This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 10/2/2016
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To quote celebrity auctioneer Robert Woolley: "...and now...the Holy Grail!" The intonation of those words from a regal podium more than thirty years ago marked the culmination of an unprecedented series of events. Before the "Holy Grail" was announced in this fashion, an incredible awakening had taken place in the auction industry. A genteel, established concern's generally staid environment had been placed into the glare of publicity from new, entirely unexpected quarters. The hushed tones of a few well-heeled individuals murmuring about the merits of a fine, artistic work were suddenly drowned out by a clamor, as a horde of photographers rushed for the right shot and bunches of reporters sought the appropriate quote. Breathless with anticipation, too, was the audience, as those people who were physically on site to participate became the envy of throngs spread remotely across the land. The "Grail" had arrived, and the culture – of auctions, of collecting, and, indeed, a facet of human longing – was destined to be changed forever.
It's not typical for there to be an undisputed consensus in any field of collecting – whether it be among enthusiasts of Fine Arts, seekers of the world's most valuable coins, or those who cherish vintage musical instruments – with respect to the identity of the single, very best piece in a particular specialty. That is to say, the experts usually fail to agree. In the forum of vox populi, however, universal acclaim falls naturally and easily at the feet of specific, high-profile and mystique-filled objects. Thus, even the uninitiated will speak in awe about the Mona Lisa, the barely literate recognize that the Brasher Doubloon was once intended to be spent, and the most tone-deaf soul on earth understands the meaning of the Stradivarius. It's in this vein of subliminal knowledge that virtually everyone in America – from soccer mom to sophisticate, from pedestrian to patrician – instantly equates the name "Honus Wagner" with the concept of the baseball card hobby's summum bonum – "highest good." In a manner comparable to stamp collecting's "upside-down airplane"/Inverted Jenny, comicdom's "Action #1," the political realm's Cox/Roosevelt jugate pinback, and automobilia's Gull-Wing Mercedes, Honus Wagner enjoys fully iconic status. This entry stands alone above all other baseball cards in stature, value, recognizability, and desirability, and it represents the very heart and soul of the entire baseball card collecting world.
Wagner's ascent to embody the pinnacle achievement within an entire industry is a relatively recent occurrence: the commotion attendant to the sale of one specimen by a venerable auction-holding establishment – and that house's befuddlement in attempting to channel the unexpected intensity of interest in its own offering! – is testament to that. The card's tradition is nonetheless a strong and storied one, and its role has matured to a degree such that a vast – and fully informed – audience observes, assesses, and participates whenever the Holy Grail changes hands.
Presented is a demonstrably spectacular example of the 1909 T206 White Border Honus Wagner tobacco card. Due to its generous top and bottom borders – which are unprecedented in scope and frame the prized central image of Wagner within a virtual sea of bright white – the piece merits a unique appelation: the "Jumbo" Wagner. This treasured collectible's distinctive, large-size attribute, in combination with its sublime illustration and its praiseworthy state of preservation in every respect, dictates that the offered piece occupies the apex position among the few specimens of its kind known to exist. The "Jumbo" Wagner is clearly the finest and most pure, authenticated T206 Wagner that has been confirmed in the industry. Scanning technology is impressive, certainly, but there can be no comparison to seeing this card in person, and observing its richness first-hand. Only a direct view can inspire the fullest appreciation of its unsurpassed 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 "Jumbo" Wagner at our office, and thus experience the visual phenomenon for themselves.)
The matter of the "Jumbo" Wagner's sizing, however, holds such importance that additional illumination of this property can prove instructive. In general, "Jumbo" examples are seen within the stamp collecting hobby, and they're rare and much-prized by advanced philatelists. Routine items that enjoy outsized dimensions become coveted "rarities" on the strength of that quality alone, and their allure increases exponentially when a subject's preordained, inherent "rarity" is added to the mix. "Jumbo's" are hobby elites, and their scarcity is inevitably complemented by enhanced aesthetic appeal – with both aspects symbiotically reinforced, as in the case of the "Jumbo" Wagner, by premium dimensions.
Amidst an entire industry's finest and most valuable heirlooms, the "Jumbo" Wagner clearly occupies the uppermost rung on the basis of its physical properties, as well as sheer mystique. Yet, even though elevation above this magnitude would seem impossible, this card possesses still another phenomenal attribute: a fascinating and impeccable provenance.
Significantly, for an activity wherein even the most important objects can change hands informally with just casual agreement upon terms, the "Jumbo" Wagner boasts an orderly, chronologically defined lineage: the card's whereabouts, through an unbroken span covering more than a century's-worth of being, have been definitively chronicled. Its history illuminates that the card was owned for most of its existence – treasured, protected and untampered-with throughout – by just one family.
The "Jumbo" Wagner emanates from the estate of a Vermont collector who'd owned the card since the time of issue. Surrounded by other T206s in an extensive assembly, it was then passed down to his daughter, who sold the collection under shrewd terms to a card dealer/auctioneer in New Jersey. Soon after, in mid-1974, the group went to auction, and the "Jumbo" was purchased by hobby pioneer Mike Aronstein. Following a subsequent interval, the card changed hands again (1984, Lew Lipset auction) and remained in the collection of the winning bidder at that time until re-emerging at auction (accompanied by its current PSA assessment) in 2008. Again, this is one of the very few items of such magnitude for which a past trajectory can be so thoroughly and favorably documented.
This card's past shows a dramatic upward flight path that can be expected to gain even more momentum in the future. Since this singular piece last changed hands, the hobby's most elite treasures, in general, have witnessed meteoric increases in price across the board. The investment-grade Mantle cards, the choice Clementes and Cobbs and the best-preserved Joe Jacksons have all seen their values spiral skyward at what's become a dizzying rate. (Please see accompanying chart.) As the ultimate trading card collectible, the world's most admirable T206 Wagner – this "Jumbo" – can be counted upon to pace the industry's skyrocketing-price trend.
Graded EX 5 (MC) by PSA. Hall of Famer. The mere sight of a T206 Wagner is sufficient to provoke an unbelievably pleasant sensation – unique to each individual – within the emotional core of a baseball enthusiast, and the "Jumbo" Wagner's effects are especially compelling. Above all, it must be noted that its "Jumbo" boundaries – 1-7/16" x 2-11/16" – serve, in a very real sense, as guardians of a NM/MT to MT card inside. Within such a lofty but logical context, the piece's mild corner wear becomes a non-issue. And, the whisper of a once-adjacent depiction's frameline at the "Jumbo" Wagner's bottom edge (the aspect that occasioned PSA's qualifier) assumes the role of "distinguishing mark." (Here, it's certainly not a "fault.") To address the "Jumbo" Wagner's more overt features: the observer sees at once that Wagner's gaze has remained solid and direct, and that its orange surround has lost none of its purity. More than a century's-worth of time passing has not jeopardized the card's inking – front or back – and the holistic effect of its presence is nothing less than spellbinding. Here – in its one-of-a-kind "Jumbo" incarnation – is the item that has inspired the industry from its earliest days. This is the artifact that continues to be the ultimate goal of every enthusiast, and which singlehandedly acts as a figurehead for our hobby in the estimation of the masses. Honus Wagner's presence elevates any collection like no other force on the planet, but so lamentably few of the avocation's finest assemblies have the opportunity to attain the resultant, ultra-elite status thus afforded. This special card, with faint signs of natural handling and admiration displayed proudly and its unique manners of character and size showcased boldly, represents the cherished essence of the innumerable, rewarding lifetimes spent in pursuit of collecting fulfillment. Minimally Excellent condition, qualified as noted.