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Rare Honus Wagner baseball card on view at Winterthur
Honus Wagner, ca 1915. Courtesy, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.


WINTERTHUR, DE.- A Honus Wagner baseball card (ca. 1909−11), one of the rarest and most iconic of all sports-related objects, is on view at Winterthur this spring. In this Eye on the Iconic exhibit, a prized Wagner card from the New York Public Library is being displayed along side 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 Company, which produced it. 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 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.

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

Collecting objects such as sports memorabilia is a beloved pastime for many. That passion for collecting can result in a museum such as Henry Francis du Pont’s Winterthur or in personal albums featuring cards of baseball players, past and present.

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.





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