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Lot 242

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Lot Number: 242

Description: Important T-206 Honus Wagner tobacco card proof strip c.1909-11. "Not long ago, a firm of tobacco manufacturers wrote to a local newspaper man and asked him to secure a picture of Hans Wagner to be given away with cigarettes [sic] together with the written permission of the big Dutchman to use it. The writer was promised a liberal fee for his work in landing the photo. The scribe wrote to Wagner and asked him for the picture enclosing the tobacco company's letter. A few days later he received a communication from Hans, saying that he did not care to have his picture in a package of cigarettes [sic], neither did he wish his friend to lose the chance to cop a little extra coin. "So," he concluded, "I enclose my check for the amount promised you by the tobacco company in case you got my picture and hope you will excuse me if I refuse." The newspaper man sent the check back, with a higher opinion of Wagner than he had ever possessed before, though the two had always been close friends." Excerpt from October 24, 1912 "Wagner: A Wonder" article as published in the Sporting News. Between the time period of 1909-11, the American Tobacco Company produced a series of color lithographic baseball cards to be inserted into sixteen different brands of cigarettes as a promotional tool. The offering was hugely successful due in part to the popularity of baseball during the period and the attractive color lithographic design of the cards. As time passed, and the collectability of the set increased a number of rarities and errors were discovered as could be expected from a set of this size and distribution from the early part of the century. It became very clear, however, that the card of Honus Wagner was in fact extraordinarily scarce. As early as the 1930s price guides for the T-206 set listed most cards at around 30 cents while the Wagner card was at $5.00, a stupendous price for the era. Rather quickly the card would become the most desired in the collecting world achieving iconic status as featured in publications, books, and film. Values escalated from $10,000 in the early 1980s to several examples recently having exceeded $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 respectively. Although the card has always been clearly an extreme rarity with relevant pricing, the reasons behind its scarcity have long been the subject of debate which is at the very core of its iconic status. As referenced in the aforementioned excerpt from the 1912 issue of The Sporting News, Wagner clearly did not want his image included within the T-206 set. Many speculated that he did not wish for children to aspire to use tobacco products in order to collect his baseball card. Others believe it was a commercial dispute with the production company as Wagner had, in years prior, been photographed on baseball/tobacco related advertising pieces including cigar trade cards and boxes. The absolute truth may never but it may be likely that some elements of all theories are applicable. In either case, the legend is cemented within American cultural history and to date remains one of the most oft told in relation to the game of baseball. Presented is the unique surviving example of the 1909-11 T-206 Hones Wagner card proof strip. The strip is of a similar stock to the standard issue T-206 cards and includes four other players: Mordecai Brown (HOF), Frank Bowerman, Cy Young (HOF), and Johnny Kling. Card fronts retain very bold color with particular note to the richness and depth quite possibly due to the fact that it was in fact a proof rather then production card. Small proof 'has marks' are found at the mid section areas of top, bottom, and sides of the respective cards. The back remains appropriately blank as the standard issue set featured (16) different tobacco advertising backs. As such, a proof would not have been created for standard distribution and thus would not have the designated advertising reverse printed. The strip itself does have creasing to several areas including the Wagner card which runs vertically through the card slightly to the right. Some of the creasing, including the Wagner, card is heavy while the overall eye appeal is quite strong with note to the aforementioned color. The card remains in its original condition and presents very nicely. It should be noted however that if an interested party were to sublet the strip for professional restoration to the creasing the overall eye appeal and visually apparent condition grade would increase dramatically especially due to the strong general color. According to the history of the strip it was discovered in the Wagner family estate among some of Honus Wagner's personal belongings inclusive of clothing, uniforms, and other articles. The strip also resided for many years within the notable collection of Barry Halper. It has recently been graded by the professional grading service SGC and certified with an "Authentic" designation. This is the first time that this iconic strip has been professionally graded. It is accepted that the extremely limited surviving population of T-206 Honus Wagner cards numbers between (50) to (100). Given the legendary status of the Wagner card it is with great certainty that we propose that the offered proof strip will permanently retain its status as the unique surviving example. Exceptional piece of historic baseball history with iconic status and unlimited value potential: Hunt Auctions: FR-GD, SGC: Authentic

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