A Rather Unique T206 Honus Wagner Set for 2022 Auction

The true “Grail” in sports card collecting is the T206 Honus Wagner. It has been established by the market, at least as of the latest sales, that you probably just will not ever get a chance to buy a T206 Honus Wagner card for under $1 million. SCP Auctions recently sold a restored example for more than $1.1 million, and early in 2022 SCP Auctions has another graded T206 Honus Wagner coming up for auctions.

The market is going to have to determine the fair estimate here. There are many arguments that can be made as to why this torn T206 will or will not still fetch he $1 million hurdle.

Collectors Dashboard evaluates high-end collectibles as an alternative asset class. This means collectibles are attracting the same capital that could have been invested into stocks or bonds. Let’s just say that a $1 million baseball card sale, even admitting that making an estimate is rather difficult here, easily fits within collectibles as an alternative asset class. It is also very possible that investors will be competing against collectors here for this particular T206 Honus Wagner card.

SCP’s 2022 Winter Premier Auction will mark back-to-back T206 Wagner sales for the auction house. This Wagner example has been graded by PSA as Authentic, or “Genuine” per PSA’s prior grading structure. This particular example is unique on multiple fronts, and multiple issues will come into play as to why creating an estimate ahead of time for this card is quite difficult.

The first issue to call to order is that slightly more than 50% of the card remains in place. Yes, the image below almost half of the card has been torn away for reasons that may never be known.

Another great oddity is that this example of the ripped Wagner comes with PSA certification number “00000002.” That should stand out to any collector as being one of the first ever grades to receive a certification number along with a barcode. It is still slabbed in the original PSA flip and is listed as “PSA Genuine.” The case looks older based on the label, but it has been kept what appears to be scratch free in its appearance.

Another issue that is fairly unique is that this card has been kept in a private collection and off the market for more than two decades. The consignor is said to have owned this card since the 1990s to be precise. That means this owner owns the card for easily under $100,000. Based on price data before the year 2000, the owner may have even managed to pay well under $50,000 at the time.

The bidding is shown to start as “unreserved” and will start at $25,000. SCP Auctions’ most recent T206 Honus Wagner sale reach just over $1.1 million after 12 bids. That card was all there, but it had also been restored and restored cards do not bring what similar visual cards in higher grades bring.

There is truly no way to know what this card will sell for in this half-present and torn condition. Based on SCP Auctions’ last T206 Wagner in October of 2021 coming with a $200,000 minimum bid it’s probably a safe assumption that all interested parties will look at the $25,000 minimum as one last chance to own a T206 Honus Wagner in any condition. Image below by SCP Auctions.

T206 Honus Wagner torn

The market for high-end vintage cards remains solid despite softness that has been seen in modern era cards with tens of thousands of graded cards in the population reports.

As for the lore and legend behind the T206 Wagner’s scarcity, there is still a debate on why the card was pulled from production so early. This led to 60 or so, probably fewer examples than that combined by grading outfits, of the T206 Wagner cards surviving today. SCP Auctions reminded collectors of the two thoughts behind the T206 Wagner’s scarcity:

The widely accepted legend for the scarcity of the card is that Wagner did not want his likeness associated with the marketing of tobacco products. Though Wagner was a known tobacco user, many believe he did not want to encourage kids to do the same. The other theory is that Wagner and the American Tobacco Company could not agree on a dollar amount he deemed worthy for the use of his image on their products.

The mystery behind Wagner’s withdrawn rights has almost certainly added to the card’s interest here, and that has almost certainly added some to the value. Even a graded Wagner in this condition will garner significant attention from collectors.

Ahead of the release of what would become the T206 set, there was the American Tobacco Company’s advertisement in the ‘Sporting Life’ shows a mocked-variation of the Wagner card as 1 of 10 players featured for ATC’s Sweet Caporal, Piedmont and Sovereign cigarette brands. Image below from SABR Baseball Cards Blog and the date of the advertisement was September 18, 1909.

T206 Advertisement 1909 showing Honus Wagner

Collectors Dashboard would point out that Honus Wagner did have tobacco products with his name and face on them. The T216 Peoples Tobacco cards with the Kotton and Mino backs have multiple Wagner cards, but they are more rare than the prized T206 cards. There were also cigar labels and cigar boxes with Wagner’s face, and of course the 1948 Leaf card of Wagner as a coach has an undeniable mouthful of chewing tobacco.

Honus Wagner cigarHonus Wagner cigar

As far as how much this card was purchased for back in the 1990s, we have to troll deep back in time. A PSA 1 graded example of a T206 Honus Wagner sold for about $101,000 via Lelands back in 2004. And even in the summer of 2000, the sole PSA 8 graded example sold for an unheard of $1.26 million (unheard of at the time at least) through Robert Edward Auctions. Even the oddity of the T206 Honus Wagner proof strip sold for $85,000 in 1999, and a restored reversed example sold earlier in 1999 for about $56,000. Sales of the Wagner card in the mid-1990s had been seen under $50,000 but now we are going back almost 25 years.

And for the case of a $1 million minimum, the fractional ownership platform Rally Rd. initially valued a Wagner in bad condition for $520,000 at its IPO and it has recently been selling at an all-in current market cap of about $1.97 million. That exact example is dubbed as the “Nun’s Wagner” after Baltimore’s Sisters of Notre Dame realized more than $200,000 for the card in 2010. That particular example has been trimmed on all borders except for the bottom with Wagner’s name. It is also has about 30% of its Sweet Caporal back missing due to paper loss, and it is heavily wrinkled and is even shellacked.

It will be interesting to see how the market responds with bids. Based on a $25,000 start and based on valuations being handily above $1 million for other T206 Wagner cards with poor eye appeal this example should garner quite a lot of attention.

Also coming out in 2022 is the dubbed “Charlie Sheen T206 Honus Wagner” and that card has a unique story to it as well.

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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