Catholic sisters' baseball card auctioned off to new owner

Honus Wagner card auctioned off by sisters. Credit: Heritage Auction Galleries
Honus Wagner card auctioned off by sisters. Credit: Heritage Auction Galleries


Catholic sisters in Baltimore auctioning off a rare baseball card to support their mission work, hit a snag recently as the winning bidder failed to come through with the promised $220,000.
The bleak situation brightened, however, when an avid card collector – a Catholic doctor from Philadelphia – wired the funds after the original bidder missed the 30-day deadline to purchase the card.

The mission work of the School Sisters of Notre Dame will receive a big financial boost from the sale of one of the most prized baseball cards in the world. One of the sisters received the highly valued collector's item featuring Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner in her deceased brother’s will.

Sr. Virginia Muller told the Associated Press in October that the slightly damaged card of Wagner, one of only 60 that exist, was bequeathed to one of the sisters in a safety deposit box with a typewritten note explaining its value.

When Heritage Auction Galleries put the card up for auction last month, it eventually garnered $220,000. However, the original bidder failed to provide the money within the 30-day span following his winning bid.

Yet on Dec. 20 – much to the delight of the sisters – Dr. Nicholas DePace, a Catholic cardiologist from Philadelphia, wired the the money and now owns the card. An avid collector for 30 years, he immediately agreed to purchase the card after a staff member at the auction house told him it was available again.

"I'm ecstatic about it. ... I will argue that this Wagner card is the most significant Wagner card because it's the American story about how people just get a baseball card and they hide it in the safe," DePace told the Associated Press. "There's a treasure there, and the treasure comes out, and now the treasure's going to be shared with tens of thousands of people."

"God bless him," Sr. Muller said on Dec. 20. "If we hadn't received the money today, then I would have been concerned.”

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. 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. 

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