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The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card
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The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  343 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Since its limited release just after the turn of the twentieth century, this American Tobacco cigarette card has beguiled and bedeviled collectors. First identified as valuable in the 1930s, when the whole notion of card collecting was still young, the T206 Wagner has remained the big score for collectors who have scoured card shows, flea markets, estate sales, and auction ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 22nd 2007 by William Morrow
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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Mar 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to learn more about Honus Wagner or card collecting
Shelves: read-2010
In The Card, Michael O'Keefe uses the history of the Gretzky T206 Honus Wagner(discovered in 1985, and sold most recently in 2007 for $2.8 Million) known as the most valuable baseball card in the world, as a jumping off point to discuss both Wagner's place in baseball history, and the often unseemly underside of the card collecting industry. The book centers around several questions concerning the card's provenance. It's weakness lies in the fact that the author is unable to answer these questio ...more
Mary Anne
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
As I read this book, I felt so many emotions...but in the end, I will always be a fan of the game!
Kaite Stover
The authors trace the history and ownership of one of baseball’s most famous cards of a player long forgotten except for his face on a collectible. They also show the evolution of a harmless American hobby into a booming and conniving business that started with little boys and bubble gum and ended with Sotheby’s and Wall Street bankers. Writing is a little dry; none of the players are developed with any depth and there is very little suspense or solid conclusions regarding the card by the end of ...more
Andy Littleton
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a guy who lived through the card collecting boom, and got into it headlong, I really enjoyed this book, though it spoiled some of the pleasant memories. About far more than the T206 Wagner, the book reminded me of my journey, and helped me understand the rise and fall of sports memorabilia.
Vincent T. Ciaramella
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was one of those books I hated seeing end. I loved ever minute of this crazy tale about a baseball card printed a century ago. I loved how its become this icon of collectables and how its gone from something someone bought for just a few dollars to something worth $2.8 million today. Like the book said, it's a Ponzi Scheme and at some point someone is going to be stuck with a REALLY expensive piece of

This book gives the reader everything they need to know about one of the
Matthew McElroy
I love hyper-specific books that unintentionally give us insight into human character. Sure, this is a book about how a piece of paper from 1910 became valued at over $2M. But it also is great insight into how value is created, manipulated and ultimately, questionable.
O'Keefe and Thompson do great work in researching and interviewing a network of man-children who have placed an unsettling amount of value on sports memorabilia. The entire hobby is worth questioning and even items that are certif
Christopher Shawn
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic narritive non-fiction. Everyone has heard about the famous Honus Wagner T206 card that was once owned by Wayne Gretzky. But that's only a small part of "The Card"s twisting, turning history. It seems that almost nothing is as it seems when it comes down to where this one-of-a-kind specimen actually came from. ...more
Adam Cormier
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book chronicles the infamous T206 Honus Wagner card. The card is controversial and has a big impact on the card collecting industry (not limited to: auction houses, grading companies and a large national retailer). This is an excellent book the details the historical events surrounding the card and all the spinoff issues in the hobby.
Mike Higgins
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Having collected cards as kid, and being a big baseball fan, this one caught my eye at the library the other week. A fun read, that shines a light on an industry that has sprouted up around what was once a simple hobby.
Dave Hutcheson
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well researched and written. Very enjoyable.
Daniel Farabaugh
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A nice quick read that goes into the history of the card and the issues of the collectibles market in good detail.
John Elliott
A fascinating little book if you’re interested in the card hobby. But not so interesting or well-written that it transcends the card collecting subculture.
Thomas Kelley
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This covers the story of what is called the T206 Gretzkey Honus Wagner card which if you are in to collecting sports card you probably aware of. This story also discuss the collectible card industry in general. Anywhere their is a chance to make a large sum of money there will always be Con Artist, Crooks and Shysters and it appears it is the cases even in todays trading markets which is a dam shame. Overall this is a pretty good read even if you are not in to collecting sports cards.
Brett T
For many years, the holy grail of baseball card collectors has been what they call the "Honus Wagner T206," a card showing a picture of Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner.

Wagner, who played from 1897 to 1917, was one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He tied for second place with Babe Ruth, behind Ty Cobb. Cobb himself -- not a man given to praising much of anybody or anything besides Ty Cobb -- and pitching legend Christy Mathewson lauded Wagner as one of
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
[Written July 2007.] I just finished reading this one. It was a good, quick read. I think it'd be fair to say that what books like The Medici Conspiracy and False Impressions (which is on the to-read pile, so this is something of an assumption) do to expose the seamy underside of fine art and antiquities trading, The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card does for "the hobby" (as its devotees call it) of baseball card and memorabilia collection. (Ev ...more
Krusher Basta
T206 baseball cards with the likeness of Honus Wagner on the front and an advertisement for cigarettes on the back were produced in 1909. Due to their age, the star power of Wagner, and their rarity, the T206 Wagners became one of the most sought after baseball cards. One particular T206 Wagner turned up that was in such pristine condition that its value went beyond anyone’s imagination. After being purchased at auction by Wayne Gretzky for $451000, it took on a life that transcends baseball and ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Synopsis: The Card, also known as the Gretzky T206 Honus Wagner is worth millions today. This book tracks the card from its printing in about 1909 through its mysterious history up into the 2000s. Only a few dozen T206 Wagners are known to exist and most of them show the marks of their history with creases, stains, tears and other imperfections that a century can wreak on a piece of cardboard. Only the Gretzky T206 Honus Wagner card appears to have defied the test of time, with its crisp edges, ...more
Oct 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent book that while reading, I thought that the whole story could have been told in a magazine article. However, the authors insight into,not only "the card" but other collectibles and the seedy underworld of greedy collectors, con men, problems in the grading services as well as people trying to keep the integrity of their hobby intact was fascinating. I have always known that this card was the holy grail of baseball cards much like detective comics #27 with the first appearance of Batman, ...more
May 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Inspired to finally read this book by the recent 30 for 30 short on the infamous "Gretzky" T206 Wagner card, The Card starts with some backstory on the card itself. It was a little tough to keep track of all the players involved in the incredible trip this piece of 100+ year old cardboard has taken.

The book pops around from subject to subject. Going from the height of popularity in the early 90's with Gretzky and Bruce McNall's purchase of the card, PSA grading, Honus Wagner himself, memorabilia
Jun 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love baseball cards. I've been collecting them for decades. So this book truly was a bit of "inside baseball" for me.

Having read it, I feel a bit tainted, however. It's bad enough that the most expensive baseball card of all-time, the $2 million Gretzky T206 Honus Wagner, got a rating of "8" even though it had been trimmed.

But even worse are the scammers and cheats who have driven up the prices of rare cards, often by doctoring or forging, to make the hobby a financial speculation rather than
Sep 16, 2008 rated it liked it
This book was hardly life-altering, but if you were ever into card collecting, you probably dreamed of finding one of these T206 Wagners in an attic somewhere and being the envy of all your friends...or at least I did...and this makes for a good read.
I never knew there was so much controversy surrounding this card, but that's not what makes this most interesting. What does is that it doesn't matter if the card is doctored, if it's been touched up, or whatever; it's still BY FAR the most valuable
Kevin Weber
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating read for anyone who collects sports memorabilia, especially trading cards. It certainly will make you think twice before spending your money. It gives a concise history of the past 30 years of this multi-billion dollar industry. This book is a quick read and well-written. It tells an engaging story with real life characters that I could see translating into an interesting movie/documentary. There's a bit of mystery to it all. Under that mystery is the history of baseball an ...more
May 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less about "The Card" than a platform to discuss the epidemic of cheating, forgeries and falsification rampant in high-end baseball collectibles. If "The Card," the most well know baseball collectible is a fraud and if everyone who has ever bought it, sold it, or graded is complicit in maintaining the fiction, then how can you belive the lineage of any product? Certainly a sobering read, but not particularly ground-breaking. ...more
Tim Timberly
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a good book about the baseball card boom in general and a famous Honus Wagner card specifically. The authors also included some information about Honus Wagner the player, adding some context to "The Card"- it isn't just a rare card, but a rare card of a really good player. In an update to the book, O'Keene has written an article about "The Card" and its pedigree, answering one of the major questions of the book. ...more
Matt McNabb
Aug 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give this an overly kind four stars only because there are few books like it out there right now. Card collecting has so many hidden stories, and to rely only on Beckett and similar ethically challenged publications to tell them all is a major fault. If you can put your "superb writing" glasses off to the side for a bit and just read this for the tale, you'll be better for it. ...more
Andrew Harris
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you collect baseball cards or perhaps believe your collection is an investment, this is mandatory, disturbing reading.

Mike O'Keeffe combines a history of the card industry, the Honus Wagner story and the hobby-turned-business into a fascinating glimpse at the underside of what formerly was a child's play. Not anymore.
Mar 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, baseball
Fascinating topic about the Honus Wagner card- aka the most valuable baseball card in the world. The Gretzky Wagner last traded for $2m...

I found the book to be very poorly written, and disorganized. However, it was interesting reading about how the cards had been doctored and the dirty dealings with the PSA graders.
Rob Jansing
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Didn't think you could really write a whole book about one card, but it worked somehow. There was a nice look into how the hobby has evolved. After reading the book I immediately went to ebay searching for cards again. ...more
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read for anyone interested in baseball cards or collecting them. Brief history of cards,and the sports memorabilia market, as well as the thorough history of the most celebrated baseball card ever, the T206 Honus Wagner.
Dave Rosen
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a worthwhile book - yet it ends in 2007, and there's plenty more to the story since then. So once you're done, make sure you Google Bill Mastro and see what happened! And to think it all started practically right next door to us in Hicksville. ...more
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