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    1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner PSA Good 2. "There is something Lincolnesque about him," Pulitzer Prize-winning sports journalist Arthur Daley once wrote, "his rugged homeliness, his simplicity, his integrity, and his true nobility of character." Hall of Fame manager John McGraw considered him the greatest ballplayer of all time, and Ty Cobb recalled him as the one man he couldn't intimidate. Yet despite the universal high praise from friends and foes, and his membership in the 1936 inaugural class of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Honus Wagner is best remembered today as the face on the most valuable and coveted of all baseball cards.

    While there is some truth to the argument that Wagner's greatness plays a role in the importance of this ultimate collecting rarity, one must acknowledge that it's a supporting role only. An equal print run to contemporaries like Cobb, Young and Mathewson would almost certainly have found Wagner's value equivalent to those legends' as well. But it was Wagner's refusal of the American Tobacco Company's request for permission to use his image that set him apart and above.

    The most popular story to explain this refusal is that Wagner wished to play no role in the promotion of the use of tobacco, though it has been justly stated that he was himself a user, and had appeared in advertisements for many tobacco products previously. Another theory notes Wagner's reputation as a fierce negotiator, arguing that it was nothing more than a case of a failure to agree upon a dollar figure that led the ATC to end production of Wagner's card almost as soon as it started.

    This unsolved mystery has only served to further enhance the mystique of the treasure presented here, one of just a few dozen examples of the famed Honus Wagner T206 known to exist. A colorized version of a studio portrait by celebrated early baseball photographer Carl Horner, the unmistakable image on the card face finds the superstar shortstop gazing into the middle distance, set against a backdrop of solid orange. The early spelling of his hometown "Pittsburg" is applied across the chest of his high-collared jersey, and again beside his block lettered surname at the bottom border. The verso provides an advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes, and the trading cards within, noting "Base Ball Series, 150 Subjects."

    If it has seemed to you that auction block sightings of the trading card hobby's Grail have slowed in recent years, you are not alone in that suspicion. Many have now settled into permanent collections, further thinning a population that was extraordinarily endangered even as Wagner was still patrolling the infield. There's every reason to believe that this representation will likewise exit the public domain for years to come.

    The intense scarcity of the card has wrung forgiveness from even the most condition-sensitive collectors, and most consider significant aesthetic impairment to be a foregone conclusion. While the offered example comes by its technical Good 2 rating honestly, the marvelous image area of this card overshadows that calculated assessment. The vast bulk of the wear that accounts for its grade is restricted to the border, and the corners specifically, leaving the colorful center nearly free of distraction. We advise serious bidders to study the card at our online listing, where super-high resolution images provide a magnified view of every last millimeter.

    This is just the third Wagner that Heritage, the World's Largest Collectibles Auctioneer, has even offered to the collecting public, and the finest of the three by a wide margin. It is likewise the first we have offered in six years. We suspect that the wait for the next will be of similar duration.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2016
    17th-19th Thursday-Saturday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 9,503

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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