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An Introduction to The Holy Grail:
Before the days of high profile auctions, the internet and sports memorabilia mega-shows, before the creation of hobby publications and collectors clubs, before the debut of television, the events of both world wars, before the creation of airlines and the development of atomic power or space flight, even before the advent of commercial radio or the disastrous maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic—before all of these world shaping events, there was a small but passionate population of people who were all chasing after the same thing—a copy of this little baseball card from 1909, the card that would come to be referred to as the T206 Honus Wagner.
In 1909, the year of the card’s release, Wagner was on his way to winning his 7th Batting title (and his 6th in the previous 7 years). He had led the NL in a major offensive category a whopping 39 times to that point. In 1909, Wagner was in the middle of leading the Pirates to their 1st World Series victory as well. In 1909, Ty Cobb was only in his 3rd full season and simply put, Honus Wagner was the biggest name in professional Baseball at the time. Honus Wagner was one of the first five men immortalized in Cooperstown. He was inducted with the same number of votes as Babe Ruth 215 votes out of 226 ballots cast. Only Ty Cobb received more. He is considered the greatest shortstop ever to play the game.
At the time of the item’s creation, most of these early baseball fans-turned-collectors did not know with certainty that a card of Honus Wagner even existed for the new white-bordered tobacco card set. But Wagner’s importance to the game of that era made his absence from the set all the more curious and all the more convincing that such a card awaited discovery. Some learned of the card’s existence the easy way, by seeing one of the few examples that were included as part of the set’s initial distribution. To other collectors, it remained only an unverified rumor or fanciful imagining. With time, that rumor grew to become an accepted legend, and, even for the most persistent collectors, the Wagner remained forever elusive. That same set is now referred to as “The Monster,” as much for its number of components as for the difficulty that its completion represents. It stands as the greatest set of its era, a true collector challenge, and the Wagner card remains its crown jewel.
To the general public, the T206 Wagner card is the hobby. High profile T206 Wagner auctions over the last 25 years have awakened people at large to the fact that there are serious collectors of baseball cards, but most non-hobbyists don’t know anything about card collecting beyond the Wagner’s existence. As such, the card’s colorful portrait with its crisp white borders, dark outlining and bold orange background has now become the hobby’s representation for the world. This is quite evident, as the former Pittsburgh shortstop’s strong portrait is now used as the button for countless hobby topic links or menu selections on the World Wide Web. The card has often been referred to as the Holy Grail of the baseball card world, but in truth it has become more than that. The T206 white border Honus Wagner is the true icon for the hobby.
The significance of the T206 Honus Wagner is such that the card itself has its own plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The display has an example of the legendary card and a plaque that reads " The Holy Grail: In 1909 Honus Wagner discovered that the American Tobacco Company had issued this baseball card without his permission. Although Wagner used tobacco, his granddaughter later noted he did not want children to buy cigarettes to get the card. Wagner forced the company to recall the card, and today only about 50 examples survive. Wagner's fame, the scarcity of the card, and the story behind it makes this baseball's most famous collectible."
The OfferingThe 1909 T206 White Border Honus Wagner The “Jumbo” Wagner - PSA EX 5 (MC)
If one were to judge this offered example’s PSA EX 5 (MC) grading by where it falls in order of PSA grades, then it would be in a class of the three best specimens in existence. The controversial NM-MT 8, another graded as PSA EX 5 and this “Jumbo Wagner” are the triumvirate of high-grade Wagners.
The 'MC' notation in the grade reflects the card’s ample borders which are 1/16 of an inch larger than standard T206 size. Housed within these borders is arguably a Near Mint Honus Wagner image bursting with color and quite frankly the finest Wagner that may be available for purchase in the foreseeable future.
Of course, the true ranking of the surviving T206 Wagner cards will forever be hotly debated until all known examples are someday brought together for a collective review and assessment, and probably even longer than that. Unfortunately, it is quite doubtful that that this will ever occur, so we are left with recording what can be stated about this stellar example with certainty: the “Jumbo” Wagner is unique and easily identifiable, and more attractive and appealing than the vast majority of existing examples; its inks and cardstock display no notable signs of wear or effects of aging; it is bold, bright and striking, and its extra 1/16” of height gives it a commanding presence that no other Wagner can match.
Seeing a T206 Wagner evokes an acute awareness of the card’s history. Owning a T206 Wagner marks you as an integral part of that card’s history forever. If you collect art, you dream to own an original Picassoo or Van Gogh, if you collect fine cars, you would dream to one day own a 1957 Ferrarri 250 Testa Rosa, in the world of sports memorabilia it is the T206 Wagner, and this is the finest example you will likely have the chance to own in your lifetime.
One must consider the current landscape regarding The Wagner. With only three total cards authenticated and graded by the major grading companies a '5' or higher (and even dropping down in grade to a "4", there is only one, as the vast majority of T206 Wagners are graded "2" or below.), and you look at the ownership of these four cards, you must reach the realization (as we have) that this is very likely the only chance you will have to buy a high grade T206 Wagner for the next 10-20 years (or more).
Furthermore, when considering the history of each card, and an in person viewing of each card, you must reach the same conclusion we have: The 'Jumbo' Wagner is simply the nicest authenticated T206 Wagner that has ever been pulled from a pack. As good as scanning technology is, there is nothing like seeing this card in person. An in-person viewing of the card will show all of its brilliance, magnificently rich color, amazingly clean back, and more than ample borders. We invite all interested and approved bidders to arrange for a private viewing of The Wagner at our office.
Please note that to preserve the integrity of the auction and protect all bidders as well as the consignor, bidding on this lot requires pre-approval and all interested bidders MUST contact us in advance for pre-approval or they will not be authorized to bid. Call 856-767-8550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
The last time this card was offered for public sale was during the financial crisis in 2008. At that time the card auctioned off for $1.62 million. Since that time the average Wagner (with number grade) has appreciated 70% in value. We are opening this at a modest opening bid of $500,000 with no reserve. Good Luck in the bidding.