Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XLIII
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/24/2012

The “Holy Grail” T206 Wagner (SGC “Authentic”)!

The fascinating aspect of the illustrious card hobby is the emergence of a new pinnacle heirloom, and NO card can possibly boast the unparalleled majesty of the “Holy Grail” T206 Wagner that has single-handedly elevated the card market to stratospheric heights.  Simply stated, the T206 Honus Wagner miraculously transcends each and every enthusiast back to the “turn of the 20th century” when the thought of a “palm sized” piece of cardboard fetching over one million dollars was an inconceivable concept.  Yet, over a century of time, not only has the  T206 Wagner materialized into the hobby’s irrefutable foremost collectible, but has reached a position of world-wide stature with NON-hobby investors now painstakingly pursuing this cardboard icon.  Synonymous with other non-sports collectibles such as the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle $20 Gold piece, inverted air mail stamp, inaugural pre-war comic books, and the 1804 U.S. Silver Dollar just to mention a few, the T206 Wagner resides as the sports card market’s supreme artifact with elite hobbyists and sophisticated investors both pursuing this timeless treasure.  From a pure hobby perspective, there remains two significant angles to justify the daunting task of capturing one of these majestic cardboard marvels with the first being its unequivocal stature as the finest cardboard collectible in the universe!  Secondly, virtually EVERY high-end T206 collector requires the T206 Wagner to fill the seemingly endless void of completing the 524 subject “Monster Set”.  With that in mind, we are extremely proud to offer a nearly “fresh to the hobby” T206 Wagner residing in an SGC “Authentic” holder.  Our esteemed consignor acquired this card in the early 1980’s, and since then it has been safely resting on his collector shelf for some 30 years!  Presented to us in its raw state, the renowned SGC grading service recently encapsulated this Wagner gem with an “Authentic” technical assessment obviously due to its 3 missing borders (2 sides and top).  Fortunately, the remaining eye appeal for both sides projects “VG” aesthetics with Wagner’s stunning central image vividly projected via the sunburst orange setting (a more detailed account of the card’s technical attributes are discussed later in the description).   Interestingly enough, a similar “3 trimmed borders” copy with absolutely obtrusive aesthetics sold for the sum of $263K in the fall of 2010!  More significantly, however, is the fact that this museum worthy masterpiece presents itself as a sparse opportunity to capture a relatively new T206 Wagner since it hasn’t seen daylight for 30 years.  The T206 Wagner’s remarkable popularity and value has elevated its unequivocal status to a zenith level, such that individuals who have never viewed a single baseball game are more than familiar with its hallowed stature.  One could not possibly fathom that when the great Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Johannes Peter “Honus” Wagner instructed the American Tobacco Company (ATC) to withdraw his classic Carl Horner image from T206 cigarette production over a century ago, it would eventually lead to the most coveted cardboard memento in existence.


History of “The Holy Grail” Wagner

Like many elite hobby collectibles, the evolution of the unparalleled popularity associated with the T206 Honus Wagner is the sheer foundation of its irrefutable “king of the hill” standing.  While certainly rare, there are many baseball cards claiming fewer known examples, yet their associated value does not even approach the stratospheric price tags affiliated with the T206 Wagner.  The unbridled desire to capture one of these cardboard gems certainly originates from its celebrated ATC extinction, with a number of dubious tales linked to its early termination.  Allegedly, Honus Wagner’s disdain for utilizing his image to promote a tobacco product prompted him to have the card “pulled” from production.  Interestingly enough, Wagner was noted for utilizing tobacco products, and as the story goes, it was his utmost disdain for actually promoting cigarettes to children which impelled him to have his card removed from production.  The strongest evidence we have relating to Wagner withdrawing his T206 card stems from an article written in the Sporting News Magazine on October 4, 1912, whereby Wagner was sent a letter by a local representative to sign a form providing his consent to be included in the T206 set.  Wagner provided a return letter to the representative stating he did not want his picture to be used in the set, as well as including a $10 check addressed to the representative, John Gruber, to compensate him for the money he would have received had Wagner granted his permission.  Some 43 years later, a similar article in the December 6, 1955 Cleveland Plain Dealer documented the original story, even stating that Gruber never cashed the $10 check, opting to frame it due to historical significance.  Due to Wagner’s refusal to sign the permission form, the initial 150 subject printings did not include Wagner (e.g., Sovereign Cigarettes); however, inexplicably, the ATC decided to use his image in their later issued Sweet Caporal 150 Subjects, Factory 25 issues.  Once Wagner became aware that Sweet Caporal cigarette packs included cards with his image, he immediately instructed the ATC to terminate his T206 subject and this immortal rarity was born!  The exact number of known T206 Honus Wagner’s remains a somewhat vague issue.  Some say it is approximately 60 – 70, while others insist it is a figure closer to 100.  The combined SGC and PSA “pop” charts indicate a 44 total, but we surely know with 100% certainty that a number of ungraded T206 Wagner’s exist in private collections.  Regardless of the exact count, the unmistakable truth regarding its supreme hobby status and unlimited investment potential cannot be overstated, for its goliath-like mystique supports its unquestionable status as the most cherished cardboard collectible on the planet.


Historical Pricing

Ever since the infamous 1985 T206 Wagner $25,000 purchase from a Long Island New York sports card shop, the T206 Wagner subject has revolutionized the baseball card market.  What that simple purchase some 27 years ago accomplished was to place the baseball card hobby on the map with collectibles such as fine art, coins and stamps, just to name a few of the prestigious collecting angles.  Not surprisingly, that supreme PSA 8 Wagner last sold for $2.8 Million, a far cry versus its original $25,000 price tag and a resounding exclamation point to the unlimited potential of any quintessential T206 Honus Wagner subject.  As virtually the entire hobby is aware of, Goodwin & Company recently sold a “VG” specimen for a lofty $1,232K, a true testament to the continued resounding climb of the exalted T206 Wagner.   Considering a “VG” example sold for $145K back in calendar year 2000, the nearly unparalleled investment growth of a T206 Honus Wagner is quite obvious, with our recent April 2012 sale depicting an incredible value increase of approximately “9 times” the specimen sold 12 years ago or more significantly, a 19.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate!  Likewise, following the same path as a “VG” specimen are the highest recorded annual sales of “Authentic” examples from 2009 thru 2011 (no “Authentic” T206 Wagner’s have been sold in 2012).  Whether you are a serious hobby enthusiast painstakingly seeking a T206 Wagner relic or simply pursuing the most viable options for your sophisticated investment portfolio, the compound annual growth rate of this truly remarkable early 20th century baseball card knows no peers.  To the best of our knowledge, NO individual has ever experienced a “value loss” with this card.  The following graph clearly indicates the synonymous escalation of “Authentic” and “VG” examples, with BOTH technical assessments carrying similar elevated growth patterns over the past several years:




(1)   Similar to our offered T206 Wagner, the “Authentic” Wagner that sold for $263K in 2010 also reflected 3 fully trimmed borders.  However, unlike our Wagner’s otherwise strong aesthetics, the 2010 specimen portrayed extremely severe central image blemishes as well as depicting approx. 30% – 40% paper loss on the reverse side.

(2)   The three “Authentic” Wagner’s listed from 2009 thru 2011 represent the highest recorded sales for that specific calendar year.

(3)   The 2009 and 2011 “Authentic” Wagner’s received their assigned grades due to restoration.

(4)   The 2005 Wagner was a Global “VG+ 3.5” example.



Clearly this trend indicates both “Authentic” and “VG” graded T206 Wagner’s have exhibited remarkable growth.  Listed below are several imposing value trends between the “Authentic” and “VG” Wagner’s substantiating the incomprehensible augmentation of their respective values:


·         Since 2009, the prices of “Authentic” examples represent approximately 24% - 30% of the reported sales for “VG” specimens.   Simple math as well as the prior sale of a similar and less aesthetically pleasing example (see footnote #1) indicates that based on the recent $1,232K sale for the Goodwin & Company “VG” copy, this “Authentic” Wagner’s value should conservatively approach the $300K figure.


·         If you apply the previously mentioned 19.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate for “VG” examples to “Authentic” specimens, it is not a far fetched assumption for this Wagner “Authentic” offering to ultimately realize a $1 Million price tag within the next 8 – 10 years!


·         The five reported “VG” public sales reflect a 214% increase from 2000 to 2005, an 81% increase over a 3 year period from 2005 to 2008, a 12% increase from 2008 to 2009, and a 33% jump from 2009 to our record shattering “VG” April 2012 sale.


·         Synonymous with this astonishing “VG” price escalation are the finest annual recorded sales for “Authentic” examples from 2009 thru 2011.  Consider that a similar copy missing 3 borders sold for $263K in 2010, a substantial 18% increase over the 2009 reported sale of $222K.  If that doesn’t wet your investment appetite, the $358K sale in 2011 represents a whopping 61% increase over the $222K 2009 sale, and an equally impressive 36% bump over the $263K copy sold only a year earlier!


·         To reiterate our previous statement, considering a “VG” example sold for $145K back in calendar year 2000, the nearly unparalleled investment growth of a T206 Honus Wagner is quite obvious, with our recent April 2012 sale depicting an incredible 19.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate from the specimen sold 12 years ago!


What this historical trend unquestionably substantiates is that the T206 Wagner may not have even touched the “tip of the iceberg” with regard to its seemingly unlimited spiraling value.  In fact, while even the most sophisticated economists cannot forecast the future with 100% accuracy, based on the aforementioned pricing trends it is somewhat conceivable that some 8 – 10 years down the road, T206 Wagner “beater” copies might be fetching nearly $1 Million price tags!

 The Emergence of a New T206 Wagner & Closing Comments

Tucked away for some 30 years, this extraordinary Wagner card was in hiding for “at-least” 10 years before PSA began grading cards in 1991, with their inaugural example being the iconic Gretzky/McNall PSA 8 T206 Wagner.  As previously stated, this suffices as the 44th specimen listed on the COMBINED SGC and PSA “Pop” charts.  True, three borders have been carefully removed, but more noteworthy is the fact that the timeless Carl Horner Wagner image has retained a majority of its original strikingly rich hues, complimented by the robust orange background that so effectively projects Wagner’s hallowed pose.  Equally vital is that unlike nearly all of the other ‘Authentic” copies, NO RESTORATION IS EVIDENT!  This is a significant detail since many hobby “purists” refuse to associate themselves with a card that has been aesthetically improved via manual alterations such as re-coloring or the addition of required card stock.  The Wagner stoic expression including vibrant facial hues, crystal clear clarity, and a bold “PITTSBURG” brown text across his period style jersey has not been victimized by artificial restoration with its superb visual appeal virtually outlasting “father time”.  While no obtrusive surface flaws are evident, there are a few light horizontal creases running through the center of the card, none of which significantly disturb the sanctified image.  The “WAGNER, PITTSBURG” print situated on the one remaining border beneath his hallowed portrait pose is extremely bold, and the typical “SWEET CAPORAL CIGARETTES 150 SUBJECTS” verso advertisement exhibits robust red typography, affixed to a moderate off-white surface.  Typically, most meticulous enthusiasts would forgo the notion of spending a minimum of two hundred thousand dollars or more on a card depicting three missing borders.  However, when that compromised card represents the focal point of both the overall card market as well as the legendary T206 “Monster” set, the “right to own a copy” claims unbridled victory over the less noteworthy technical assessment.  In retrospect, the T206 Wagner offered here represents so much more than the most highly coveted and esteemed baseball card subject.  True, its unlimited investment potential even fascinates individuals NOT associated with our illustrious hobby, comparable to the stature of other hobby related icons such as fine art and rare coins.  Yet, more imposing is its unwavering presence sufficing as a symbol of baseball treasure, effectively transcending the avid fan through a century of time.  While Wagner certainly merits the unquestionable title as “baseball’s all-time shortstop”, his iconic image on this world-class offering goes far beyond his diamond achievements, with its immortal reverence serving as a magnificent transient to the origins of our National Pastime!


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1909 Sweet Caporal T206 Honus Wagner SGC Authentic

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Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $40,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $198,850.19
Number Bids: 16
Auction closed on Friday, August 24, 2012.
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