Vintage card collector John Rogers finally got his Wagner.
Rogers, an accomplished collector from North Little Rock, paid $1.62 million, including buyer’s premium, for an ultra-rare 1909 T206 Honus Wagner tobacco card at a Mastro auction in Chicago Friday night.
"I call this the Holy Grail of baseball cards," Rogers told the Associated Press. "I’ve looked at a number of other specimens, sat in a few other Wagner auctions. But this is the one that makes collecting worth while."
Rogers’ big purchase came at Mastro’s event in conjunction with the National Sports Collectors Convention, with wrapped up Sunday in the Windy City. The price was by far the highest paid during the auction but did not threaten the record price of $2.8 million paid for a near-mint condition Wagner back in 2007. "Since I was 8 years old, I’ve hoped and dreamed that one day I’d be able to get one," Rogers told AP.
Other highlights of the auction included a 1938 Lou Gehrig road jersey, which fetched $240,000; a 1888 N321 S.F. Hess California League SGC-Graded Near Set (39/40), which also brought $240,000; a 1920 Babe Ruth game-used bat, which fetched $120,000; and Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th home run ball, which brought $60,000.
Until purchasing the Wagner card, Rogers was perhaps best known in the hobby for having one of the country’s largest collections of vintage sports photo archives, and for his affinity for high-end Babe Ruth items.
“I bought my first Ruth ball in the mid-‘80s, and I paid $500 for it, which was a king’s ransom then,” said Rogers, who owns and operates a retail hobby store in North Little Rock. “And that ball today would probably sell for $60,000, $70,000. I remember when Ruth gamer bats sold for $5,000 to $8,000. Now they’re at $40,000.
“My passion has always been vintage autographs and memorabilia, and still is.”
Rogers added that he has “the largest collection of baseball photography of any place in the country, bar none. We have even more than the Baseball Hall of Fame.”