The card Collectors, con men, and the true story of history's most desired baseball card

Michael O'Keeffe

Book - 2007

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Subjects
Published
New York : William Morrow c2007.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Physical Description
viii, 245 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. [219]-241).
ISBN
9780061123924
0061123927
Main Author
Michael O'Keeffe (-)
Other Authors
Teri Thompson (-)
Review by Library Journal Reviews

The 1909-issued Honus Wagner tobacco baseball card, the T206 Wagner, is a rare collector's item indeed. Very few examples of it still exist because Wagner himself had it pulled early in the American Tobacco Company's distribution process. Several worn specimens are extant-and then there is the one that is the baseball collectors' holy grail: a rare and beautiful example, strangely flawless, that attracts million-dollar bids. But what-the authors ask-accounts for the pristine condition of this one example? O'Keeffe and Thompson, investigative journalists at New York's Daily News, use the card as a symbol of the hucksterism and questionable ethics involved in the booming business of sports collectibles. Their controversial book makes compelling reading even for those who may disagree with the authors' conclusions. Recommended for all libraries where books on collectibles and the collectibles industry circulate well. Libraries might want also to offer an earlier book, Pete Williams's Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child's Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business, for more background information on the industry.-Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The 1909-issued Honus Wagner tobacco baseball card, the T206 Wagner, is a rare collector's item indeed. Very few examples of it still exist because Wagner himself had it pulled early in the American Tobacco Company's distribution process. Several worn specimens are extant—and then there is the one that is the baseball collectors' holy grail: a rare and beautiful example, strangely flawless, that attracts million-dollar bids. But what—the authors ask—accounts for the pristine condition of this one example? O'Keeffe and Thompson, investigative journalists at New York's Daily News , use the card as a symbol of the hucksterism and questionable ethics involved in the booming business of sports collectibles. Their controversial book makes compelling reading even for those who may disagree with the authors' conclusions. Recommended for all libraries where books on collectibles and the collectibles industry circulate well. Libraries might want also to offer an earlier book, Pete Williams's Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child's Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business , for more background information on the industry.—Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Correction: In the review of Doug Aitken's Sleepwalkers (LJ 5/1/07), we misidentified Abrams as the distributor. D.A.P. is the correct distributor of Museum of Modern [Page 125]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Traces the story of the coveted and legendary 1901 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, discussing how the card's history reflects the story of baseball while describing such factors as the card's release as a cigarette promotion and the hundreds of lives it has shaped. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Traces the story of the coveted and legendary 1901 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, discussing how the card's history reflects the story of baseball while describing such factors as the card's release and the hundreds of lives it has shaped.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Since its limited release just after the turn of the twentieth century, this American Tobacco cigarette card has beguiled and bedeviled collectors. First identified as valuable in the 1930s, when the whole notion of card collecting was still young, the T206 Wagner has remained the big score for collectors who have scoured card shows, flea markets, estate sales, and auctions for the portrait of baseball's greatest shortstop. Only a few dozen T206 Wagners are known to still exist. Most, with their creases, stains, and dog-eared corners, look worn and tattered, like they've been around for almost a century. But one'the Card'appears to have defied the travails of time. Thanks to its sharp corners and its crisp portrait of Honus Wagner, The Card has become the most famous and desired baseball card in the world.Over the decades, as The Card has changed hands, its value has skyrocketed. It was initially sold for $25,000 by a small card shop in a nondescript strip mall. Years later, hockey great Wayne Gretzky bought it at the venerable Sotheby's auction house for $451,000. Then, more recently, it sold for $1.27 million on eBay. Today worth over $2 million, it has transformed a sleepy hobby into a billion-dollar industry that is at times as lawless as the Wild West. The Card has made men wealthy, certainly, but it has also poisoned lifelong friendships and is fraught with controversy'from its uncertain origins and the persistent questions about its provenance to the possibility that it is not exactly as it seems. Now for the first time, award-winning investigative reporters Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson follow the trail of The Card from a Florida flea market to the hands of the world's most prominent collectors. They delve into a world of counterfeiters and con men and look at the people who profit from what used to be a kids' pastime, as they bring to light ongoing investigations into sports collectibles. O'Keeffe and Thompson also examine the life of the great Honus Wagner, a ballplayer whose accomplishments have been eclipsed by his trading card, and the strange and fascinating subculture of sports memorabilia and its astonishing decline.Intriguing and eye-opening, The Card is a ground-breaking look at a uniquely American hobby.