NEW YORK (CNNfn) - An eBay bidder on Saturday paid a record $1.27 million for what experts say is the world's most valuable baseball card of Hall of Fame shortstop John Peter "Honus" Wagner.|
The price for the T206 Honus Wagner is the most ever paid for a baseball card at an auction, said Robert Lifson, director of Robert Edward Auctions, a division of Mastronet Inc., which sold the card through eBay.
The online auction drew 13 bids from six people and attracted widespread interest in the baseball collector's market. Bidding closed at 7:37 p.m. ET.
"Everybody's eyes were glued to this auction," Lifson said. "It is the Holy Grail of baseball cards. It is the Mona Lisa. There's nothing else like it."
Bidding for the 1909-issued card started at $500,000 on July 5. There were seven bids as of Friday afternoon, with the top offer $800,000. Bids were in $50,000 increments. Five more bids came in on Saturday until the winning offer of $1,100,000 hit the screen shortly before the auction closed.
The purchase price comes with a 15 percent "buyer's premium" that goes to the seller and the auction house, Lifson said. That raised the $1.1 million bid to $1,265,000.
The winning bidder doesn't want to be identified, Lifson said.
"He's taking some time to think about it," Lifson said.
Experts say the card is the most valuable and desired in the world.
The Flying Dutchman
Wagner, also known as the Flying Dutchman, is considered one of the greatest shortstops in history. He was one of the five initial inductees to baseball's Hall of Fame.
Entering the majors as a Louisville outfielder in 1897, Wagner went to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1899 and put in 18 years before retiring in 1917. He later coached for the Pirates for 20 years.
The American Tobacco Co. intended to issue trading cards featuring Wagner and other baseball stars of the day inserted into packs of cigarettes.
However, legend has it that Wagner objected to having his name associated with smoking and demanded the company stop producing and distributing his likeness. Experts believe only about 50 or 60 Honus Wagner cards were ever distributed, and only a few have been sold publicly.
Three different Honus Wagner cards in varying conditions are the most expensive trading cards ever sold.
A history on the auction block
The card sold on Saturday has a unusual history at auction houses, Lifson said. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky bought the card at Sotheby's in 1991 for $450,500. Wal-Mart bought the card from Gretzky in 1995 as part of a promotional campaign.
But the woman who won the card in the Wal-Mart campaign, a postal worker from Florida, couldn't afford the taxes. So she sold the card at Christie's for $640,500 in 1996. Four years later, the card was for sale again at Robert Edward Auctions.
The card is valuable for three reasons, experts said. Wagner was a great player, the card is good-looking, and there aren't many around, said Rich Klein, price guide analyst for Beckett Publications.
"It's the Holy Grail," Klein said.