Tomorrow the 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner card, known as The Chesapeake Wagner, a PSA 1(MK) is going up for auction through SCP Auctions with a starting bid of $50,000
This card is the Holy Grail of sports card collecting and besides seeing a picture most of us will never touch one let alone see one. In the past decade the cheapest one had a $109,638 price tag for a PSA 1 with the last two selling for $2.1 million (unknown grade) and $1.2 million (VG 3) so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one top $150k if not $200k.
This is one of the few cards that if I had the disposable cash I would actually bid.
The history of this card would make for an intriguing soap opera. When the American Tobacco Company decided to include cards in cigarette and tobacco packs in 1909 they required the authorization of each player to include them in the packs. Wagner refused to sign so in response the ATC sent a sports writer (John Gruber) to try and convince him to sign the paperwork but he wrote on the paper that he did not want his picture in a package of cigarettes.
This is where the most popular story about Wagner not wanting kids purchasing tobacco products to collect his card came from, this was later validated by his granddaughter. The problem to this “happy” story is that Wagner chewed tobacco almost religiously and on top of that he had cards included in tobacco products as far back as 1899 not to mention he had appeared in advertisements for cigars and cigarettes for a decade at this point.
The more believable story is based on him being a shrewd businessman at heart. He was known as a tough negotiator, even retiring after the 1909 season because the Pirate refused to offer the money he felt he deserved, they eventually gave in and he un-retired. It is more reasonable to believe that he refused to sign the contract because ATC refused to pay him a fair compensation.
So when he refused to authorize his use in the set the company cut him from the product but it is believed that as many as 200 copies were printed and already inserted in to cigarette packs. There are roughly 55 copies that have been graded between Beckett and PSA and another 8-10 raw copies floating around.