Even the person who has little interest in sports memorabilia is familiar with “The Card” as it has become known. Books have even recently been written about and it’s impact and implications on and within the sports memorabilia industry. It is none other than the Honus Wagner T206 and its value, like most things, has been influenced by excess demand over an extremely limited supply.
As with any number of things in this hobby/industry, “The Card” and the reason for its rarity is draped in the stuff of legend. A popular theory for the rarity of the card is that Wagner, a non-smoker, did not want his likeness associated with tobacco products. While this may be true, it would in fact be inconsistent with evidence on a number of fronts. Page 243 of Honus Wagner by Arthur D. Hittner, notes that Wagner’s name and likeness did appear in advertisements for such tobacco products like Murad Cigarettes as well as Coca Cola and something called Meyers Specific (a muscle liniment).
Honus Wagner was also the first player to sign an endorsement contract with the then rather fledgling bat manufacturer J. F. Hillerich & Sons in 1905. According to Vince Malta, “This contract between player and product manufacturer was the first of its kind, and paved the way for the future of athlete endorsements in all sports.” Today we think nothing of a company manufacturing products specifically for a player’s individual use as it relates to both benefit for the player and the company. 1905 was a far different time than today. Early arrangements like the one between Wagner and J.F. Hillerich & Sons often only involved a few dollars or the provision that usable product would be provided in exchange for the endorsement. This was the beginning of an American industry all its own. The point being, Wagner well knew the value associated with his name and likeness by the time of the T206 series was issued; 1909-1911. Could it have been that his reluctance to have his likeness used as a promotional ploy in which he was not compensated been a factor in his decision?
Do I see myself as someday owning a T206 Wagner? No I don’t based on the cost and what I would likely rather have if I had the money. I thought this topic was interesting and in line with the theme of other topics I have written about. That being, look into things for yourself and then decided what it is you want to believe. Is what you have always heard or been told the truth, or was someone simply blowing smoke?
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com