Hocus Pocus With Honus: $2.8 Million Wagner Baseball Card Found To Have Been Altered, Which Somehow Increases Its Value

  • Rick Chandler

When you get right down to it, is there any more valuable real estate in the world than this 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card? Sure, you’d pay a lot for acreage in Monte Carlo or Beverly Hills. But the T206 Wagner card shown here last sold for $2.8 million, and soon could go for more than $3 million. So considering that its dimensions are (guessing) 2.5 inches x 3.5 inches, that makes it worth, um, $342,852 per square inch. If my math is correct.*

Not even Elin Nordegren lives on real estate worth that much. Even with Action Comics No. 1, the first appearance of Superman, you got a much bigger surface area with a bunch of pages inside (one copy sold for $2.16 million in 2011). The Wagner card is just the face of the Pirates Hall of Famer on the front with an ad for Piedmont Tobacco on the back (which is why there were so few produced. It’s said that Wagner objected to being linked to a tobacco product).

The most famous Wagner T206 is known as the Gretzky Card, as Wayne Gretzky once owned it. In 2007, Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick bought it for $2.8 million, breaking the record for most expensive baseball card.

Chicago memorabilia dealer Bill Mastro came upon the card in 1985, buying it for $25,000 from a small collection. He sold it to Gretzky, in 1991, for $410,000. Gretzky sold it to WalMart in 1995 for $500,000. It eventually made its way to Kendrick.

But while in court on a number of fraud charges (including selling a phony lock of Elvis Presley’s hair), Mastro on Tuesday admitted that he trimmed the card after he bought it. Trimming rare cards makes them look more pristine, thus increasing the value. But if it’s known to have been tampered with, that decreases the value. Usually.

London Daily Mail:

Despite the alteration, the so-called ‘Gretzky card’ won’t lose value. In fact, it the value could go up as a result of the news, Steve Levine, of Goldin Auctions in New Jersey, told MailOnline.

“I think in this industry and hobby, the bigger the story, the better. Also, especially if you can verify it,” he said.

“We all know that this has happened with that card. Now it’s the infamous Bill Mastro-trimmed-Grezky-Honus Wagner card,” Levin said.

Levin said the Gretzky card could easily fetch $3 million is it were sold now.

Yowza. And so we see how celebrity works. Even with inanimate objects, fame and infamy are interchangeable.

* = it rarely is.