Rare 1909 Honus Wagner T206 Piedmont Baseball Card in Sports Memorabilia Auction
Bob & Sallie Connelly: Antiques, Auctions, Appraisals.
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Sports Memorabilia Auction featuring
A 1909 Honus Wagner T206 Baseball Card

eBay has ended Internet bidding for the Honus Wagner Baseball Card. Internet bidding on eBay via Live Auctioneers continues for all 390 other items in this Sports Memorabilia auction. You can bid on the Honus Wagner card in person on Saturday, August 12, 2006 at the Showplace in Binghamton, NY.

Bob & Sallie Connelly will conduct a Sports Memorabilia Auction beginning on Saturday, August 5, 2006 on the Internet and concluding a week later on Saturday, August 12, 2006 at noon eBay Live via Live Auctioneers eBay Live Auctions Live Auctioneers simultaneously on the Internet and at the Showplace in Binghamton, NY. Previews will offered in Binghamton on Friday from 6:00-9:00 p.m., on Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and by appointment. You can participate in this auction at Live Auctioneers, at eBay Live Auctions, in person at the Showplace, or by Phone or Absentee Bid.

Honus Wagner T206 Baseball Card with Piedmont back. The auction includes over 175 T206 cards and 37 P2 pins -- all PSA graded -- and over 200 autographs of Baseball Hall of Fame players, as well as other sports related items. The feature item is a rare 1909 Honus Wagner T206 Baseball Card with a Piedmont (Factory 25) back, not PSA graded. The opening bid for the card, which is expected to sell for more than $750,000, is set at $300,000. Considered by collectors the most sought after baseball card in the world, it is one of about 50 T206 Wagners, and one of just three with a Piedmont back. One of the others, once owned in part by hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky, sold last year in an auction promoted by eBay and conducted by MastroNet for $1.26 million to Southern California businessman Brian Seigel.

Honus and the T206 Card.Honus Wagner courtesy of the Official Site of Honus Wagner The Honus Wagner T206 baseball card was one of a set of 523 issued by the American Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911 to promote its various brands of cigarettes, including Sweet Caporal and Piedmont. The front of the card portrays Honus Wagner, the celebrated Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop who strung together seventeen consecutive .300 seasons, and stole 722 lifetime bases. Later a Pirates manager, Wagner, together with Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, was among the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His T206 card became an overnight rarity when Wagner stopped its production, some say because he wanted a bigger promotional fee. His heirs say he didn't want children buying and smoking cigarettes to get his picture. Whatever the reason, only 50 to 60 Wagner T206 cards now exist, most backed with a Sweet Caporal ad, only three carrying Piedmont ads.

John Cobb and Ray Edwards, owners of the Honus Wagner T206 card in this auction.The Cobb/Edwards T206 Wagner. The Honus Wagner T206 baseball card that headlines our Sports Memorabilia Auction is owned by Cincinnati, OH entrepreneurs, John Cobb (far left) and his cousin, Ray Edwards. Cobb purchased the card in 1983 or 1984 from a speculator he knew, who got it from a dealer in estate merchandise. Its provenance before that is unknown. Cobb paid $1800 for his Wagner T206 just two or three years before the so-called Gretzky Wagner first changed hands for about $25,000.

eBay Authenticity. While the Gretzky card bounced from owner to owner over the years, Cobb held onto his until he and Edwards offered it on eBay -- seven times between July 2002 and July 2003, but without a sale. In two auctions, the reserve or minimum bid was not met; five were pulled by eBay because the card had not been authenticated. According to eBay spokesman Hani Durzy "Theirs was a clear violation of our authenticity policy." eBay currently recommends four authenticators for trading cards, but Cobb and Edwards decided to look to independent experts outside the sometimes clubby world of sports card collectors.

Honus Wagner Piedmont backed T206 in lucite.Paper Analysis. In February 2003, Walter Rantanen, Fiber Science Group Leader at Integrated Paper Services (IPS) in Appleton, WI, performed a comparative analysis of the Cobb/Edwards Wagner T206, two other T206 baseball cards, and three postcards postmarked before 1910. IPS is an independent laboratory for all-round quality, property and chemical testing. The samples were examined under long and short ultraviolet light, and subjected to fiber evaluation and energy dispersive spectroscopy. The IPS report, in summary, said:

  • All samples were negative for UV flourescence which is consistent with all paper produced before 1950.
  • The "Honus Wagner" card had fiber components that were known to be used in papermaking in the early 1900s. No fiber types were detected that would exclude the paper from that era.
  • In reviewing the EDS spectra of the "Honus Wagner" card, no titanium or other component was detected that would exclude the paper from being available in the earlier part of the 1900s.
  • We do not have the expertise to comment about the printing of the cards.

Honus Wagner Piedmont backed T206 in lucitePrinting Analysis. In January 2004, independent printing consultant Arnie Schwed "examined and compared the [Honus Wagner] card to Postcards and other playing cards from the era from 1905 to 1908." Schwed's report concluded, in part:

  • The Card was printed on lithograph offset printing four color press with a rosary dot matrix. [A type available and used in the early 1900s.]
  • The paper upon which The Card was manufactured, is original factory bonded one stock paper, and is not sandwiched.
  • The Card is not a photocopy, scanned image nor from a bubble jet or laser printer.
  • The Card is an authentic original from a printing source in the early 1900's.

Appraisal and Grading. In June 2005, Cobb and Edwards asked our own Bob Connelly to appraise their Honus Wagner T206. Bob examined the card and, relying on the analyses of IPS and Arnie Schwed for authentication, appraised the card for $850,000, saying "the card has some discoloration at the top and the corners show wear but overall the condition is very good." In terms of PSA grading standards, Bob thinks it's probably a 4, an opinion seconded by sports memorabilia broker Mike Mangasarian (Mike Mango) after examining the card when he and Bob were interviewed recently by the New York Daily News.

Now It's Up to YOU. When a rare and controversial collectible, like the Cobb/Edwards or the Gretzky Wagner T206, has a long, undocumented period in its provenance, it's always difficult to say for sure whether it's genuine or not. But for the Cobb/Edwards card, at least, there's scientific evidence. IPS authenicated the paper stock, Schwed the printing method. Bob Connelly says it's in very good condition and probably worth about $850,000. What it's really worth is up to you. As owner John Cobb observed, "Something's worth what someone's willing to pay for it."