T206 Honus Wagner: The holy grail of baseball cards sold for $3.25 million

PITTSBURGH - 1910. Honus Wagner, shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, poses in Forbes Field before a game in 1910. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - 1910. Honus Wagner, shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, poses in Forbes Field before a game in 1910. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /
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Circulated by the American Tobacco Company, Honus Wagner’s T206 card is accepted as one of the most valuable baseball cards of all time.

There are an estimated 57 T206 Honus Wagner cards that we know of and a speculated 60 to 200 ever issued. The most a T206 Honus Wagner sold for was $3.12 million in October of 2016.

However, that changed on Wednesday when the graded card from Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) sold at a private auction for $3.25 million from the Mile High Card Company, a leader in rare and vintage sports cards and autographs. The sale was the second most expensive baseball card ever sold, sitting behind only the 2009 Bowman Draft Picks Chrome Prospects Superfractor featuring Mike Trout, which sold for $3.936 million.

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Honus Wagner’s card is prized because the cards’ print run was abruptly cut short. While there hasn’t been a documented reason, there are two prime speculations for the suspended print run.

One consideration was that Wagner didn’t want to promote tobacco products to consumers, who were primarily children. Others believe the American Tobacco Company was urged to take the card out of production because Wagner wanted to be compensated for the rights to his name.

John Peter Wagner, better known as Honus Wagner, played 21 seasons in the majors. From 1899 to 1913, Wagner averaged over .300 while snagging eight National League batting titles. Honus Wagner averaged .328 during his career while registering 3,420 hits, 1,739 runs, 1,732 RBI, and 723 stolen bases. Wagner also added 643 career doubles, which ranks as the 10th most doubles in MLB history.

Honus Wagner played every position throughout his career other than catcher. While he only pitched two outings across 8.1 innings in his major league career, he has the lowest ERA of any Hall of Famer with an ERA of 0.00.

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In the inaugural baseball Hall of Fame election on February 2, 1936, Honus Wagner was selected as one of the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson. Honus Wagner received 95.13% of the votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.