This T206 Wagner warning could have been written this week. We get offered non authentic T206 Wagners practically every day. But this warning is not from us and it is not current! It is from legendary hobby pioneer Charles Bray to advanced collector Ted Colzaretti in a letter dating from circa 1957!
Charles Bray, of course, was the first baseball card auctioneer, publisher of The Card Collector’s Bulletin, and co-publisher of The American Card Catalog. Along with Jefferson Burdick, Bray was one of the true original founding pioneers of the entire card collecting hobby we know today. Rummaging through some old hobby related papers that once belonged to Ted Colzaretti (the family sold his collection in 1983), I ran across this letter from Charles Bray. I had never read it before so it was just like a new discovery, even though it’s been sitting here in a box in the closet for over twenty-five years. To me this was a fascinating find and I thought others would enjoy seeing it too. In addition to warning his collecting friend of a fake Wagner in the Philadelphia area, Charles Bray also discusses the number of authentic Wagners known by him to date, which is especially amusing as this has always been a subject of great interest and speculation to collectors, and remains so among modern collectors to this day. His reference to knowing of just three T206 Wagner examples in total gives us an idea of just how few were widely known to exist with certainty in the early days of the organized hobby as late as the 1950s.
The letter is pictured above and reads in full as follows:
I hope you can land the Wagner card. I have a standing offer from me in good condition for $50.00 for one any time. The picture of the Wagner card is on page 28 in cat. All I have ever heard of are Sweet Caporals so the one you located is probably genuine. Take a good look at the thickness of the card to be sure it has not been doctored up. There was one appeared in Phila recently. It was a caramel card glued to a Piedmont back. It was not a portrait card but a full length figure. A check with the catalog would show it to be a phoney. I will probably be away on vacation all of March. I know of only 3 Wagners. Mr. Good has one, there is one in Burdick Collection, Gammon has one. There may be more, but I don’t know of any more. Regards and good collecting till I see you.
Charles R Bray.”
Ted Colzaretti was one of the premier collectors of his day. Apparently he was working on a deal for an authentic Wagner, and having located one, was discussing it via written correspondence with Charles Bray. Colzaretti did in fact have a T206 Wagner, and it is likely the Colzaretti Wagner is the very card he is communicating about here with Charles Bray (just prior to actually buying or trading for it). Many years later, when Colzaretti’s collection was sold, Barry Halper wound up with his T206 Wagner. The card was authentic but did have some serious condition problems. It sold for all of $4,000 at the time. It was a duplicate (or maybe a triplicate!) for Barry Halper, but he was always happy to have an extra Wagner lying around for trading. Shortly afterward, Barry learned that the Hall of Fame did not have a Wagner, so he gave the Colzaretti Wagner as a gift to the Hall of Fame, where it resides to this day. (This was the HOF’s first T206 Wagner. Today they have two. In 1998 the Hall of Fame obtained Halper’s far superior best T206 Wagner example, along with other items, as a donation from Major League Baseball, allowing them to display one T206 Wagner in Cooperstown and another in a travelling exhibit at the same time).
It’s also interesting to note that in the 1970s there was a great controversy surrounding the discovery of an E95 caramel card of Wagner in a batting pose that had a “T206 back”. At the time, many collectors believed it was a new T206 pose of Wagner. Others insisted it was a caramel card that had long ago been rebacked with a T206. The owners (several collectors who jointly bought the collection that included the card) themselves were also skeptical, but hopeful. Countless news stories were written about the new “discovery” and its great potential significance. In the end, the owners decided to soak the card in water, and in minutes it came apart, revealing the caramel card back hiding under the thin glued-on T206 back, and once and for all determining that it was definitely a caramel card (probably put together by a frustrated collector decades earlier who could not find a Wagner to complete his T206 set). The drama and attention the card received at the time was extraordinary, and is part of the rich history of the legend of the T206 Wagner. We will never know for sure, but we can’t help but wonder if the card that Charles Bray is talking about in this letter is this very card. Our best guess is that it is likely.
So there you have it: It’s a short letter, but really, there’s a lot to it! Maybe more than anything, this letter shows that the more things change, the more the stay the same!
We have enjoyed preserving and sharing this slice of hobby history on the REA blog. We hope you have enjoyed reading about it!
Robert Edward Auctions LLC