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The T206 Honus Wagner is the world's most valuable sports card. It was issued as part of a series of cards that were inserted in packs of cigarettes produced by the American Tobacco Company (ATC) in 1909.
Who was Honus Wagner?
Wagner was one of the best baseball players of his time. He played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates between 1897 and 1917. Wagner, who was nicknamed "the Flying Dutchman" for both his running speed and his heritage, won eight batting titles during his career. Along with Babe Ruth, Wagner was one of the first five players elected to the Professional Baseball Hall-of-Fame.
Why is the T206 card so valuable?
The T206 card is so valuable because Honus Wagner forced the American Tobacco Company to cease production of this card. Although his reasoning remains unclear, experts believe one of two theories: Wagner did not want kids to buy packs of cigarettes to obtain the card, or, that he wanted more compensation from the American Tobacco Company. Whatever the reason, only between 50 and 200 of the T206 cards were ultimately printed, packaged, and distributed.
The Value of T206
Even in 1933, the T206 was regarded as the world's most valuable baseball card; although it was valued at a paltry $50.00 by the American Card Catalog. As sports cards became more popular as collectors’ items in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, prices of rare cards rose dramatically as they became more in demand. In 1991, Wayne Gretzky, widely considered the greatest hockey player of all time, purchased a professionally graded T206 card for $451,000. It was later revealed the card was trimmed to improve its condition. In 2016, a different T206 card in poor, but unaltered condition, sold for over $3,000,000! Several T206 cards have emerged over the past few decades, a few of which are thought to be authentic and several others that are thought to be counterfeit.