MISSION VIEJO, Calif. -- A rare Honus Wagner baseball card
has been sold for a record $2.8 million, just over six months after
it was bought for a then-record $2.35 million.
Referred to as the "Mona Lisa" of baseball cards, the almost
mint-condition collectible -- released in 1909 by the American
Tobacco Company -- was sold by Brian Seigel of Las Vegas to an
unidentified Southern California collector in February. SCP
Auctions was a minority owner, but David Kohler, the company's
president and CEO, said that's no longer the case.
Kohler said the new owner wishes to remain a private collector
for now, but might identify himself at a later date. The sale was
completed last week and announced Thursday.
The T206 baseball card features a youthful Wagner in his
Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. At the time of the February sale, it
was displayed at a Dodger Stadium news conference.
"This has always been the holy grail, the Mona Lisa of baseball
cards," Kohler said.
Adding to its value is that only 50 to 60 Wagner cards are
believed to exist, and none of the others in circulation are close
to the quality of this one, which has been encased in protective
sheeting for decades.
"This is the finest by far per condition," Kohler said.
There are no immediate plans to put the card on display, Kohler
"There's a possibility that might happen in the future, we
don't know for sure," Kohler said. "It was displayed last month
at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. Next
year, it's in Chicago. I'm sure we'll have it on display again. I'm
sure the new owner won't have a problem with that."
Seigel, the CEO of an asset management company, paid a record
$1.265 million when he bought the card in 2000. Among the previous
owners were hockey great Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, former
owner of the Los Angeles Kings, who paid $451,000 for it in 1991.
Wagner's card was among the first of hundreds of cards of major
league players produced by the American Tobacco Co. and included in
packages of cigarettes.
Unlike other players, however, Wagner quickly demanded that his
card be withdrawn. Theories vary as to why, with one being that he
didn't believe American Tobacco paid him enough.
A non-smoker, the Pittsburgh shortstop was arguably the
second-greatest baseball player of his era, behind Ty Cobb. Wagner
hit .344 during his rookie year of 1897, and batted over .300 for
17 consecutive seasons, winning eight National League batting
One of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of
Fame, Wagner retired in 1917 with more hits, runs, RBIs, doubles,
triples and steals than any NL player.
Kohler said over 1,200 items are currently up for auction on his
company's Web site including the balls Barry Bonds hit for his
record-tying 755th homer and record-breaking 756th homer last
month. Those are up for sale through Sept. 15.