Record breaker: T206 Honus Wagner baseball card sells for $6.606M

The holy grail of baseball cards is back on top.

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A 1909-11 T206 baseball card of Honus Wagner sold for $6.606 million early Monday, regaining its throne as the highest-priced sports card of all time.

The card, which has an advertisement for Sweet Caporal cigarettes on the back, was sold during Robert Edward Auctions’ Summer Auction and carried a grade of Very Good (3 out of 10) by Sportscard Guaranty Corp. (SGC).

The winning bid was $5,505,247, according to Beckett.com. A 20% buyer’s premium pushed the final price to $6,606,296, according to ESPN.

That tops the previous record held by a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card that sold for $5.2 million in January, according to PWCC Marketplace. That card was bought by actor Rob Gough, according to Sports Collectors Daily.

The seller of the Wagner card is an “East Coast collector,” ESPN reported. The buyer and seller have chosen to remain anonymous.

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The Mantle card was matched in April by a 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection autographed rookie patch card of LeBron James, which also sold for $5.2 million.

A 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card, a small portion of which was offered on the fractional shares market by Collectable.com, was valued at $6,006,000 on Sunday.

The sale continues an upward trend of premium sports cards fetching high prices. In the past year, at least 18 cards have been sold for $1 million or more, according to Sports Collectors Daily.

Twenty-six bids were entered for the Wagner card before the auction closed, according to REA’s website. This was the highest-graded T206 card of Wagner to reach the market in six years, according to Sports Collectors Daily.

“This is an incredible result that speaks to this card’s status as one of the world’s most iconic collectibles, Brian Dwyer, president of Robert Edward Auctions, told Sports Collectors Daily. “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.”

SGC has graded four Wagner cards at the “very good” level. There are three cards with the same grade issued by Professional Sports Authenticator, another grading service.

There are only four T206 cards with higher grades, ESPN reported. All were graded by PSA and are in private collections, according to Sports Collectors Daily. The grades are NM-MT 8, EX 5, EX 5 (miscut) and a VG-EX 4, according to a PSA population report

The previous high price for a T206 Honus Wagner card was $3.75 million, according to Beckett. The card, graded PSA 2 was sold in May by Goldin Auctions.

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Sports Collectors Daily reported that Mike Aronstein, the founder of baseball card company TCMA, bought the Wagner card as part of a collection during the early 1970s. Collector Fred McKie won the card in a Detroit card show auction in 1973, the website reported. McKie sold it for $2,500, and after it was part of the collection of well-known memorabilia collector -- the late Barry Halper -- the card was bought by a Texas collector.

The card was not professionally graded until 2012 when SGC issued its “very good” rating. It sold for $1.23 million later that year, according to Beckett.com.

It was on display at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont, Illinois, last month, Beckett.com reported.

“This Wagner stands out because of its condition,” Dwyer said in a news release. “There’s only about 60 of these that we can confirm through various population reports and available grading data. Of those 60, most are rated poor, authentic or good, at best. This card is one of the best examples out there, and it’s certainly one of the best examples available.”

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