Sunday, September 21, 2008

Trader Crack's Book Club: The Card

When you're talking the Holy Grail of trading cards and sports memorabilia, the T206 Honus Wagner is it. And when you're talking about the Holy Grail of T206 Honus Wagners, the "Gretzky Wagner" is it.

Michael O'Keefe and Teri Thompson not only trace the history of Honus and the card that would become the first to sell for more than $1 million, but also raise some hard-to-ignore questions and observations about the darker side of the hobby. The book is a slick journalistic read filled with outlandish characters, strange happenings and an eye-opener for those looking to dabble in the high-end arena of sports collectibles.

The Card
spends a lot of time building up the legend of the T206 Wagner, beginning with Bill Mastro buying it in the 1980s for $25,000 (with thousands of dollars worth of other rare cards thrown in) to PSA grading it an 8 to launch the company to Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall buying it to it being given away as a prize to three subsequent sales since. There's no denials about the beauty of the card, yet many questions are raised about the pedigree of the card. O'Keefe and Thompson make some reasonable claims about how the Wagner may have been a part of an uncut strip and then cut down to size. That would explain its sharp edges, lack of tobacco stains and how it survived some 90 years before being uncovered.

These claims and suspicions are backed up by plenty of experts.Ironically, they're the ones who are eager to speak in the book. Unfortunately these same people carry grudges with them against those who have profited from the card. This makes it a lot harder to fully trust any of these claims as it comes across at times like they just want to see their rivals fall.

Whether or not the claims about the Wagner card are true, The Card is an eye-opener into the lengths people go to make cash in the hobby. Anyone who's been in the hobby for any length of time knows that there's swindlers looking to take people for their money. They're all over eBay right now with the over-hyped auctions filled with wild claims and 1-of-1 labels, fake patches and forged signatures.

The number of card-related books that aren't checklists or price guides are slim in number. That alone should make The Card a must-read for hobbyists. The fact that it's a solid read, despite its sometimes questionable sources, should further entice collectors to pick a copy up.

1 comment:

weasel-king said...

I picked this up used on over the summer and read it in a few days. It's a great read for anyone who has ever been even faintly interested in collecting sports cards.

The lore surrounding the card, the "why" about the few Wagners floating around (though it may be an urban legend), the curses following it. It all adds up to a great book about a hobby that needs more books written about it.