1909-1911 T206 Honus Wagner - “The 1909 World Series Wagner”
Every T206 Wagner naturally has a great story, sharing the Wagner legend that is now part of classic American folklore, and every Wagner has an additional story relating to its provenance. Collectors have always been fascinated with all aspects of the history of Wagners: how they were discovered, where they have been purchased, when, for how much, where they have been, and how they have happened to survive. Sometimes there are more questions than answers, and sometimes a Wagner is special in ways that no other examples share. Wagners that have great stories include “The Gretzky-McNall” Wagner (the most valuable and famous card in the world), “The All-Star Cafe Wagner” (when owned by Charlie Sheen, displayed at the All Star Cafe in New York, famously stolen by employees and replaced with a color Xerox, later recovered by the FBI); “The Nun’s Wagner” (a very low grade trimmed and shellacked T206 Wagner donated to an order of Roman Catholic Nuns who were shocked to discover its great value; the $262,000 that card sold for in 2010 was put to great use by the order). There is also “The Beckett Wagner” (a then newly-discovered example sent to Beckett Grading with an untouched original-owner T206 collection), “The Jumbo Wagner” (a T206 Wagner with very large borders), “The Burdick Wagner” (”Father of Card Collecting” Jefferson Burdick’s very own example, donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art), “The Halper Cooperstown Gift Wagner” (in the 1980s when famous collector Barry Halper learned that the Hall of Fame did not have a Wagner, he gave them his duplicate as a gift!); “The Diecut Wagner” (the background was completely cut away on this card, leaving only the portrait and bottom border; REA sold this card in 1997); “The Nagy Wagner” (a very strong example once owned by legendary pioneer collector Frank Nagy), “The Restored Wagner”, and even “The Restored and Unrestored Wagner”. We’re sure there are others that are deserving of special distinction and mean no disrespect by not naming them. Every Wagner is different and every one has its own merits and story to tell. Perhaps no Wagner tells part of its story in quite the same way as “The 1909 World Series” Wagner.
This is an extraordinarily fascinating card in that the date “Oct 16 1909″ is stamped in purple ink on the reverse. When REA handled this card in 1997, we did not realize the enormous significance of this date. It is the date of the final and deciding game of the 1909 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers. Upon discovery of this fact, we could only ask, “Is this a coincidence? Is it possible this card was actually at the final game 1909 World Series? What is the story here?” Only so much can possibly be known, of course, and while we were not there to witness the card being stamped on October 16, 1909, common sense and all indications tell us that it was most certainly stamped on that very day. In fact, sending an image of the card to just one advanced T206 collector, we were shocked to receive a day later, in return, a scan of another T206 card with the very same purple ink stamp, obviously stamped in 1909 with the very same stamper and ink. The date on that card of Ames was a few days earlier (”Oct 5 1909″). We have provided an image on our website. There is no question that these cards, Wagner and Ames, were at one time together, stamped by the same person in 1909, and then long ago separated by time and hundreds of miles. There are obviously others similarly stamped. It is only by virtue of the “magic” of email and the Internet that we can become even become aware of this fascinating lost history.
While the T206 set was issued from 1909 to 1911, all T206 Wagners date from 1909. That was the only year they were printed, and that was the only year the few Wagners that were printed were issued in packs. This is the only Wagner dates itself! The fact that it is dated “Oct 16, 1909″, the last day of the 1909 World Series and the day on which Honus Wagner and the Pirates defeated the Tigers to become World Champions, may be a coincidence, or maybe there is more to it. We will probably never know. In either case, the original owner could not have had this card too long before it was stamped. It had only been printed that very year. Cigarettes have a shelf life, so the card may have been in a pack for weeks or months until October, or was in hand earlier and just not stamped until October. It is easy to understand the great appreciation many card collectors have for period ink stamps. They tend not to enhance monetary value, but greatly increase intrigue and the window into the past that cards can present. Thousands of T206 and other 1910 era cards have ink stamps. Sometimes the ink stamp is a name. Sometimes it’s a design. In this case it’s a date. To the best of our knowledge, this is the only T206 Wagner known that has a period ink stamp. We don’t think one could even hope for a more significant and interesting ink stamp on a T206 Wagner.
The T206 Wagner is the one baseball card that generates the greatest interest wherever it is displayed. Kids and adults, and collectors and noncollectors alike, all know about the card, and want to see it in any condition. This is a particularly special example, both in terms of its story and its condition. Few in the modern collecting world (until now) have seen the date-stamped Wagner. It appears in no books or illustrated galleries of Wagners. This is because its only previous sale at auction predates the rise of the Internet. It has long been known to exist. Robert Edward Auctions presented the card at auction in 1997. It appeared as Lot 762 in the June 1997 REA auction, and sold for what was then a very impressive price of $119,310. At the time, it was one of only a few cards that had ever sold for more than $100,000. The card has been consigned to this auction directly from buyer at the 1997 REA sale.
The Card: This very attractive T206 Honus Wagner has vibrant colors, a bright orange background, and a crisp, bold portrait. The advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes is printed on the reverse. Graded GOOD 2 by PSA, the card naturally has various condition flaws, including evenly rounded corners, a very light surface crease to the right of Wagner’s cheek (very minor, virtually undetectable and mentioned strictly for the sake of accuracy), and a stray purple ink mark on the border in the upper left. The image is centered towards the bottom right borders. The low centering has affected the extreme bottom of the lettering in the caption. The reverse has light soiling and a few minor surface abrasions (mostly on the left portion of the card).
This is a particularly strong T206 Wagner that compares extremely favorably to most other Wagner examples. This can easily be seen even at a glance by comparing this card with images of other T206 Wagners. In fact, even in terms of PSA grading, it is superior in condition to the vast majority of T206 Wagners. According to the PSA population report, fourteen of the thirty-two T206 Wagners graded in the history of PSA are encapsulated as Authentic or graded a PSA 1, with just eight examples graded higher (four Vg, one Vg-Ex, one Ex qualified, one Ex, and the Gretzky-McNall PSA 8). PSA 2 GOOD condition is a relatively high grade for a T206 Wagner, and, technical grading labels aside, this is just a great-looking card, far more attractive than most T206 Wagners. “Eye-appeal” is naturally subjective, but this card has it, in addition to having an extraordinary and unique story. Reserve $100,000. Estimate $300,000+.