The T206 Honus Wagner Is the Holy Grail of Baseball Cards
I started collecting baseball cards as a kid. I still remember my first ever baseball card: the 1978 Burger King Thurman Munson. It was part of a join venture with Topps and it was given out by the fast food company in Long Island during the late 1970s. Any baseball fan living in the New York area in those days had to get their hands on Yankees cards, and I loved that Munson card as much as a BK burger and an order of onion rings. That was the beginning of a hobby that continues today though my nine year old son.
I still have tens of thousands of sports cards, mostly from the mid 1980s through early 90s. That time period is significant because the baseball card market took a huge nose dive because every major manufacturer massed produced their sets for collectors. We did not know it then, but many of these cards are less expensive now than they were when they came out 35 years ago. However, the card market went bananas in the early 2000s, and now limited edition rookie cards of players like Mike Trout and LeBron James can fetch for six or even seven figures!
There is still a terrific market for vintage cards, and none bigger than the T206 Honus Wagner. This card was first made in 1909 by the American Tobacco Company, and it was included in a box of cigarettes or tobacco. Wagner, however, was not a smoker and he did not want to promote tobacco to children so he had his card removed from the set relatively early in the print run. Thus, there are less than 60 of the T206 Wagner cards known to exist today.
The most famous T206 is a Near Mint version that was graded as an 8 (out of 10) by Pro Sports Authenticators (PSA). That card was purchased 30 years ago by Wayne Gretzky and then LA Kings owner Bruce McNall for $451,000. Since then, it has changed hands numerous times, with the selling price shattering a record each time. Over the weekend, the high-graded T206 Wagner sold for an incredible $6.6 million dollars, shattering the previous record of $5.2 million back in January for the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (three months later the 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James-autographed rookie jersey card matched the Mantle auction price). The Wagner was auctioned off by Robert Edwards Auctioned, and the $6.606 million price tag included a 20% buyer's premium.
The moral to this story is that unless you have thousands of cards from the late 1980s like I do, never throw them away like what happened to so many of our parents and grandparents collections. You never know what could someday fetch for millions.