The price of this Honus Wagner baseball card increased nearly 67 percent since it previously sold, in 2008.
The T206 set of baseball cards is one of the more popular in the hobby, and despite being produced more than a century ago, its cards are plentiful. But the Wagner was pulled early in the production of the cards. For decades, hobby lore cited the reason as Wagner not wanting his likeness associated with a tobacco product because of the message it would send to children. Whether that's the exact reason remains open to speculation, but there's no debate that when a stellar example of a T206 Wagner hits the auction block, the buyer can expect to pay seven figures.
The latest sale was conducted by Robert Edward Auctions, based in Watchung, N.J. This card, described by REA as "one of the finest examples in existence," previously sold for $791,000 in 2008. The hammer price for this Wagner sale was $1.1 million, with a 20 percent buyer's premium.
"We're pleased with (this) price," said Brian Dwyer, the consignment director for REA. "It's a strong price and not unexpected. It really signals the strength of the market when a baseball card can sell for over a million dollars."
The legend of the Wagner card and its popularity extends beyond the baseball card hobby, Dwyer said.
"The bidding pool for this Wagner was deeper than we expected," he said. "There were people interested, who if they had been the high bidder, this would have been the only baseball card they own."
So what prompts a potential buyer to consider spending in the neighborhood of $1 million on his or her first purchase of a baseball card, especially when there are many other cards of which there are less than 50 examples known but fetch nowhere near the price of a Wagner?
"I think the Wagner has been the face of the hobby for decades," Dwyer said. "He's a Hall of Famer from the most widely collected set in the hobby. There's a great back story with the card.
"When I show a picture of the Wagner to a person not in the hobby, almost always the person recognizes it."
Selling a T206 Wagner is nothing new to REA, whose president, Rob Lifson, has been active in the baseball card hobby for 40-some years.
"Whether Rob has sold them, handled them personally or just known of ones that are in personal collections, he probably has been associated with almost a third of the known Wagners," said Dwyer, who added that since 2004, REA has auctioned almost one Wagner a year.
The highest price paid for a T206 Wagner reportedly is $2.8 million by Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick in a private sale in 2007.
By Rob Dewolf Dispatch.com • Sunday April 26, 2015 4:24 PM