Monday, July 16, 2012

The 1910 E98 Black Swamp Find and its PSA 10 Honus Wagner

Thanks to Heritage Auctions' massive hyping of an "attic discovery" (a.k.a., The Black Swamp Find) and upcoming sale, a bunch of readers found my own post profiling the 1910 E98 #5, "Hans" (Honus) Wagner.

My version's nothing special outside of being Honus Wagner. Most E98s come in lousy condition with plain color tints and sport awkward poses like the twisted throw shown here. It's expensive for low-grade vintage, yet barely registers in the high-value auction world of rare finds and one-of-a-kinds. (I was this #5's only bidder at auction, so it sold for the opening minimum.)

Value speculations like the unlikely $3 million figure in this Ohio find benefit from association with the similar and far more popular T206 set, whose Wagner card set the ceiling for single-card pricing many years ago. Across the board, tobacco issues like the T206 outpace candy sets like E98, simply because collectors want them more and desire drives prices up.

Keith Olbermann applied his collector experience to the question of what adding a large quantity of low-demand cards means to the E98 market. His answer: nothing good.

Rest assured the PSA 10 Wagner will sell for big bucks. It's a unique bird that stands out from a pack of otherwise ugly ducklings. Prices for other E98s in the market, however, will drop as their perceived supply increases. Even if you don't pay attention to the quality of a grading company's service, slabbed card registries help put a size on total available stock and more collectibles mean more collectors can own one, lowering the competition and prices. (It would take an across-the-board increase in vintage card interest to bump demand in spite of more supply.)

The best part about the Black Swamp story is that it happened at all. Paper cards are meant to vanish like leaves as time progresses, otherwise collectors wouldn't treasure this glimpse into the past. Hopefully everyone will make some money off the auction and come away happy. I just don't expect my beat up Wagner to benefit in a meaningful way. If anything, he'll sell for even less next time around!

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