Yes Virginia, There is a Honus Wagner

I remember when I used to flip baseball cards in trade with my friends back in the day. This was only after I had matured to the level of sophistication where I began to appreciate the negotiability of sluggers and flamethrowers and star rookies. Before this I had simply purchased baseball cards for the chewing gum and before that I was pimping my ride with the cardboard currency by installing them between the spokes of my bicycle tires. It was the first and only time in my life where I believed women were butter to cool cats with big sound accompanying their rides. I would learn soon enough that tiramisu and foot rubs are much more effective terms of agreement when it comes to the opposite sex.

Later, I dabbled in the stock market fix the entire trading card world had plunged into in the late eighties and early nineties. The once pedestrian objects of my childhood affection, baseball cards had achieved valuable commodity status. I bought and sold, lost  chunks of money on one venture and then made loads back on the next. I got out when the getting was necessary and was fortunate enough to have amassed a handsome collection of baseball cards from the Age of Reason (The date is arguable, but pre-1980 seems to be a fair estimate).

There’s a magical transport whenever I sit down with my baseball cards strewn about the sofa and coffee table. It evokes that tactile response from a time in my childhood when no thought was given to a baseball card’s monetary value or its requisite ability to improve my financial outlook. That was when baseball cards were nothing more than items for barter, to be traded and boasted about and lost and finally to be stored away where mom would have the last word on my retirement plans when she tossed the things in the incinerator.

As I read the story about Sister Virginia Muller and her Honus Wagner baseball card, I was reminded of the fact that not all cards are created equal. For every Robin Yount rookie card, there is a Joe Charbonneau. For every Pete Rose, a Pete Harnisch. And from what I know, for every Honus Wagner there is no comparison whatsoever.

Wagner’s T-206 is the platinum standard for trading cards. Honus had a distinguished big league career at the turn of the twentieth century, which culminated in his becoming one of the first Hall of Fame inductees. That fact alone would make his T-206 a pretty amazing find. The fact that there are only sixty known Honus Wagner cards in existence is what makes him the king of the hobby. Just to give you an idea as to the cleats old Honus still possesses, a near mint Wagner card fetched 2.8 million dollars back in 2008. Not bad for a century’s worth of collecting dust.

And so it is that a force far greater than Topps or Upper Deck was guiding Sister Muller when she came across a Honus Wagner T-206 recently. The card had been donated to Muller’s School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore, MD. This particular card is showing its age, but when you’ve been kicking around since Babe Ruth was in little league, you can be excused the tattered edges and bent corners. It ain’t perfect, but what it’s lacking in health, it’s more than making up for in spirit.

Sister Muller did what any greedy sports fan would’ve done when she got her hands on the Honus Wagner classic. She stuck it in an online auction. But the meaning to her endgame is way different than that. All of the proceeds from the sale are going to ministries around the world. With a week’s worth of showing off still ahead of him, old Honus is checking in at a cool one hundred and eighty thousand dollars.

When it comes to flipping baseball cards, this Sister Muller really knows what she’s doing.


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