It’s One of Honus Wagner’s Rarest Cards — and it’s a Virtual Unknown
Many questions surround a scarce tobacco card of the Hall of Famer
When most collectors hear the name Honus Wagner they tend to think of his T206 card. The card is the most valuable one in the world and is incredibly rare with well under 100 known copies. But a different card of Wagner is even tougher to find and much is still unknown about it.
The card in question is the Henry Reccius Cigars Honus Wagner card and it arguably has more questions than answers.
For one thing, the date of issue (or even a confirmed estimate) is not really known. The card pictures Wagner with his then team — the Louisville Colonels. He was with that club from 1897 through 1899, so the card is often dated to that point. That, in fact, is how PSA has slabbed the cards.
However, some believe it could have been printed later. That is because the address of Henry Reccius (the cigar manufacturer using this issue) is listed on the card as 2606 Elliott Avenue – an address where he not reside until the early 1900s. But Reccius also had an unconfirmed Elliott Avenue address as early as 1891 and an interesting notation is that the address could have been a work address and not where he lived. It is unclear if he had any prior connection to the 2606 Elliott address or not and his 1891 entry only states he was located at Elliott Avenue without any recognition of a specific street number. Here’s a thread from Net54 on that topic.
One issue I’ve always had with a later date is that Reccius was a Louisville cigarmaker. The card pictures Wagner as a Louisville player but if the card was really issued later, it would have been several years since Wagner played there. More specifically, the card advertises a 10-cent Wagner cigar. Why would Reccius still be promoting a Wagner-themed product possibly long after he left there? Further, the card uses Wagner’s name of Hans as opposed to Honus, which was adopted later in his career. Leland’s, who has sold two of these cards, has some more arguments making the case for an earlier card.
Regardless, the dating is very much up in the air for this issue.
Distribution and Use
How the cards were distributed is even less known.
Given that they were trade cards, they would have been used for advertising purposes. We know this not only because of the address and phone number printed on them but because of the large advertisement at the bottom for Reccius’ offerings, including five-cent cigars and the aforementioned Hans Wagner ten-cent cigar.
But exactly how they were distributed to consumers is not known. Could they have gone to purchasers of Reccius’ products? Given away outside of the store to promote the business? Given to only special buyers? No one can say.
We can obviously deduce they were a form of advertising card but regarding the distribution of them, the answer is not clear and probably never will be.
Similarly, how many were produced (or by whom, for that matter) is not known, either.
Unlike other trade cards that often were used for numerous businesses or products, this one is tied only to Reccius. That is important to note since it very clearly makes it a regional issue that was probably not distributed much out of city limits (if at all).
Limiting the production to Louisville, that likely means it was not produced in excessive quantities. And the current known population sort of leads to that as well since only a handful of the cards are known. But like most sets, we’ve really got no idea as to how many would have been produced.
Because the cards are so rare and hardly ever available at auction, we also have a real problem trying to determine how valuable it is.
Suffice to say, the card is not worth anywhere near what Wagner’s more populous T206 card is worth. While that one is far less rare, it is also a more desirable tobacco issue and its intriguing backstory has driven its value up. This is a low-quality image printed on low-grade card stock with a crude overall design.
Still, we do have some benchmarks for its value. A PSA 1 of the card sold by Leland’s for just over $52,000 in 2006. Leland’s also sold an Authentic grade Wagner for a far less amount of just $21,400 in 2012.
While that 2012 auction hints to the card losing some value, we also still have a hard time determining a true amount for it. After all, that was seven years ago. It’s a five-figure card even in low-grade condition but besides that, its value is tough to pinpoint.