Another example of the baseball card collector's "holy grail" is on the auction block. Just a few weeks after a T206 Honus Wagner tobacco card brought $2.1 million, another one of the 1909 rarities is up for bid.
New Jersey-based Robert Edward Auctions is offering the card once owned by actor Charlie Sheen. Just over a week into the bidding, it stands at $330,000. Graded PSA 1 (poor), the card shows wear, but has quite a story behind it.
In the 1990s, Sheen loaned the Wagner and several other vintage cards from his collection to the All Star Café in New York. It was a popular attraction at the sports-themed restaurant and apparently too tempting for a pair of chefs.
Two of them, along with a manager, plotted to steal the card and replace it with a copy. Their idea worked for a while and they tried to cash in by selling it to New Jersey dealer Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen. The trio, however, got greedy. They stole an uncut sheet of 1934 Goudey cards that included the scarce Nap Lajoie card. They cut up the sheet and tried to sell the individual cards to avoid being discovered.
This time, though, it wasn’t as easy to replace the original, and when the theft was discovered, law enforcement agencies swooped in and the thieves were eventually arrested. The stolen cards, including this Wagner, were turned back over to Sheen, who later sold it—along with the majority of his collection.
The card has been in private hands for a while and was sold by the same auctioneer in 2009 for $399,500.
Virtually each time a Wagner card has sold, it’s gone on to bring a higher price the next time it hits the market—regardless of condition. In fact, lower-grade T206 Wagner cards are highly sought after by investors and those putting together complete sets of the ever-popular set that was issued inside various cigarette brands from 1909-11.
Wagner asked that his card be pulled from production, and that wish was granted early in the production process. It’s estimated that fewer than 75 may exist.
Popular, avidly collected and just downright cool, not all T206 cards are valuable. So many were made that common players and lesser-grade Hall of Famers can be had for less than $100 in lower grades. The set includes multiple cards of Hall of Famers like Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.
The auction, which also includes minor league cards of Babe Ruth and Joe Jackson in addition to the famous Wagner card, closes May 18.