Rare baseball card means windfall for nuns

Sister Virginia Muller and the Baltimore-based School Sisters of Notre Dame are about to benefit handsomely from the fact that Major League legend Honus Wagner didn’t want a tobacco company producing a baseball card of him a century ago.

The recent unexpected donation of a coveted card featuring Wagner to Muller’s order is expected to bring a windfall for nuns.

The sisters are auctioning off the card, which despite its poor condition is expected to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000. The proceeds will go to their ministries in 35 countries around the world, according to The Associated Press.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame came into possession of the Wagner card, part of the T206 series, earlier this year. The card had belonged to the brother of a nun who died in 1999 and he had left all his possessions to the order when he died earlier this year.

Inside his safe-deposit box was the Wagner card, probably the most coveted baseball card in existence. Produced between 1909 and 1911, about 60 Wagner cards are known to exist.

The card was unknown to the sports-memorabilia marketplace because the nuns’ benefactor had owned it since 1936, according to The Associated Press.

It has a big crease in the upper right-hand corner, and three of the white borders have been cut off. It has also been laminated. But even in poor condition, a T206 Wagner card is prized by collectors.

A near-mint-condition T206 Wagner card sold in 2007 for $2.8 million, the highest price ever for a baseball card.

The card was designed and issued by the American Tobacco Company from 1909 to 1911 as part of its T206 series. Wagner refused to allow production of his baseball card to continue, either because he did not want children to buy cigarette packs to get his card, or because he wanted more compensation from the American Tobacco Company.

The American Tobacco Company ended production of the Wagner card and a total of only 50 to 200 cards were ever distributed to the public.

Wagner, 1874-1955, was one of the first five inductees in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1936.

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