This is the Holy Grail of all trading cards. This card, which resides in one of the most popular sets of all time, features one of baseball's greatest players and it remains the symbol of trading card collecting. This card is also one of the great rarities, though it is not the scarcest in the hobby That said, this card has taken on a life of its own and no card has ever sold for anywhere close to the sale of the finest example known, the famous PSA NM-MT 8. Once owned by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, that copy sold for an astonishing $2,800,000 in 2007, the only seven-figure price ever paid for a trading card as of this writing. Even low-grade copies have sold for well over $100,000.
The reason behind the rarity has been debated for years. Was it a mere contract dispute? Was it a result of a stand taken by Wagner, not wanting to promote tobacco use to children since the cards were packed with cigarettes? No one knows for sure, but documentation from the era has surfaced supporting the theory that Wagner may have had his younger fans in mind. It is ironic since Wagner was an avid user of tobacco. He is actually pictured on a 1948 Leaf card holding an enormous wad of chew. No matter what theory you believe, the card was pulled from production early, leaving approximately 60-75 or so known copies in the hobby today. Keep in mind that most of the surviving Wagners have Sweet Caporal backs. Only a few exhibit Piedmont backs, which includes the finest example of them all.
Johannes Peter “Honus” “Hans” Wagner
Born: February 24, 1874 - Chartiers, PA
Died: December 6, 1955 - Carnegie, PA
Career BA: .328
Managerial Record: 1–4
Louisville Colonels NL (February 24, 1874 - December 6, 1955)
Pittsburgh Pirates NL (1900–1916; player-manager: 1917)
It is very hard not just to consider Honus Wagner as the best shortstop in the Cracker Jack Collection, but rather the greatest shortstop of all time. One of the first heroes of the game, “The Flying Dutchman” was a great batsman, superb defensively, and one of the fastest players in the league. Wagner’s name is sure to appear on any short list of the 10 greatest players of all time. With eight batting titles and a .328 lifetime batting average, Wagner also banged out more than 3,400 hits over his brilliant career.
A powerfully built man with large hands and bowed legs, Wagner was not graceful, but he was speedy on the basepaths, stealing 723 bases during his career. In 1908 he led the league with a .354 batting average and in most other categories as well. His offensive winning percentage that year was .880; a single season league record that stood until 2001. Although he played on only one Pittsburgh World Series Champion team (1909), we could write volumes on his individual accomplishments. Among contemporaries like Mathewson and Cobb, he was considered the best. Although there are stories about his rivalry with Cobb, they actually spent time together hunting during the offseason.
At the end of his career, Wagner managed the Pirates for a brief period before retiring as a player. He became a successful businessman in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, coached locally, and raised his family. After his business ventures were hard hit by the Depression, Wagner returned to the Pirates to coach from 1933 until 1951. Elected to the Hall of Fame in its inaugural year, Wagner was truly one of the greats. Of course the famous Wagner T206 card has also added to the legend of “The Flying Dutchman.” In the whole scheme of things, however, the legacy of the great Honus Wagner stands on its own merit.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html