Let’s discuss Honus Wagner, the iconic baseball player believed to be one of the best of all time whose trading card is seen by many as the rarest in existence. Following an astonishing career, the high valuation seems to be with good reason. Wagner played in the MLB from 1905-1917, during which he accomplished 8 National League batting titles, and went on to lead the league in doubles (x 7), stolen bases (x 5), and RBIs (x 4).
Over 100 years later and long following his career, in 2021 a Wagner 1909 Wagner baseball card sold for $6.6 million, making it the highest selling baseball card to date. Now another 10 months later, a second Honus Wagner card has hit the auction block. This second Honus Wagner card is different from the one sold last year in a significant way; the card is in poor condition. With slashes on three sides of the card and two creases down the middle, the card has presumably decreased in value.
Despite its poor condition, the card was auctioned off at Robert Edwards Auctions and reached a final sale price of $1.5 million. The starting price was $100,000 and it took 75 bids before reaching its final sale price. It’s believed there are fewer than 60 of these T206 Honus Wagner cards in existence. Made by the American Tobacco Company in 1909 to be sold alongside cigarettes in an advertising campaign, they aren’t your typical baseball cards.
When considering what lends credibility to trading cards, especially when analyzing attributes contributing to its rarity, check the card’s original mode of distribution. Looking at some of this year’s notable trading card sales, such as the Pokémon illustrator card, there’s a pattern of high-sellers originating from standalone events, where a smaller quantity of cards were produced, and even less attained by collectors who’d want the card for safe keeping and preservation. We’re often told that good things come in small packages; a part of the magic in collecting is inherently knowing something’s potential value, and having conviction in the knowledge you’ve acquired.