Controversial Baseball Card Scheduled for Auction

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A worn, but potentially valuable baseball card of Hall of Famer Honus Wagner has drawn plenty of skeptics who say it's a fake. The appraiser who's brokering it's scheduled sale believes otherwise and the auction is still scheduled for this Saturday. The editor of says the entire saga could easily be solved with a step the buyers are unwilling to take.

It may be the world's most famous baseball card. Fewer than 100 "T206" Honus Wagner cards issued in the early part of the 20th century are believed to exist today.

Two Cincinnati men claim they have one, but the editor of believes it may be the ultimate case of 'caveat emptor' and warns consumers to be diligent when researching expensive pieces of sports memorabilia.

The card owned by the pair has been the talk of sports memorabilia collectors since an appraiser agreed to consign the card to an auction and began publicizing the event. Many advanced collectors are convinced this particular Wagner card is not original.

The Wagner card was pulled from distribution in the T206 series, some believe, because Wagner did not want his name and likeness associated with the tobacco products with which it was issued between 1909 and 1911.

"The story of the Wagner card is well known, even if the reasons why it was pulled from the set are a little hazy some 90-plus years later," said Rich Mueller, editor of "Some believe Wagner wanted the card pulled because of it's release with tobacco products. Others simply think he was upset about the lack of compensation."

"Most hobbyists believe there are approximately 50-70 authentic surviving examples of the T206 Wagner. "The most valuable of those is the one that was displayed at the National Sports Collectors Convention last month," Mueller said. "It was graded near mint to mint "8" by Professional Sports Authenticator ( several years ago and sold via auction in 2000 for $1.26 million."

Two Cincinnati men, John Cobb and Ray Edwards, claim they have one of the Wagner cards and will attempt to sell theirs through an auction in Binghamton, NY this weekend. Internet bidding is also available and the card is currently listed on (item #250015375445). The men claim they purchased it from a speculator who'd found it at an estate sale over twenty years ago.

However, several attempts to sell the card via eBay in recent years were aborted because the card had not been professionally authenticated. The men are now are relying on appraiser and auctioneer Bob Connelly to sell it for them as part of a larger sale of sports memorabilia this Saturday.

Connelly has a picture of the front and back of the card on his web site, He claims that the card's vintage has been verified through paper analysis. Connelly believes the card should sell for more than $750,000.

However, many vintage card experts who've seen pictures of this Wagner card believe that despite it's worn appearance, it is a modern copy, not an original. They site, among other reasons, inconsistencies with the printing found on the card with authenticated Wagner cards.

Any mystery of whether the card is real could likely be solved by having one of the top professional card authentication services examine it. Thus far, however, the men who own it have refused to do so. They say they simply don't want to let the card out of their sight.

"It’s not necessary to grade every old baseball card to prove it is authentic, but when you’re dealing with something that can be so polarizing and so potentially expensive, it’s really vital to have it professionally authenticated,” Mueller said.

“Having an unbiased third party opinion backing you up can increase the value of a card like this by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not doing so simply increases the skepticism in a potential buyer’s mind. These are reputable companies who would themselves benefit from the publicity of having examined such a potentially valuable card. To not trust the most reputable companies and 'hope' someone will believe your claim is simply unwise."

The opening bid for the card has been established at $300,000. The HBO program "Real Sports" recently taped an interview with Connelly and plans a feature story on the Wagner card for it's August 15th show.

"It would be a tremendous boost to card collecting if another authentic Wagner would actually surface," Mueller said. "But unfortunately it's been proven over time that it's like finding another Hope Diamond."

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