T206 Honus Wagner Card: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide

1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner baseball cardIt’s the Holy Grail of baseball cards.

It’s the face of an entire hobby.

It’s the most valuable baseball card ever sold.

The T206 Honus Wagner card is quite simply in a league of its own and a mere pipe dream for millions of collectors.

Few collectibles possess the kind of mystique that this card carries.

And in this guide we’ll dive into what makes this card so special, why it’s so valuable, and what you’ll have to do to acquire one.

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How Much Is It Worth?

The first thing people usually ask is: how much is a T206 Honus Wagner card worth?

No matter what condition the card it is in, it should sell for at least six figures!

But, as the condition increases so does the price.

Exponentially.

Let's look at some price estimates of the T206 Wagner at various condition levels as graded by Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA) on a 1 to 10 scale.

PSA is considered to be the benchmark in the vintage card grading industry so collectors put heavy premiums on their graded cards.

According to PSA, current market values in various conditions are:

Bar Chart Showing T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card Values In Various Conditions

Can you imagine owning a baseball card worth $7.5 million dollars?

Heck, or even one worth $450,000 for that matter!

No T206 Honus Wagner card has graded higher than PSA 8 NM-MT but if one is ever to be found in better shape than that...who knows what its value would be?

So What Makes It So Valuable?

If you hang around this hobby long enough, you'll find there are many quirks in how baseball card values are determined.

Usually, the older a card is and if it has a Hall of Famer on it, the more valuable it's going to be.

By that logic, the oldest card of the best player ever should be the most expensive, right?

Wrong!

The T206 Honus Wagner card is not the oldest card ever.

Nor is Wagner considered the greatest player ever.

Then why is his card the most valuable?

It all boils down to supply and demand.

The T206 set itself is the most popular pre-War baseball card set in the hobby.

Thousands of collectors chase down T206's in hopes of doing the nearly impossible (completing the entire set) or just to have a few from this iconic set in their collection.

That's where the demand comes into play.  And it is through the roof.

Supply of the Honus Wagner card is minimal, however.

Because of a dispute Wagner had with American Tobacco, the company that produced the card, his card was pulled from production.

There are a couple of theories as to exactly why this was the case:

  • Wagner was upset at the company for using his likeness without sufficiently compensating him
  • Wagner did not want his image associated with tobacco and smoking since these cards usually found their way into the hands of kids

Either way, there just aren't many T206 Honus Wagners to go around.

How Many Actually Exist?

There's really no way of knowing for certain.

But it's believed there may be less than 60.

  • PSA's population report shows they've graded 34.
  • Sports Card Guaranty's population report shows they've graded 10.
  • Beckett's population report shows they've graded 0.

By comparison, there are hundreds of Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Walter Johnson and other Hall of Famers from the set whose cards have been professionally graded.

To give you an idea, here are four of the most popular cards from the sets and their respective populations (number of them graded) by PSA currently:

1909-11 T206 White Border Ty Cobb (Green Portrait) baseball card

Cobb

PSA Pop: 839

1909-11 T206 White Border Christy Mathewson (Portrait) baseball card

C. Mathewson

PSA Pop: 863

1909-11 T206 White Border Cy Young (Portrait) baseball card

Cy Young

PSA Pop: 886

1909-11 T206 White Border Walter Johnson Rookie Card (Portrait)

Walter Johnson

PSA Pop: 986

So, that should give you a good picture of how scarce Wagner's card is relative to others in the set. 

Famous and Controversial Wagner Cards

This card is so famous that even individual specimens have their own unique names, individual stories and fame.

Let's take a look at some of the most famous:

The Gretzky Wagner

This is the finest known example of the T206 Honus Wagner card, having received a grade of 8 Near Mint - Mint from PSA in 1991.

Fun fact: this particular card was the first card that PSA ever graded.

However, many long believed the card to have been trimmed at some point in order to achieve such a high grade.

T206 Gretzky Wagner Card

A card collector by the name of Alan Ray first sold the card in 1985 to Bill Mastro, formerly of Mastro Auctions, who then sold the card to sporting goods retailer, James Copeland in 1987.

In 1991, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and then owner of the Los Angeles Kings, Bill McNall, purchased the card for $451,000.

Since then, the card has changed hands a few times but remains known as the "Gretzky Wagner" to this day.

The current owner is Ken Kendrick, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who purchased the card privately in 2007 for $2.8 million.

Here's a look at some sales points of this card over the years:

Line Chart Showing Sales Prices of The Gretzky Honus Wagner Baseball Card Over Time

Jumbo Wagner

Because this particular T206 Honus Wagner card has an extra 1/16th of an inch of cardboard in its bottom border, it has been dubbed the "Jumbo Wagner".

Graded a PSA 5 EX (MC) by PSA, this is one of the highest graded Wagner's you'll find.

The "MC" in the grade refers to the fact that it was miscut, hence its extra size.

T206 Jumbo Wagner Card

This card has not changed hands as many times as some other Wagners but it has still sold for significant amounts each time:

Line Chart Showing Sales Prices of The Jumbo Wagner Card Over Time

All-Star Cafe / Charlie Sheen Wagner

Charlie Sheen is a notoriously huge baseball fan and over the years he has accumulated quite a collection of different cards and memorabilia, including this Honus Wagner card in poor condition graded PSA 1.

It's rounded corners, creasing, and what looks to be a pinhole above his head are definite causes to be graded in poor condition.

But the centering and overall eye appeal of the card are still fantastic.

All Star Cafe T206 Wagner

Although not quite as valuable as the previously mentioned Gretzky and Jumbo Wagners, this card is still impressively expensive considering even in poor condition it has sold for six figures!

Here's a look at five different price points at which this card has sold over the years:

Line Chart Showing Sales Prices of The Charlie Sheen All-Star Cafe Honus Wagner Baseball Card Over Time

Chesapeake Wagner

This card was part of a large find of T206 cards that made its way into the hobby from a collector in the Chesapeke Bay area.

Similar to the All-Star Cafe / Sheen Wagner, this one also possesses rounded corners, creasing, and marking which is why it received the "MK" qualifier on its grade..

Regardless, it's still a great baseball card and last sold for $403,664 in 2014.

Chesapeake Wagner T206 Baseball Card

New York Public Library Honus Wagner Card

Not all Honus Wagner baseball cards have been professionally graded by PSA or SGC.

This ungraded or "raw" card, as it's referred to in the hobby, is currently housed at the New York Public Library.

You can learn more about this particular card here.

T206 Wagner On Display At New York Public Library

Metropolitan Museum of Art Wagner

Another raw T206 Wagner can be found at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The card is part of collector Jefferson Burdick's gigantic collection of over 30,000 cards that he put together over his lifetime.

You can learn more about this particular card here.

Metropolitan Museum of Art T206 Wagner Baseball Card

Wrap-Up

So there you have it.

Hopefully after reading through this you have a further appreciation for the rarity and value of this notorious baseball card.

And since there's no indication they'll become cheaper anytime soon, the Honus Wagner card will remain a dream for many collectors as long as this hobby exists.

They don't come up for sale too often but if you're ever lucky enough to purchase one, you'll possess not only the most famous baseball card but one of the most famous collectibles in general!


Ross Uitts
 

Ross is the founder of Old Sports Cards and has been collecting sports cards for over 25 years. He also loves to write about the hobby and has written for Beckett, Topps, SABR and of course, this website. Need help buying or selling cards or have a general question about the hobby? Contact him at [email protected]

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