Honus Wagner as Mona Lisa
by Jeff Figler HOFMAG.com Exclusive (San Diego, California)
Every six months or so an auction will feature a T206 Honus Wagner card. Most collectors, and even non-collectors for that matter, are familiar with the “Holy Grail” of sports cards, the T206 Honus Wagner card with a tiny portrait with the allure of Mona Lisa to collectors. That one card which has a width of only 1 7/16 inches and a height of 2 5/8 inches has been the hope and dream of many collectors, the pinnacle of a baseball fan’s collecting journey, and to some, the means to luxury. But through the years the Wagner card has been the subject of a great deal of controversy.
Retracing history, Honus Wagner was an all-star shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is regarded by many as being the premier player in the Major Leagues prior to the 1920s. Indeed, his crowning achievement came in 1936 when the Baseball Writers Association of America selected him, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction.
From 1909 to 1911 the American Tobacco Company issued the T206 (the T was for tobacco) set of cards on two major brands of cigarette boxes, Piedmont and Sweet Caporal. It is estimated that only 35-50 authentic Wagner cards exist today. There are two prevailing reasons for the scarcity of the card. The first theory is that Wagner requested that the production of his card be stopped because he did not want children to be influenced into buying tobacco products to get his card. The other theory is the tobacco company did not pay him…. (click here to read more)