More than a hundred years ago, a baseball player by the name of Honus Wagner, still considered one of the greatest to ever play the game, refused to allow his likeness to continue appearing on baseball cards issued by the American Tobacco Company. He did this either because he didn’t want to encourage his young fans to buy cigarettes in order to collect the cards or because he wanted more money from the ATC, but the end result was that his own 1909 T206 baseball card became an extreme rarity after production of it was discontinued, eventually becoming the most expensive baseball card of all time for several decades. All time, that is, until now, when a 2009 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor card recently sold for almost $4 million, surpassing the Wagner card’s record and becoming the new most valuable baseball card of them all.
More precisely, the record-breaking price was $3.936 million, including fees. The seller of the card was “Vegas Dave” Oancea, a successful sports bettor who took to Instagram to issue a humble statement about his impressive profit margin in the record-shattering sale:
“I break the all time baseball card record. I bought this card for $400,000 2 years ago. Many of you laughed at me. Actually thousands of you laughed at me. I told you all this card will break the baseball card record the day I bought it…I just flipped a piece of cardboard for 3.6 million dollars in 24 months which required no manual labor. That’s more money than each of my critics will ever make working a 9-5 for 40 hours a week for 40 years for a boss they don’t like even like. Let that marinate in your dome and sink in.”
Whether or not that idea sinks in for Vegas Dave’s haters, it is interesting that a card from 2009 would break such an entrenched record held by one copy or another of a card from exactly a hundred years earlier. Most recently, one of the very few surviving Wagner cards sold in 2016 for $3.12 million, and before that the record for most expensive baseball card has consistently been held by one 1909 Wagner T206 or another going back decades, with controversies over authenticity and alterations raging around these valuable cards.
Of course, it’s always possible that one of those Wagner cards will once again break the record, but for now the baseball card world has a new MVP: Mike Trout, whose Major League Baseball career is still going strong today.