Sports Collectors

T206 Wagner Sells for $6.6 Million, Reclaiming Title as Most Expensive Sports Card

Honus has reclaimed his throne.

One of the best known examples of the famed T206 Wagner card sold at auction late Sunday night for over $6.6 million, establishing a new record for the most expensive sports card of all time.

The auction, which opened last month, generated plenty of attention, with the expectation that it would result in yet another new benchmark in an era full of million dollar sales for trading cards.  Bidding had opened at $1 million on July 23, jumped to $2 million within the first two hours and had surpassed the $5 million mark by Friday night.

It’s the latest in a string of huge sale prices for popular cards. A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle sold to collector Rob Gough for $5.2 million in January while a 2003-04 LeBron James rookie patch autograph card numbered to 23 went for the same amount in April.  A 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card, a small portion of which was offered on the fractional shares market Sunday, was valued at $6 million.

Twenty-six bids were entered for the Wagner card before the auction closed.  The winning bid of just over $5.5 million was placed just after midnight.  The standard 20% buyer’s premium tacked onto the final bid led to the realized price of over $6.6 million.  The winning bidder hasn’t been publicly revealed.

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T206 Wagner Sells for $6.6 Million, Reclaiming Title as Most Expensive Sports Card

“This is an incredible result that speaks to this card’s status as one of the world’s most iconic collectibles. The rarity and the legend of the T206 Honus Wagner, coupled with the quality of this example, excited bidders who recognized it may be a very long time before an opportunity like this came around again,” stated REA President Brian Dwyer.

At least 18 sports cards are now known to have sold for $1 million or more in the last 12 months.

The card was highest graded Wagner to reach the auction market in six years and is considered one of the best examples of the card that’s been considered the face of baseball card collecting for decades.

Originally brought to the hobby by TCMA founder Mike Aronstein, who purchased it in New York as part of a collection 48 years ago, the card wound up in the hands of collector Fred McKie in the mid-1970s after he was the high bidder during an auction held during a Detroit area card show.  The price then was $1,100.  It was the first Wagner ever to be sold in an auction. 

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McKie later sold it for $2,500 and after some time in the well-known collection of the late Barry Halper, it wound up in the hands of a Texas collector.  It remained in its original, ungraded form until 2012 when it was sold for over $1.2 million. The card has sold privately for a higher price within the last two years, according to Dwyer.  It was during that time when it was transferred to the newest style of SGC’s black and white “tuxedo” holder.

SGC has graded four Wagner cards at the VG 3 level with three additional VG examples graded by PSA, one of which sold through REA in 2015 for over $1.3 million. There are only four Wagner T206 cards graded higher and all are in private collections: NM-MT 8, EX 5, EX 5 (miscut), and a VG-EX 4.  All of those were graded by PSA.

The old record price for a T206 Wagner was just set in May when a PSA 2 copy sold for over $3.7 million at Goldin Auctions.  In February, a low-grade Wagner card owned by the late Joe Garagiola sold for over $2.5 million.

Another Wagner is set to come up for auction this fall through SCP Auctions.

The auction also included several other notable sales including:

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