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Altered Honus Wagner Baseball Card Sells for $1.52 Million

Altered Honus Wagner Baseball Card Sells for $1.52 Million article feature image
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Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images. Pictured: Honus Wagner

Another Honus Wagner card in horrible condition sold for more than $1 million on Monday.

The Wagner, slabbed by grader PSA as altered, had both its sides cut off.

The unknown winning bidder in the auction put on by Robert Edwards Auctions didn’t see to care.

The price tag? $1,528,066.

That’s a 511 percent increase since its purchase price 10 years ago, factoring for inflation.

The card was sold for $198,850 in the summer of 2012. It was then resold in September 2019 for $540,000.

If you don’t know the whole story about the Wagner card, we’re here to fill you in.

Who Was Honus Wagner?

Wagner played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for 18 seasons from 1900 to 1917. He batted over .300 for 16 of those seasons, was a great fielder and loved to steal bases.

He was part of the first class of inductees in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, joined by Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth.

Why is This Card Worth So Much?

The Wagner is part of the T206 set that was produced by American Tobacco for its 16 different brands.

It produced a ton of them over a three-year period from 1909 to 1911. But as the legend goes, Honus didn’t like his image on cigarette boxes because he wanted to be a role model.

He told the cigarette brand they must pull his images from the cards. They did so, and it created one of the scarcest cards in history.

Is That True?

Definitely not. When Pittsburgh won the World Series in 1909, Wagner cigars were on the market.

Another, more probable theory, is that Wagner didn’t like that he wasn’t getting paid enough for his image and told the tobacco company to get his image off the cards.

They obliged.

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Has the Wagner Always Been This Expensive?

Well, for the most part, it has been the most expensive card throughout time. It’s helpful to show you the rise of one card, the most valuable T206 Wagner sold to date: a Wagner, graded a 3 by SGC.

That card was sold in August 2021 for $6.62 million, the highest ever paid for a card. That card was first bought in 1974 for $1,100. It sold twice over the next 28 years and in 2012, it was sold for $1.2 million.

Nine years later, the price had jumped more than five times.

According to Rally, the fractional collectible company which itself has offered a Wagner on its marketplace, the price of a Wagner has gone up 3,841 percent since Dec. 2003, not adjusted for inflation.

Rally itself acquired a Wagner and offered shares at a valuation of $520,000 in Dec. 2019. Today, the Wagner — also altered and tattered — is worth $1.9 million, according to market prices.

Monday’s Wagner wasn’t close to the worst Wagner ever auctioned off. In February, SCP Auctions auctioned off a Wagner in which 40 percent was missing. It still sold for $475,960.

What’s With the Additional Controversy?

The most famous Wagner card is the one that was sold to Wayne Gretzky and L.A. Kings owner Bruce McNall. That card was found out to be trimmed.

Even still, like the others, it hasn’t completely devalued the card.

The card was last bought by card collector Ken Kendrick.

Prices of Honus Wagner Cards:

  • $6.6 million: SGC 3, Heritage, Aug. 2021
  • $3.8 million: PSA 2, Goldin, May 2021
  • $3.13 million: PSA 1 “Charlie Sheen Wagner,” Mile High, April 2022
  • $2.8 million: “Gretzky Wagner,” Sept. 2007
  • $2.52 million: PSA A, Heritage, Feb. 2021
  • $2.35 million: “Gretzky Wagner,” March 2007
  • $1.9 million: “Nuns Wagner,” Rally, Current Value
  • $1.52 million: PSA A, Robert Edwards Auctions, April 2022
  • $1.27 million: “Gretzky Wagner,” 2000
  • $640,500: “Gretzky Wagner,” Sept. 1996
  • $540,000: PSA A, Heritage, Sept. 2019
  • $520,000: “Nuns Wagner,” Rally, Dec. 2019
  • $500,000: “Gretzky Wagner,” 1995
  • $475,960: 60% Wagner, SCP Auctions, Feb. 2022
  • $451,000: “Gretzky Wagner,” 1991
  • $420,000: PSA A, Memory Lane, Dec. 2018
  • $357,500: PSA A, eBay, Feb. 2011
  • $222,000: PSA A, Legendary, July 2009
  • $220,000: “Nuns Wagner,” December 2010
  • $198,850: SGC A, Goodwin, August 2012
  • $109,268: PSA 1, 2004
  • $62,338: PSA A, Mastro, August 2003

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