The Most Valuable Baseball Card in the World Was Secretly Altered in the 80s

Friday October 11th, 2013

honus wagner Chris Hondros/Getty Images

It turns out that the most valuable baseball card in existence has been living a lie for almost 30 years. The famed T-206 Honus Wagner card, which was once co-owned by Wayne Gretzky and was purchased by Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick for $2.8 million in 2007, was altered by now-disgraced memorabilia dealer Bill Mastro before he sold it in 1987 for $110,000 -- more than four times his purchase price two years prior.

Via the New York Daily News:

In their book “The Card: Collectors, Con Men and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card,” (inset) Daily News staffers Teri Thompson and Michael O’Keeffe wrote that the Wagner card had been cut from a printer’s sheet before Mastro bought it in 1985 at a Long Island collectibles shop for $25,000.

The indictment says the card was further trimmed by Mastro to make it appear as if it has been carefully preserved for decades after it was removed from a pack of cigarettes in 1909, an act Mastro repeatedly denied for many years. The upgrade not only improved the appearance of the card, but it increased its value significantly and helped spark the trading card and sports memorabilia boom of the 1980s and 1990s.

Unsurprisingly, this card was among various other fraudulent practices Mastro used to rip off customers, including orchestrating fake auction bids and neglecting to disclose known alterations on other memorabilia. All told, prosecutors allege that his schemes "cost collectors $400,000 to $1 million." Mastro has pleaded guilty for mail fraud and is essentially the Honus Wagner baseball card of con artists.


New York Daily News Keith Olbermann
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