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Treasure: Baseball item so close to being ‘rare’ card

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Gary Studzinski has had it in the family as long as he can remember. “My dad was a baseball fanatic,” he told DuMouchelle appraiser Jerry Anderson at a recent appraisal session held at the downtown auction house and gallery. “It has been passed down through the family.”

The item – a baseball card with Honus Wagner on it – was part of a candy caramel wrapper/giveaway from American Caramel Company about a century ago, said the appraiser. Unfortunately for Studzinski, the card was produced to be given away with candy, not cigarettes. “These are not as valuable as the Wagner cigarette cards, which were controversial and much rarer,” Anderson told Studzinski.

The website revealed more about the T206, the card “widely considered the most valuable baseball card,” according to the site. “Produced by the American Tobacco Company for its T206 series of baseball cards between 1909 and 1911, the Wagner has reached such mythical proportions that it is often simply called The Card,” it says, adding that despite being pulled from production, a few variations were printed. “It is estimated that less than 60 of the T206 Honus Wagner cards still exist. By last count, there have been 57 known examples. Having produced anywhere between 60 and 200 in total, it is remarkable that any of the cards have even survived the test of time. Production of the card was cut short due to a dispute between Wagner and American Tobacco. The exact reason for this has become something of legend, but it has been widely accepted to be one of two scenarios. The first suggests that Wagner, a Hall of Fame shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, didn’t want his likeness used to market tobacco. He didn't like the idea of how it might encourage kids to use tobacco. The second, and more probable, is that Wagner felt entitled to compensation from the American Tobacco Company for the use of his name and likeness to market their product. Regardless of the specific reason, what is known is that, unlike other cards in the set, the T206 Honus Wagner is disproportionately short-printed compared to other cards in the series.”

And rarity often translates into value, says Anderson, who added that it has been among the most sought-after baseball card in history. “Even copies in bad condition bring high numbers as long as they are authentic,” he told Studzinski. One in near-mint condition, according to the website, passed through various hands, including hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, ultimately bringing $2.8 million in 2011 before controversy arose in 2013 about it having been altered.

The candy cards are desirable, he added, just not as valuable. According to the appraiser, there were two variations in the collection, one with Wagner pitching, the other with him batting. The pitching card is the more valuable of the two.

Unfortunately for Studzinski, condition also hurts his card, which has a tear. Because of this, Anderson valued it at $150-$250 at auction.

“I really wish I could tell you this was the rare card,” he said. “We sold one 15 years ago for $15,000 and they’ve gone for far more since.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About This Item

Item : Wagner candy baseball card

Owner : Gary Studzinski, Allen Park

Appraised by : Jerry Anderson, DuMouchelles, Detroit

Approximate value : $150-$250 at auction.