Honus Wagner Baseball Card From 1909 Auctioned for $1.23 Million

The trading card that the National Baseball Hall of Fame calls the sport’s “most famous collectible” was sold today for $1.23 million in an online auction, according to the dealer handling the sale.

The 1909 card of Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner sold to an unidentified man from New Jersey, Bill Goodwin, president of St. Louis-based sports memorabilia auctioneer Goodwin & Co., said in a telephone interview. The card received 14 bids in the four-week auction.

“When you run auctions you always want one more bid,” said Goodwin, who plans to deliver the card to the buyer in person. “But overall I am very happy and the consignor is happy.”

The Wagner card was part of Goodwin & Co.’s “Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XL,” an auction of 528 baseball cards from the T206 series released in 1909 by the American Tobacco Co. for distribution in cigarette packs. Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick purchased a version of the same card in better condition for $2.8 million in 2007, making that the most expensive baseball card ever sold.

All 528 cards were owned by a man in Texas whom Goodwin also declined to identify. A longtime business associate of Goodwin’s, the seller acquired the Wagner card in 1985 and approached Goodwin in December to discuss auctioning off the entire collection. Goodwin didn’t say how much the seller originally paid.

Other lots in the auction included a card of former Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Eddie Plank, which sold for $330,000, and cards of Hall of Fame players Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Cy Young. The entire lot sold for a total of $1.77 million, Goodwin said.

Plank’s Highest Price

“That’s the highest price ever paid for any Plank card,” Goodwin said.

The Wagner card began with a minimum bid of $300,000, the highest in the set. A similar card in the same condition sold for $145,000 in 2000 and another in 2008 went for around $950,000, according to Goodwin, who called it the “holy grail of baseball cards.”

Wagner batted .329 in 21 seasons, winning eight National League batting titles and five stolen base crowns. The second player behind Cap Anson to reach 3,000 hits, Wagner was part of the inaugural 1936 class at the Cooperstown, New York-based National Baseball Hall of Fame, and died in 1955.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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