The missions of the School Sisters of Notre Dame will receive a big financial boost from the sale of an unusual item—the most prized baseball card in the world.
Honus Wagner, it appears, didn't want his image used to promote tobacco. That's the story of how a 1909 American Tobacco Company baseball card, featuring the Pittsburgh shortstop, became the most valuable trading card in history. The cards were withdrawn, and only around 50 exist.
This week, though, Wagner's card was put to a nobler purpose: an order of sisters raised $220,000 by auctioning one.
Heritage Auction Galleries, which handled the online sale, recounted that one of the Baltimore-based School Sisters of Notre Dame had received the card from her brother. Although the card was not in perfect condition, he said, its value “should increase exponentially throughout the (21st) century.”
The auction agency clearly agreed, rhapsodically announcing that the winning bidder would be “planting his flag atop one of the most challenging and scenic mountain tops in the (card-collecting) hobby.” Bids began at $140,000 and nearly doubled over the course of the week. The sisters will receive around 80 percent of the final $260,000 bid.
Wagner, known as the “Flying Dutchman,” was one of the five original inductees into baseball's Hall of Fame and compiled a .328 batting average during his career. Some of his contemporaries regarded him as one of the greatest players of all time.
His card's value, however, derives mostly from its sheer rarity. A card in mint condition from the same early 1900s batch went for $2.8 million in 2007 – the highest price ever paid for a baseball card.
Far from its original purpose of promoting Sweet Caporal Cigarettes, the profits from the School Sisters' sale of the card will go toward their charitable missions in 35 countries.