Honus Wagner is a Baseball Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players of his era, but part of why his name sticks around a century later is because his trading card is worth so much. No one's talking about Pud Galvin with such reverence in 2022. The T206 Honus Wagner, printed between 1909 and 1911 by the American Tobacco Company, is so coveted because there aren't many of them. Supposedly Wagner didn't want to be associated with tobacco, or tobacco didn't pay him enough money. Also, the card's valuable because it's old.
These days, your T206 Honus Wagner doesn't even have to be in pristine condition in order to make bank off it. Check out the card at the top of this post—doesn't it seem screwed up, like someone tried to turn it into a bookmark and then gave up? Well, that piece of shit attracted 75 bids and ultimately sold for $1,528,065.60 on Sunday. The buyer remained anonymous, which is a good call since they spent $1.5 million on 80 percent of a baseball card.
This T206 Honus Wagner has brilliant colors, a bright orange background, and a crisp, central image. The Sweet Caporal advertising reverse is boldly printed and displays a few patches of surface wear, though none affect the text. Encapsulated as Authentic by PSA, the card is missing its trademark white borders on the top, left, and right edges. The important and iconic “Wagner, Pittsburg" nameplate remains, however. Though two creases run through the lower part of Wagner's face, they do little to detract from the portrait's overall attractiveness.
While nobody will ever confuse this for one of the more highly graded T206 Wagners, the visual appeal is undoubtedly strong. With so many Wagner cards coming in at the lowest levels of the grading scale, collectors have sought out and rewarded examples with the strongest eye appeal. The offered card boldly checks the eye appeal box. From a color and registration standpoint, this card compares favorably with the finest T206 Wagner specimens. The colors are bright, fresh, and bold. The image of Wagner, whose face sits expressionless, is essentially perfect.
Yeah, essentially perfect. A Craigslist ad offering a gently used mattress has more persuasive copy.
That wasn't even the worst T206 Wagner sold this year. In February, SCP Auctions sold one that was torn in half. This received 18 bids:
"This example, too, is clearly far from mint condition," the description reads. Yeah, no shit! "Though slightly more than 50% of the card remains, in our opinion it is still more valuable than 90% of sports cards in existence." You can't even see all of Wagner's expressionless face, and only some of that bright orange background. Despite those significant drawbacks, someone paid $475,960 for approximately 53 percent of a T206 Honus Wagner.
We need to hold ourselves to higher standards. People can't be spending six or seven digits on less than 100 percent of one baseball card. Then again, an intact T206 Wagner sold for $6.6 million last August, so maybe these winning bidders can team up to glue together their shreds and turn a profit.