 different player poses on the fronts, and 16 different advertisement backs, there are thousands of cards to complete a "full set".  The "Big Four" of the T206 are Honus Wagner, Magie (Magee error), Plank, and Doyle (N.Y. Nat'l).

As the T206 set was issued over three years, some players traded teams and feature on multiple cards.  Some players feature in different poses and in different uniforms. The standard tobacco card size measure 2 5/8 x 1 7/16 in. (6.7 x 3.7 cm).

The T206 cards were issued with the 16 different backs of the different brands of cigarettes/tobacco. Due to the same player's card having different backs, there are actually far more than 523 "different" T206 cards. The actual number of front/back combination is not fully known as collectors still discover new combinations from time to time.

The 16 backs are:
American Beauty - A slimmer cut due to the narrower size of the cigarette packs
Broadleaf
Carolina Brights
Cycle
Drum
El Principe De Gales
Hindu
- Found in both brown ink and red ink (rare)
Lenox
- Found in both brown ink and black ink
Old Mill
Piedmont
Polar Bear
- The only card that was loose tobacco
Sovereign
Sweet Caporal
Tolstoi
Ty Cobb
Uzit
 

 

 



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