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Honus Wagner baseball card sells for new record $3.12 million

Late on Saturday night, the granddaddy of all rare baseball cards sold for $3.12 million—a new record price for a trading card at public auction.

The much-revered “Jumbo” T206 Honus Wagner card went up for sale last month, after the anonymous buyer who paid $2.1 million for the card in 2013 decided it was already time to make a return.

Ken Goldin, whose Goldin Auctions handled the sale, had predicted that the card could break the $4.4 million record price paid for any piece of sports memorabilia, set in 2012 for a Babe Ruth game-worn jersey from 1920. (See above Yahoo Finance video.) That did not happen.

But the T206 “Jumbo” Wagner set a new public-sale record for trading cards, and also leapfrogged the $2.8 million paid privately in 2007 for a different T206 Wagner card, the so-called “Gretzky” Wagner (because it was once owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky).

Front and back of the 1909 T206 PSA 5 (MC) Honus Wagner card
Front and back of the 1909 T206 PSA 5 (MC) Honus Wagner card

Honus Wagner baseball cards from the American Tobacco Company’s T206 series are the most valuable baseball cards in the hobby, for a few reasons: they’re extremely scarce (only 200 were made, and only 50 are in circulation today); of those, only three are in decent shape; and Wagner famously demanded he be removed from the card series, either because he didn’t like the cigarette company marketing the cards to children or because he wanted more money from the company to use his image.

The “Jumbo” Wagner card, nicknamed “Jumbo” because a cutting error left a slightly larger, imperfect border, has a rating of 5 on the 10-point PSA scale that grades the condition of baseball cards.

In the same Goldin auction (headlined by the Jumbo Wagner but containing many rare cards), a LeBron James Upper Deck autographed rookie card from 2003 sold for $312,000. It’s a new record for an autographed card, according to Goldin Auctions.

If it sounds crazy that someone paid $3 million for a baseball card—and even crazier that someone paid more than $300,000 for a basketball card that is only 13 years old—prices are only going to go up from here.

Ken Goldin says there has been “a seismic shift” in the industry, thanks to a “tremendous influx of new collectors with high disposable income.”

Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite. Sportsbook is our recurring sports business video series.

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