Rare Honus Wagner baseball card on deck at Winterhur

Honus Wagner T206 baseball card, circa 1909-11. Image courtesy of the Leopold Morse Goulston Baseball Collection New York Public Library

WINTERTHUR, Del. — A Honus Wagner baseball card, one of the most desirable of all sports-related objects, will be on view at Winterthur this spring. In this “Eye on the Iconic” exhibit, a prized Wagner card from the New York Public Library will be displayed alongside a “Hans Wagner” cigar box label from the Winterthur Library collection.

The Honus Wagner T206 card is considered the holy grail of the sports memorabilia world. Only 50 copies survive, in part because Wagner had it removed from circulation by the American Tobacco Co., which produced it. It has been widely reported that Wagner did not want young children to have to purchase cigarettes to get a card with his image on it. A near-identical Honus Wagner card set a new world-record price for a baseball card, selling for $3.12 million in 2016.

Like the card with his image, Wagner himself was an icon, considered the best shortstop of his era and arguably the greatest of all time. Johannes Peter “Honus” Wagner (1874−1955) played in the major leagues from 1897-1917, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series championship in 1909 – his greatest professional season. His statistics were astounding even by 21st-century standards, with a .327 career batting average, 3,415 hits, and 101 home runs. Wagner was one of the first five players inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 and was selected for Major League Baseball’s “All-Century Team” in 1999.

Honus Wagner, ca 1915. Courtesy, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

“Like seeing a total eclipse of the sun, viewing the Honus Wagner baseball card is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is not to be missed,” said Gregory Landrey, Winterthur’s director of academic affairs and organizer of the exhibit.

“Eye on the Iconic” is a series of exhibits that focus on a single memorable object. The first exhibit featured a replica of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation gown from Netflix’s The Crown.