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Description1910 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner PSA Authentic.
UPDATE: This card has never had any paper added and contains 100% original fibers. The only alteration was coloring done with water colors, which was subsequently reversed so that it now presents as it did in its original form.
"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."
Our consignor purchased this card in a restored state, with coloring to minimize the appearance of creases and paper added to enhance the corners. Preferring an unaltered representation, the new owner took immediate steps to return the card to its original condition, commissioning an expert to undo these modern contrivances. Admittedly small portions of the added color in the orange background remain, but the return to original state is as complete as possible. And when considering the magnificent visual appeal that existed before restoration was first undertaken, one wonders why anybody would have proceeded. This is unquestionably one of the prettiest Wagners that exists.
The card, by necessity, remains housed in a PSA Authentic capsule, but rates near the top of similarly slabbed examples. Still retaining its original borders, free of back damage and boasting superior graphics, this specimen doesn't just gain the owner membership in the elite brotherhood, but a seat near the head of the table.
Guide Value or Estimate: $300,000 - up.
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2017 June 29 Premium Sportscard Catalog Auction - Dallas