The news that Hunt Auctions will be including the famed T206 Honus Wagner five-card proof strip in its All-Star FanFest Auction this summer was intriguing in that the colorful little strip of cardboard continues its long and distinguished hobby history.
Depending upon who you talk to, the legend surrounding the strip is nearly as mystical as the various explanations – apocryphal or not – that engulf the T206 Wagner itself.
I do recall that the strip once toured the card show circuit with the ambitious nomenclature “The Million-Dollar Wagner.” That was in the 1980s when none other than Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen would display it at shows as a promotional vehicle. Hyperbole aside, the little five-card beauty could probably justify that kind of pretension were it in pristine condition; the strip has five T206 cards, including three Hall of Famers (Wagner, Cy Young an Three-Finger Brown), but suffers from multiple creases that bedevil virtually every card except Frank Bowerman, situated smack dab in the middle.
Apparently when Old Honus himself folded the card – as the story goes – he didn’t take the care to try to fold it evenly, which would have essentially devastated the common Bowerman but spared the three immortals and catcher Johnny Kling.
The proof strip was reportedly found by Wagner’s granddaughter, Leslie Wagner-Blair, who pulled it out of a jacked pocket where the Hall of Famer had unceremoniously left it.
The general idea is that the strip card may have played a role in the well-worn saga that surrounds the T206 Wagner, with the view that what is pretty clearly a proof card might have been sent to Honus as a means of convincing him to have his card included in the set. It may not have impressed him too much; he pretty clearly made the primary fold nearly down the middle of his own card in order to fit it into that jacket pocked. Oh, the humanity!
Anyway, Steve Verkman of Clean Sweep Auctions bought it from the Barry Halper Collection sale by Sotheby’s 11 years ago, paying $85,000 at the time. I think it’s changed hands a couple of times over that span, but I couldn’t swear to it.
I guess that’s part of the Honus fun: there’s not too much that you can absolutely set in stone. Ultimately, it’s been a great promotional item for the hobby and is likely to get a lot of national mainstream media attention under the capable hands of the Hunt Auctions crew.