I don’t know how I have maintained a baseball-card blog for the last few months without talking about what is largely considered to be the Holy Grail of antique-card collecting—the T206 Honus Wagner card. It is one of the rarest baseball cards in history, and it depicts one of the greatest players of the dead-ball era. Furthermore, the T206 Honus Wagner card is the most valuable baseball collectibles in existence. It’s the Mona Lisa of baseball cards.
The 1909 Honus Wagner antique card is a 2½-by-2 inches tobacco card issued by the American Tobacco Co. The card stopped being produced in 1911 when Honus Wagner demanded the company cease its production. To this day, it’s still unclear exactly why production was halted. Whether it was because Wagner didn’t like children buying cigarette cards or because he wasn’t being compensated properly, the result is his card is more rare than any other.
During its lifetime, the most famous Honus Wagner card has seen an array of owners. A few baseball collectors and even hockey great Wayne Gretzky have owned this card for a short time before deciding to sell it. Most recently, this piece of baseball history sold for well more than $2 million making it the most valuable baseball card by a long shot.
In recent years, more T206 Honus Wagner cards have come to light. Of course, some of them are forgeries by con artists looking to make a quick fortune. However, some of them have been real, but they weren’t in as good condition as the most popular one. Even still, these less-than-mint cards have sold for several hundred thousand dollars each.
Exceptional card, exceptional player
Beyond its rareness, another reason the Honus Wagner tobacco card is so valuable is Wagner was an exceptional baseball player. He and Ty Cobb were the two best players of this historic era of the game. During his career, Wagner won eight NL batting titles. He averaged over .300 for his entire career, and he hit .344 during his rookie year. Additionally, Honus Wagner was one of the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame. In short, Honus and his antique tobacco card are legends in both the world of sports and collectibles.
Here are some tips for starting a collection although you shouldn’t count on ever having a Honus Wagner in it.
Still, by taking the right steps, investing in sports collectibles can prove profitable.
Eric Bratner is a baseball fan and freelance writer living in Houston.