Honus Wagner card brings $262,900
One of Honus Wagner’s baseball cards lived up to its “Holy Grail” moniker Thursday night, pulling down six figures for an international Catholic order.
Despite being graded in poor condition, a rare T206 card of the former Pirates great fetched $262,900 at an online auction through Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas. The School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore, which had received the card through a private benefactor, will receive $220,000. The difference — the buyer’s premium — goes to the auction house.
A nearly mint condition T206 Wagner card sold in 2007 for $2.8 million — believed to be the most ever paid for a baseball card.
“A lot of them didn’t know who Honus Wagner was, but they do now,” said Phyllis Brill, a spokeswoman for the sisters’ Atlantic-Midwest Province. “It’s certainly a windfall, and they are grateful for it.”
Doug Walton, a collector with card stores in Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee, bought the card.
“For many years, I have been in the hunt for an original T206 Wagner in any condition,” Walton said in a statement, “and the back story on this card makes it that much more special.”
Only about 50 Wagner cards from the T206 collection — a set of more than 500 cards released from 1909 to 1911 by the American Tobacco Co. — are known to exist. Wagner’s is considered the rarest among the set because he demanded the company stop using his likeness to market tobacco to children. The Wagner T206 card has come to be known as “The Holy Grail,” “Mona Lisa” or simply “The Card.”
“It’s always highly sought after, no matter what condition it’s in,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions for Heritage Auction Galleries.
Dan Means, owner of Downtown’s Sports World Specialties, said he only has seen a T206 Wagner at a card show.
“Without a doubt, it’s the king of cards,” Means said. “That is the card.”
The one donated to the sisters was secretly kept in a private collection from 1936 until its owner died in February and left the collection to the congregation. The man’s only sibling was a sister in the congregation who died in 1999, Brill said.
“It’s the most unusual bequest they ever got,” Brill said.
Money from the card’s sale will be used to further the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s outreach programs in more than 30 countries, including the United States, and throughout Latin America, Africa and Europe, Brill said.
The card Walton purchased had three borders trimmed and was covered in shellac, according to the auction house. It also has creases across Wagner’s body and a tack hole over his head. Some of the advertising on the back for Sweet Caporal cigarettes was lost when the card was removed from a scrapbook.
All of the cards in the collection donated to the sisters had been trimmed and glued in a scrapbook, Ivy said. The other cards, including a dozen candy cards from 1903-04, are estimated to be worth up to $20,000, he said.
The sisters knew little to nothing about baseball cards and their value when they received the collection, Ivy said. They took the collection to a Baltimore card dealer, who got them in touch with Ivy — mainly because of the Wagner card.
“I don’t know if they knew that card was any more valuable than any other card,” Ivy said. “It is definitely the jewel of the collection.”
About Honus Wagner
Johannes Peter ‘Honus’ Wagner was a Carnegie native who played major league baseball for 21 seasons from 1897 to 1917. Wagner was with the Pirates for all but the first three of those seasons.
The shortstop won eight batting titles and batted .300 or better for 17 consecutive seasons. He played in nearly 2,800 games, had 10,450 at-bats, recorded 3,430 hits and amassed a .328 lifetime average. He had 651 doubles, 252 triples and 722 stolen bases.
Wagner is widely regarded as one of baseball’s greatest players. He was one of five players inducted into the Hall of Fame in its inaugural class of 1936. He died in 1955.