Honus Wagner baseball card auctions for $1.2 million - a bargain?

In 1908, baseball great Honus Wagner was planning to retire from the Pittsburg Pirates, but the Pirates owner was so anxious to keep his star that he doubled Wagner's salary -- to $10,000.

Wouldn't Wagner be shocked to hear that a 1909 baseball card bearing his image sold at auction Friday for $1.2 million?

That price might be considered a relative bargain. Last year, Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick paid $2.8 million for a Wagner card considered in the best condition of the approximately 60 known to survive.

And in 2007, a Orange County businessman paid $2.35 million for a Wagner card.

According to an article by David Zax on Smithsonian.com, there are conflicting reasons why so few of the Wagner cards -- perhaps as few as 200 -- originally were produced. Back when they were made, baseball cards were included in packs of cigarettes.

Wagner supposedly demanded his card be pulled from a set included in American Tobacco Co. packs because he hated cigarettes, according to some. Or it might have been, Zax wrote, that the baseball star was opposed to others profiting from his image.


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