A Bonus for Honus

Baseball cards — You can collect them.  You can swap them.  And if you’re lucky, you can sell them for big bucks;  as along as you know what to look for.

The “mother” of all baseball cards is the Honus Wagner T-206 tobacco card. Tobacco card?  That’s right tobacco! The first baseball cards didn’t come with chewing gum for the kiddies, folks. They were used to promote tobacco products to the big boys.

In the late 1800’s, all types of “trade cards” were used by merchants and salesmen to advertise their wares and their store addresses. The cards were attractive, eye-catching, and free, so they immediately became collectibles.

And speaking of a phenomenon, let’s get back to our man on that T-206 card.   John Peter “Honus” Wagner, known as “The Flying Dutchman”, is considered one of the greatest shortstops in history.  He was one of the first five players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Honus is a baseball great, but it’s not his maneuvering between the bags that makes the Wagner T206 tobacco card the “Mona Lisa” of baseball cards.  It is the fact that is is an extremely rare item.

Why so rare? It seems Honus objected to the use of his name to promote smoking, without being properly compensated.  He demanded that the manufacturer, the American Tobacco Company, stop production.

They are as rare as a triple play! It is reported that only 50 or 60 Honus Wagner cards were ever distributed.  That’s why one sold for  $2.5 million!