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Lot # 1407 (1407 of 1911)   « Previous Lot | Next Lot »

Circa 1909 Honus Wagner Freeman Cigar Label with Inner Labels and Outer Band

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $3,000

This exceedingly rare collection of Honus Wagner cigar-box labels is comprised of the large exterior label, the large interior label, and a portion of the thin label used as the trim along the side. While all are rare and highly prized by both baseball and tobacciana collectors, it should be noted the interior label may possibly be unique. We have never seen another example. What makes these labels so extraordinary, aside from their rarity, is their association with Wagner's legendary T206 tobacco card and the debate regarding Wagner's sponsorship/use of tobacco products. Over the years the legend of Honus Wagner and his relationship with tobacco has taken on a life of its own. Did he oppose tobacco? Is that why his T206 card is so rare? And if so, why is he shown in his coaching days with a plug of tobacco in his mouth on his 1948 Leaf baseball card?

Few items have poured more fuel on the fire than the few surviving circa 1909 cigar labels and cigar bands from "Hans Wagner Cigars." The most significant and attractive of the three labels offered here is the large exterior example that features Wagner's image. As most collectors will instantly recognize, the image of Wagner on this label is the same as that used on his T206 tobacco card. In addition to his image, the label includes a beautiful game-in-progress scene in the background, with "Hans Wagner" printed in large, red letters along the top border. The fine-print copyright line along the base reads "Title & Design Registered by Freeman Cigar Co." Almost all known examples of this extraordinarily rare label, which was made to seal boxes of this brand of cigar, are oval in shape. The offered example is one of only several known of the rarer and larger "square" variety. Because we have yet to see any of these labels actually on a period cigar box, it is our belief that these labels were never actually used in the marketing of cigars. All known examples appear to be proofs saved as samples in the printer's files. The fact that they were produced at all, and obviously at great expense utilizing highest-quality stone litho production processes of the day, may actually lend all the more credibility to the legend that Wagner did not wish to be associated with the marketing of tobacco products (at least in the 1910 era). In any event, the offered example is not just a fascinating piece of the puzzle of the Honus Wagner legend, but also one of the most desirable and striking of all Honus Wagner tobacco related items, as well as being perhaps the single most highly prized of all baseball tobacco labels, a very popular area of collecting. The fact that this is a rare variety distinguishes this label all the more. The label (4.5 x 4.5 inches) displays a tiny vertical tear along the bottom left border (briefly extending from the white border to the gilt accents) and is otherwise in Excellent to Mint condition. Mounted (by means of photo corners) and framed to total dimensions of 9.5 x 10 inches.

Even rarer than the exterior label is the large interior label in this offering, which as noted is the only example we have ever seen. The label features the name "Hans Wagner" in elegant script lettering, below which is green-toned illustration of two crossed bats, a ball, a glove, and a catcher's mask, all of which are intertwined within a floral pattern. The label has been mounted together with a 7.25-inch segment of the side label, which features two identically designed upper and lower halves. Each half displays the name "Hans Wagner" alternating with the same aforementioned illustration on the larger label. Both labels have been mounted (by means of photo corners) and framed together. The large interior label (7.25 by 6 inches) displays a small band of light adhesive discoloration running along the entire base, as well as light vertical crease, neither of which distract in the least from its overall Excellent appearance. The exterior-trim label (7.25 x 1.25 inches) is in Near Mint condition. Total dimensions: 13 x 15 inches. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500++. SOLD FOR $3,000


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