12 things every collector should know about the Honus Wagner T206 card
Virtually every baseball card collector has heard of the famous Honus Wagner T206 card. But if you’re not too familiar with it, here are some fast facts about it.
Dimensions: Many collectors not familiar with pre-war cards might be surprised by its relatively diminutive size. Exact measurements on T206 cards can vary a little but are generally around 1 7/16″ wide by 2 5/8″ tall.
Most Expensive Card: Pound for pound, it’s the most expensive baseball card in the world. A PSA 5 (MC) sold for $3.12 million in 2016 and while that record could be challenged by other cards in high-grade condition, no other PSA 5 with a miscut designation comes close to it.
Wasn’t Supposed to be Released: Part of the reason for its intrigue is that it was printed without Honus Wagner’s permission. Some have claimed that Wagner didn’t want to be associated with tobacco products while others believe he simply wanted more money to be included in the set. Whatever the reason, it was printed without his consent and was pulled from production relatively quickly.
Scandal: The most famous Wagner card is one that was previously owned by Wayne Gretzky. It was initially graded a PSA 8 but later determined to have been altered/trimmed by collector/dealer Bill Mastro. Mastro would later go to federal prison for the crime.
It’s Rare … : Because it was yanked from production, not many were printed. Today, we only know of about 50 of them.
… But not the Rarest … : Wagner has several other cards that exist in fewer quantities, such as the ultra rare Henry Reccius tobacco card with only a handful of known copies. In fact, the Wagner card is not even the rarest card in the T206 set. That honor belongs to a rare error card featuring Joe Doyle.
Famous Pose: The picture used for the creation of Wagner’s T206 card is a somewhat famous pose. The image was used on other Wagner cards, including his D322 Tip Top card and W600 Sporting Life Cabinet.
Dating: While T206 cards were produced from 1909-11, the Wagner cards were likely all printed in 1909 as production on them was halted after his permission to appear in the set was not granted.
A Proof Strip Exists: A 5-card strip featuring the Wagner card is known and was authenticated by SGC. It sold for about $316,000 in 2010 and the strip includes other players, including Cy Young, Mordecai Brown, Johnny Kling, and Frank Bowerman.
Three Known Backs: While there are many T206 backs, the Wagner is found with only three different ones – Piedmont 150/Factory 25, Sweet Caporal 150/Factory 25 and Sweet Caporal 150/Factory 30. In other words, if you see a Wagner with an Old Mil, EPDG, or other backs, it is not authentic.
Not a Typo: Wagner’s card spells the City of Pittsburgh as Pittsburg, but it isn’t a mistake. While originally called Pittsburgh, in 1891, the ‘h’ was dropped from the official name. But it was added again in 1911, after the production of the Wagner cards. Thus, the spelling of Pittsburg is on his earlier cards but later cards sometimes reflect the change.
Not Alone: Honus is not the only shortstop named Wagner found in the T206 set, which can sometimes lead to confusion. He’s joined by infielder Heine/Heinie Wagner, who has two cards in the set and played 12 years in the majors, primarily with the Boston Red Sox.