Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why is the T206 Honus Wagner Worth So Much?

The T206 Honus Wagner is the most expensive baseball card in history (complete history of the Wagner T206) - but why is it worth so much?

The card was created by the American Tobacco Company (ATC) between 1909 and 1911. ATC used the cards as a promotional tool to help sell their cigarettes. ATC required the permission of the players to create the cards and Wagner was highly sought after due to his status as one of the game's greatest players.
Wagner, however, refused to let the production of the card continue and only 50 to 200 of them were put into circulation.

According to an October 12, 1912 edition of "The Sporting News", Wagner responded to ATC's request by writing that "he did not care to have his picture in a package of cigarettes."He further threatened to sue ATC if they produced the card.

There are a few theories as to why Wagner pulled the plug on ATC. The two leading ones are that he didn't want children to buy cigarettes to get his card and that he wanted more compensation from ATC.

Theory #1 - Children Buying Cigarettes

Although Honus Wagner chewed tabacco himself, he cared for his young fans and did not want them getting hooked on cigarettes and having his name associated with ATC. According to his granddaughter Blair, "He loved children. He wanted to teach kids good sportsmanship. When it came time for that card to come out, it wasn't that he wasn't paid. He didn't want kids to have to buy tobacco to get his card."

Another supporting fact was that Wagner's manager, Fred Clarke, and Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss both hated cigarettes. Dreyfuss actually passed on signing Tris Speaker, a future Hall of Famer, early in his career because Speaker was a smoker. It therefore seems likely that Wagner would not want to be associated with the tobacco industry.

Theory #2 - Compensation From ATC

Others have speculated that ATC did not offer Honus Wagner enough money and he refused to go ahead with the card production. The theory has its flaws, however, as Wagner sent a check to the ATC representative, John Gruber, for $10, a substantial amount of money at the time, to compensate Gruber for the fee ATC would have paid him if Wagner agreed to create the card. Pundits ask why would Wagner have sent Gruber the money if he was holding out for more? Gruber, incidentally, never cashed the check and, instead, saved and framed it.

Whatever the reason for Wagner refusing to cooperate with ATC, the card certainly would not have been as valuable if it has been put into full production. The limited number printed combined with the popularity of Honus Wagner and the story behind the ATC / Wagner battle have made it the most expensive baseball card in history.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

W Is For Wagner - The Line-Up For Yesterday

Ogden Nash was an American poet who the New York Times called one of the country's best known producers of poetry. In 1949 he produced a poem called "The Line-Up For Yesterday" which was published in Sport Magazine.

In the poem, Nash created a list of the all time great baseball players and used one name for each letter of the alphabet. Honus Wagner made the list for W:
W is for Wagner,
The bowlegged beauty;
Short was closed to all traffic
With Honus on duty.
Here is the complete poem:
A is for Alex,
The great Alexander;
More Goose eggs he pitched
Than a popular gander.

B is for Bresnahan,
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate.

C is for Cobb,
Who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren't born.

D is for Dean,
The grammatical Diz,
When they asked, Who's the tops?
Said correctly, I is.

E is for Evers,
His jaw in advance;
Never afraid
To Tinker with Chance.

F is for Fordham
And Frankie and Frisch;
I wish he were back
With the Giants, I wish.

G is for Gehrig,
The Pride of the Stadium;
His record pure gold,
His courage, pure radium.

H is for Hornsby;
When pitching to Rog,
The pitcher would pitch,
Then the pitcher would dodge.

I is for Me,
Not a hard-hitting man,
But an outstanding all-time
Incurable fan.

J is for Johnson
The Big Train in his prime
Was so fast he could throw
Three strikes at a time.

K is for Keeler,
As fresh as green paint,
The fastest and mostest
To hit where they ain't.

L is for Lajoie
Whom Clevelanders love,
Napolean himself,
With glue in his glove.

M is for Matty,
Who carried a charm
In the form of an extra
brain in his arm.

N is for Newsom,
Bobo's favorite kin.
You ask how he's here,
He talked himself in.

O is for Ott,
Of the restless right foot.
When he leaned on the pellet,
The pellet stayed put.

P is for Plank,
The arm of the A's;
When he tangled with Matty
Games lasted for days.

Q is for Don Quixote,
Cornelius Mack;
Neither Yankees nor years
Can halt his attack.

R is for Ruth,
To tell you the truth,
There's just no more to be said,
Just R is for Ruth.

S is for Speaker,
Swift center-field tender,
When the ball saw him coming,
It yelled, "I surrender."

T is for Terry,
The Giant from Memphis
Whose .400 average
You can't overemphis.

U would be 'Ubell,
if Carl were a cockney;
We say Hubbell and Baseball
Like Football and Rockne.

V is for Vance,
The Dodger's very own Dazzy;
None of his rivals
Could throw as fast as he.

W is for Wagner,
The bowlegged beauty;
Short was closed to all traffic
With Honus on duty.

X is the first,
of two x's in Foxx
Who was right behind Ruth
with his powerful soxx.

Y is for Young,
The magnificent Cy;
People battled against him,
But I never knew why.

Z is for Zenith,
The summit of fame.
These men are up there.
These men are the game.

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