T206 Honus Wagner

T206 Honus Wagner

The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card is a baseball card depicting Honus Wagner, a dead-ball era baseball player who is widely considered to be one of the finest players of all time. [cite book | last=James | first=Bill |authorlink=Bill James| title=The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract | publisher= Simon & Schuster| location=New York, New York | year = 2001|isbn=0-684-80697-5 | pages=p358 James, one of baseball's premier historians and statisticians, ranked Wagner as the second-best player of all time, behind Babe Ruth. Wagner was also selected the shortstop on the Major League Baseball All-Time Team in 1997, and was one of three shortstops named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999.] The card was designed and issued by the American Tobacco Company (ATC) from 1909 to 1911 as part of its T206 series. Wagner refused to allow production of his baseball card to continue, either because he did not want children to buy cigarette packs to get his card, or because he wanted more compensation from the ATC. The ATC ended production of the Wagner card and a total of only 50 to 200 cards were ever distributed to the public. In 1933, the card was first listed at a price value of US$50 in Jefferson Burdick's "The American Card Catalog", making it the most expensive baseball card in the world at the time.

The most famous T206 Honus Wagner is the "Gretzky T206 Honus Wagner" card. The card has a controversial past, as some speculate that it was once altered, based on the card's odd texture and shape. The Gretzky T206 Wagner was first sold by Alan Ray to a baseball memorabilia collector named Bill Mastro, who sold the card two years later to Jim Copeland for nearly four times the price he had originally paid. Copeland's sizable transaction revitalized interest in the sports memorabilia collection market. In 1991, Copeland sold the card to ice hockey figures Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall for $451,000. Gretzky resold the card four years later to Wal-Mart and Treat Entertainment for $500,000, for use as the top prize in a promotional contest. The next year, a Florida postal worker won the card and auctioned it at Christie's for $640,000 to collector Michael Gidwitz. In 2000, the card was sold in an auction on eBay to Brian Seigel for $1.27 million. In February 2007, Seigel sold the card to an anonymous collector for $2.35 million. Less than six months later, the card was sold to a California collector for $2.8 million. These transactions have made the Wagner card the most valuable baseball card in history.

A number of other T206 Wagners, both legitimate and fake, have surfaced in recent years. Some of the real cards have fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars in auctions. One particular T206 Honus Wagner owned by John Cobb and Ray Edwards has attracted controversy over its authenticity.


The American Tobacco Company was formed as a result of an 1889 merger of five major cigarette manufacturers—W. Duke & Sons & Company, Allen & Ginter, Goodwin & Company, F. S. Kinney Company and William S. Kimball & Company. Because the company came to monopolize the tobacco industry, ATC did not have to conduct advertising or promotions for its products. Since baseball cards were primarily used as a sales promotion, ATC removed them from its tobacco packs, almost driving the cards into obsolescence.cite book | last=O'Keeffe | first=Michael |coauthors=Teri Thompson| title=The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card | publisher= HarperCollins| location=New York | year = 2007|isbn=0-06-112392-7 | pages=p32 ] During the presidency of trust-buster Theodore Roosevelt, the ATC was subjected to legal action from the government, in hopes of shutting down the monopoly in the industry.

Thereafter, the ATC was back in competition with other tobacco companies, so it reinserted baseball cards into cigarette packs. In 1909, the company introduced the T206 series – also known as the "white border set" – of baseball cards of 524 players into its cigarette packs. The cards were printed at seven factories in New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.O'Keeffe and Thompson, p33.] Two years later, the ATC was broken up into several major companies as part of the United States Supreme Court ruling in "United States v. American Tobacco Company", 221 U.S. 106 (1911). [cite web
url=http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/casefinder/casefinder_1907-1925.html|title=1907-1925 Terms (207-271 U. S.)|accessdate=2007-10-19|date=2007-08-16|last=|first=|publisher=United States Supreme Court
] [cite book | last=Knauth | first=Oswald Whitman | title=The Policy of the United States Towards Industrial Monopoly | publisher= Columbia University Press| location=New York, New York | year = 1914 |isbn=0-06-112392-7 | pages=p153 ]

Physical attributes and production

The typical card in the T206 series had a width of 1 7/16 inches (3.65 cm) and a height of 2 5/8 inches (6.67 cm). Some cards were awkwardly shaped or irregularly sized, which prompted a belief that many of the cards in the series had been altered at one point or another. In his work "Inside T206: A Collector Guide to the Classic Baseball Card Set", Scot A. Reader wrote that " [i] t is not at all uncommon to find T206 examples that have been altered at some point during their near-century of existence." [cite book | last=Reader | first=Scot A. | title=Inside T206: A Collector's Guide to the Classic Baseball Card Set | publisher= | location= | year = 2006 |isbn= |edition = 3rd edition| url=http://www.oldcardboard.com/t/t206/InsideT206-3-edition.pdf | format=PDF| pages=p13 ] These discrepancies were taken advantage of by "card doctors" who trimmed corners and dirty edges to improve the appearance of the card. The front of all T206 series cards, including the Wagner card, displayed a lithograph of the player [Reader, p11.] created by a multi-stage printing process in which a number of colors were printed on top of each other to create a lithograph with the appropriate design. The backs of the cards featured the monochromatic colors of the 16 tobacco brands for which the cards were printed. [Reader, p12.] The Wagner cards in particular advertised the Piedmont and Sweet Caporal brands of cigarettes and were produced at Factory 25 in Virginia, as indicated by the factory stamp imprinted on the back of the cards. [Reader, p45.]

Wagner's involvement

Starting from January 1909, the ATC sought authorization from baseball players for inclusion in the T206 series, which would feature 524 major league players, 76 of whom would later be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. [Reader, p9.] [cite book | last=Wong | first=Stephen | title=Smithsonian Baseball: Inside the World's Finest Private Collections | publisher= HarperCollins| location=New York, New York | year = 2005|isbn=0-06-083851-5 | pages=p66 ] Wagner had been at the top of his game throughout the decade, and was even considered to be the game's greatest player at the time. [James, p132.] He had appeared on advertisements for a number of other products such as chewing gum, gunpowder and soft drinks. Unsurprisingly, the ATC asked for Wagner's permission to have his picture on a baseball card. According to an October 12, 1912, issue of "The Sporting News", Wagner did not give his consent to appear on the baseball card. In response to the authorization request letter sent by John Gruber, a Pittsburgh sportswriter hired by the ATC to seek Wagner's permission, Wagner wrote that he "did not care to have his picture in a package of cigarettes." He threatened to seek legal action against ATC if they went ahead and created his baseball card. [cite news |last= Davis |first= Ralph S.|title=Wagner A Wonder: One Player In Game Who Is Not Money Mad |url=http://www.explorepahistory.com/~expa/cms/pbfiles/Project1/Scheme40/ExplorePAHistory-a0b9s7-a_514.pdf |format=PDF|publisher=The Sporting News |date=1912-10-12 |accessdate=2007-10-19 ]

The reasons for Wagner's strong negative reaction to the ATC's request have been the subject of much speculation. The most commonly told account is that Wagner rejected the deal because he did not want young baseball fans to purchase the tobacco packs for his baseball card. Wagner held high respect for many of his fans, most particularly his young fans. His granddaughter, Blair, remarked that " [h] e 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." [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p39.] However, Wagner chewed tobacco, and he had previously appeared in advertisements for many tobacco products, including a cigar baseball trading card in 1899 and a newspaper ad for Murad cigarettes during the 1909 World Series. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p37.]

Another explanation surmised is that Wagner did not consent because he felt he was not receiving just compensation from the ATC for his baseball card. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p36.] Wagner had a history of being a tough negotiator; he had announced his retirement from baseball in December 1907, but returned shortly before the start of the 1908 baseball season after receiving a $10,000 contract, double his salary from the 1907 season. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, pp37–38.] This theory has its flaws, however, since Wagner sent Gruber a check for $10 to compensate him for the fee ATC would have paid him if Wagner had given permission to create his baseball card. Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson, authors of "The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card", asked why Wagner would compensate Gruber for $10, a substantial amount of money at the time, if he refused authorization for monetary reasons. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p38.] The ATC had already produced a number of T206 Honus Wagner baseball cards; the exact number is unknown, but is speculated to be between 50 and 200. [cite news|url=http://www.news.com/2100-1017-242804.html|title=eBay invokes new rules for baseball card auction|accessdate=2007-10-19|date=2000-07-05|last=Wolverton|first=Troy|publisher=CNET] They stopped production of the card, however, after Wagner denied authorization. [cite news |first= |last= |title=World Record of $2.8 Million Paid for Famed T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card |url=http://www.collectors.com/articles/article_view.chtml?artid=5097 |publisher=Collectors Universe |date=2007-09-06 |accessdate=2007-11-12 ]

Gretzky T206 Honus Wagner

In 1985, a small-time Hicksville, New York card collector named Alan Ray contacted Bob Sevchuk, the owner of a local Long Island sports memorabilia store, to arrange a potential $25,000 deal for his mint condition Piedmont-backed [Only two T206 Honus Wagner cards featuring the Piedmont cigarette brand on the back of the card exist today. The other Piedmont-backed card belongs to a collector from Virginia.] T206 Honus Wagner baseball card. Bill Mastro, a sports memorabilia dealer who later founded Mastro Auctions and became one of the most powerful figures in the industry, heard the news, and immediately jumped on the offer.cite news|url=http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/sports/2001/03/25/2001-03-25_wagner_s_wild_card__mystery_.html|title=Wagner's Wild Card: Mystery has surrounded Honus T206 since 1909|accessdate=2007-11-02|date=2001-03-25|last=O'Keeffe|first=Michael|coauthors=Bill Madden|publisher=Daily News] Mastro, with the financial backing of his friend, refused to accept the offer unless Ray added 50 to 75 of his other T206 series cards, including the rare T206 Eddie Plank, into the deal. Ray, who later stated he "had a money situation," agreed to Mastro's terms of the deal. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p12.]

The circumstances regarding how Ray came in possession of the card have been shrouded in mystery. He tried to avoid answering any questions regarding the matter but, in a 2001 interview, claimed to have received the card from a relative, whose name he did not disclose.O'Keeffe and Thompson, p13.] Inside the memorabilia community, there was speculation that the card had been cut from a printing sheet during the deal made with Mastro. Mastro has told colleagues in the memorabilia circuit that he purchased the card from a printer, which was not Ray's profession. Ray personally stated that Mastro might have been doing this to prevent others from trying to trace the card. Some also claim that Mastro bought the card from Sevchuk, not Ray.

After the transaction was completed, Mastro went back to his car and showed the card to his close friend, Rob Lifson, who was Mastro's financial backer for the card deal. Mastro offered one of the T206 Wagner cards from his personal collection to Lifson, claiming that he could sell it for $30,000 and make a quick $5,000 profit. Lifson was skeptical, but he took his friend's word and accepted the offer. Within a week, he sold the card to a New Jersey businessman named Barry Halper for $30,000. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p14.] Halper, a former limited partner of the New York Yankees with George Steinbrenner in the 1970s and a renowned sports memorabilia collector, sold the card and 200 other baseball memorabilia items in 1998 to Major League Baseball for over $5,000,000. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p15.] Mastro sold his card in 1987 to Jim Copeland, a San Luis Obispo, California sporting-goods chain owner, for $110,000. With that transaction, there was a sudden renewed interest in baseball card collecting. As Lifson commented, the Copeland deal revitalized the industry and "created an incentive to sell these great cards." [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p26.]

1991 Copeland memorabilia auction

Within five years, Copeland decided it was time to sell his card collection; he chose to sell his entire 873-piece collection in a single sale, through Mastro. [cite news |first=Van |last=Nightingale |title=The Wagner Is in a League by Itself |url= |work=Los Angeles Times |publisher=Tribune Company |date=1991-07-07 |accessdate=2007-11-02 ] Mastro contacted Sotheby's, the renowned New York auction house, and asked them to accept the Copeland memorabilia collection on consignment. [cite news |first=Alexandra |last=Peers |title=Baseball's Card of Cards Is Up for Grabs |url= |work=The Wall Street Journal |publisher=Dow Jones & Company |date=1996-09-20 |accessdate=2007-11-02 ] Sotheby's advertised Copeland's items as the "Copeland Collection of Important Baseball Cards and Sports Memorabilia" to attract hobbyists and other potential clients. The March 1991 auction attracted nearly 800 collectors who were interested in purchasing some of Copeland's rare memorabilia. The bidding prices far exceeded the pre-auction estimates, as a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for $49,500, more than three times the initial pre-auction price estimate. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p46.] Pre-auction estimates placed Copeland's T206 Honus Wagner at a price of $114,000. Within minutes of the opening bid for the T206 Wagner card, the highest bidder had put down $228,000, twice the pre-auction estimate. A bidding competition between Mike Gidwitz, Mark Friedland and an unknown phone bidder ensued. Gidwitz dropped out of the competition when the bidding reached the $300,000 mark. As Friedland made each bid, the phone bidder would counter with a bid $5,000 or $10,000 higher. Friedland dropped out of the competition after the phone bidder countered with a $410,000 bid for the card.O'Keeffe and Thompson, p47.] With Sotheby's 10% buyer's premium, the final price of the card came out to $451,000, nearly four times the pre-auction estimate for the card. The phone bidder, famed National Hockey League player Wayne Gretzky, purchased the card, with some financial assistance from Bruce McNall, the owner of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings. Copeland received around $5 million for the entire collection. The publicity coverage of the Sotheby's auction renewed interest in the hobby of sports memorabilia collecting. Mastro worked with Sotheby's for the next four years to facilitate sports memorabilia auctions and established himself as a leading card dealer in the industry. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p48.]

Gretzky, who was not a big card collector, said he purchased the card because he thought "the market would remain strong", thus making for a valuable investment. McNall orchestrated the plan to buy the card. In a 2005 interview, McNall stated his "philosophy was, if you buy something that is absolutely the best in the world, you'd be okay because there is always another buyer for something at the top end." [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p72.] The card became known as the "Gretzky T206 Wagner" to the public. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p76.] Soon afterwards, previously ignored allegations that the card had once been subject to alteration flared up again. The Gretzky T206 Wagner was heavily scrutinized, due to the card's odd texture and shape, which has led to rumors that the card was once altered. The Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) company chose the T206 Wagner to become the first baseball card to be graded, and gave it a PSA 8 NM-MT grade (nearly the best possible grade that can be given), the highest grade given to a T206 Honus Wagner card thus far. [The PSA grades card based on a 1–10 scale. The Gretzky T206 Wagner was rated as a PSA 8 NM-MT (Near Mint-Mint). As from the description from the [http://www.psacard.com/grading/grading_standards.chtml PSA Sports Card Grading Standards] , NM-MT 8: "A ticket of this quality will appear to be a Mint 9 at first glance but one of the following additional defects may be present. Very light "touches" at two corners, apparent to the naked eye, would be acceptable under this standard. A very slight surface abrasion or evidence of modest surface damage, on the front or back, may be acceptable if limited. For instance, a faint impression from a paper clip would be an example of this type of acceptable defect. "Medium to Medium/Dark" printing of crucial game information is required. Centering must fall within approximately 60/40 to 65/35 or better on the front and back."] [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p89.] Despite PSA company president David Hall's personal statement that the card was "superb" and a "fantastic card in every way," a number of people in the memorabilia industry were not convinced that the card had not been altered at some point. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p112.]

Soon afterward, Alan Ray came back into the picture, claiming that he had proof the card had been doctored by Mastro at one point after the initial $25,000 trade in 1985. He had a photograph of the card taken before the transaction with Mastro and claimed that the card in the photo looked significantly different from the photo of Gretzky's card. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p80.] He sent the comparison of the two photos to both McNall and Sotheby's, but never received a response back. Some memorabilia collectors have dismissed Ray's claims, saying that the photo hardly proves any doctoring was ever done on the card. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p81.]

Card back on the market

Soon after the PSA graded the Gretzky T206 Wagner, McNall was investigated for bank fraud and cooking the books. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p113.] McNall had been engaging in these practices for almost 10 years before he was formally charged by federal prosecutors in November 1994 for defrauding six banks of more than $236 million. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p114.] The assistant United States Attorney, Peter Spivack, commented that McNall's ability to hold off investigation into his activities for so long was "pretty extraordinary." [cite news |first=Michael J. |last=Goodman |title=The Rise and McFall |work=The Sporting News |date=1996-03-18 |accessdate=2007-11-08 ] In January 1997, McNall was ordered to pay $5 million and sentenced to 70 months in prison, after pleading guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy and wire fraud. [cite news |first= |last= |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E02E5DF1738F933A25752C0A961958260 |title= McNall Is Sentenced To Prison Term |work=New York Times |date=1997-01-10 |accessdate=2007-11-08 ]

In 1995, Gretzky sold the card to Wal-Mart and Treat Entertainment for $500,000.O'Keeffe and Thompson, p204.] The two companies intended to use the card as the grand prize in a promotional contest. The card was sent all across the United States, as part of Wal-Mart's plan to rejuvenate the baseball card market. On February 24 of the following year, the 122nd anniversary of Wagner's birthday, the grand prize drawing for the card was held on CNN's "Larry King Weekend". [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p121.] At around 9:00 P.M., Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, one of King's guests on the show, pulled out the name of one Patricia Gibbs, a postal worker living in Hollywood, Florida. After spending hours unsuccessfully trying to contact Gibbs, King's staff finally got through to her phone, and informed Gibbs of her prize.O'Keeffe and Thompson, p122.] Treat Entertainment and Wal-Mart gave the card to Gibbs a few weeks later at a Wal-Mart store in Miramar, Florida. Gibbs could not afford the taxes on the card, so she decided to consign the card to an auction later on. She consigned the card to Christie's, a New York-based auction house more notably known for selling famous artworks. [cite news |first=Dorothy S. |last=Gelatt |title=Secret Life of the Record Honus Wagner Card |work=Maine Antique Digest |date=December 1996 |accessdate=2007-11-08 ] Meanwhile, Treat Entertainment and Wal-Mart heavily benefited from the publicity they created for the card, selling more than 30 million baseball card packs in a matter of months.

Michael Gidwitz, the same individual who battled with Gretzky and Mark Friedland for the card at the Copeland auction in 1991, won the Christie's auction with a bid of $641,500. [cite news |first=Rob |last=Lenihan |url=http://money.cnn.com/2000/07/07/investing/q_ebay/index.htm |title= eBay goes for grand slam |work=CNN |date=2000-07-07 |accessdate=2007-11-09 ] Four years later, on July 5, 2000, Gidwitz partnered up with eBay and Robert Edwards Auctions to start a 10-day online auction for the card. Robert Edwards Auctions, a division of MastroNet, set up a registration system in which they approved prospective individuals before they actually made bids. These individuals had to wire a $100,000 deposit to iEscrow.com in order to be pre-approved to make bids for the card. [cite news |first= |last= |url=http://investor.ebay.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=22630 |title= Legendary T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Trading Card for Sale on eBay |work=eBay |date=2000-06-06 |accessdate=2007-11-09 ] On July 15, the card was sold to Brian Seigel, a collector from California, for $1.265 million. [The winning online bid was $1.1 million, but with the 15% buyer's premium, the total came to $1.265 million.] [cite news |first= |last= |url=http://investor.ebay.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=22654 |title= T206 Honus Wagner Sold on eBay for $1.265 Million; |work=eBay |date=2000-07-17 |accessdate=2007-11-09 ] In September 2006, rumors that Seigel had entered private talks to sell the card for $2.2 to $2.4 million began to surface; Seigel's wife later labeled the rumors as false. [cite news |first=Michael |last=O'Keeffe |url=http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/2006/10/01/2006-10-01_the_score_hearshaggle_over_honus_card_be.html |title= The Score Hears...Haggle Over Honus Card Begins Again |work=Daily News |date=2006-10-01 |accessdate=2007-11-09 ] In February 2007, Seigel himself reported that he sold the card (via SCP Auctions) to an anonymous collector from southern California for $2.35 million. [cite news |first= |last= |url=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17355488/ |title= Honus Wagner card sold for $2.35 million |work=Associated Press |date=2007-02-27 |accessdate=2007-11-09 ] Less than six months later, on September 6, SCP Auctions announced that the card had been sold once again to another anonymous California collector for $2.8 million. [cite news |first= |last= |url=http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3007893 |title= Honus Wagner card sells for record $2.8 million |work=Associated Press |date=2007-09-06 |accessdate=2007-11-09 ]

Other T206 Wagner cards

Of the 50 to 100 Wagner cards still in existence, none have been as financially successful as the Gretzky card. Due to the publicity of the Gretzky T206 Wagner, the interest for the cards has significantly increased. In September 2000, a T206 Wagner that was given a two on the PSA's 1–10 grading scale sold for $75,000. Five years later, another PSA 2 card sold for $237,000 and, at the same auction, a PSA 1 card sold for $110,000. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p149.] In May 2008, a Beckett Graded 1 set a new record for such a low-grade card, selling at $317,250 at auction. [Beckett Graded Card Investor and Price Guide, Vol. 2 No. 3, July/August 2008, p. 4.] A T206 Wagner owned by renowned collector Frank Nagy sold for $456,000 in December 2005, through Mastro's auction company. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p92.] Many of the other cards in existence have been rated low on the PSA grading scale. As a result of the publicity generated from the Gretzky T206 Honus Wagner, a number of previously undiscovered legitimate and fake T206 Wagner cards have surfaced. On August 1, 2008, memorabilia dealer, John Rogers, of North Little Rock, Arkansas bought a 1909 T206 Wagner PSA 5 MC for $1.62 million in an auction in Chicago. [cite news|url=http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hk5uRhetyy5_UsLSwSg8tOeMz6JQD92AFKU02|title=Arkansas man buys Wagner baseball card for $1.62M|last=Yovich|first=Daniel J.|date=2008-08-02|work=Associated Press|accessdate=2008-08-03]

Failed water test

In 1976, three collectors discovered a T206 Wagner that featured Wagner in a different pose, never seen in any of the other cards. Although a Library of Congress expert said the paper on the card dated back to 1910, the three men decided to submit the card for a water test. The card broke apart, and as a result, the card was dismissed as a fake. The three men were respected collectors and were cleared of any wrongdoing by the card collecting community. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p150.]

Cobb-Edwards T206 Wagner Controversy

Another T206 Wagner card owned by two Cincinnati men was dismissed as a fake by Bill Mastro and PSA president Joe Orlando. The two men, John Cobb and Ray Edwards, have tried to prove that their Piedmont-backed card is not a fake and, due to its excellent condition, should fetch over $1 million in an auction. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p151.] Cobb and Edwards also have alleged that they have been dismissed because they are working class African Americans in a hobby that has been dominated by successful white men. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p152.] Cobb, like Mastro back in the late 1980s, does not divulge the exact details of how he came to own the card. He has stated he purchased the card at an estate sale for $1,800 in 1983 or 1984, a bargain for the card even in those days. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, pp154–155.] When Cobb and Edwards tried to sell the card on eBay in 2002, a Newport, Kentucky attorney filed a police report against the two men because he believed the card was a reprint that was stolen from his office months earlier. The police launched an investigation, but found no evidence of wrongdoing on part of the two men. An outraged Edwards dismissed the accusations as "bullshit," adding that they would not have been made "if we were white." [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p155.]

Card Collector Services graded the card and officially ruled that it was indeed a reprint. Cobb and Edwards dismissed the findings and went to Integrated Paper Services (IPS), an independent paper testing and analysis lab, in February 2003 to have their card's paper tested. An IPS expert determined that the card dated back to 1910, which would be consistent to the time period when the card was distributed. The expert ruled that the "paper stock was consistent with the time that card would have been made." [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p157.] Cobbs and Edwards later went to an Ohio paper industry consultant who confirmed that the card was from 1909. The consultant stated that a decent counterfeit of the card could only be produced from a "master pressman with 5-10 years experience, and would require a machine which would cost between $500,000 and $2 million."O'Keeffe and Thompson, p158.] Afterwards, an appraiser named Bob Connelly valued the card at $850,000, based on the two previous paper analysis reports. In November 2005, Cobb and Edwards put the card up for sale on eBay. They had to shut down the sale, however, because Connelly only agreed to appraise the card if his report was printed in its entirety at the eBay card listing.

A few months after the sale, Edwards asked Connelly if he would accept the card for his auction. Connelly consented and took the card across the country to prospective buyers. Meanwhile, HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" decided to cover the progress of Cobb and Edwards' struggles with the card. [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p159.] Connelly met a card dealer in New York City, who was sent on behalf of a prominent collector to check the card out. The dealer said the card seemed authentic and stated he would attend the auction for the card later on. Meanwhile, a number of card collectors who doubted the card contacted eBay and demanded that the card's listing on the website be removed. eBay officials finally pulled the plug the day before the actual Connelly auction was to begin. As a result, a number of previously interested collectors decided not to bid for the card at the auction the next day. As Connelly pointed out, the collectors chose not to make bids because " [w] hen eBay pulled the card ... it raised too many questions about its authenticity." [O'Keeffe and Thompson, p161.]

ee also

*"Honus & Me", a 1997 children's fiction book about the card, written by Dan Gutman


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