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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/3/2023

Considered the greatest Pirates player and greatest shortstop of all time, Honus (Hans) Wagner sits with a rather unemotional but commanding expression with his fiery auburn hair, pinkish hue of the cheeks, and buttoned-up shirt set against a beautiful pastel backdrop in this timeless portrait by Carl Horner. Exquisitely preserved as if to be suspended in time for the past 112 years this card boasts 4 razor-sharp corners, clean edges, and a snow-white border with slight favoring of the left edge. This is the highest-graded example and the best of the best of this series.

The 1911 Sporting Life (M116) Baseball set was distributed to subscribers of the popular magazine “Sporting Life”, the primary competitor of the well-circulated “Sporting News”. The elusive M116 issue features the finest baseball players from the early 1900s chosen meticulously by the editors. What many may not know is that the original plan was to have sets of 12 cards inside each copy of the newspaper over a 26-week period so as to be completely free to subscribers. Unfortunately, federal regulations of the day would not allow the company to do this as the backs of the cards were an advertisement for the publication which was against postal rules of the time:

“But, at the last moment, we fortunately discovered that the insertion of these picture card supplements in Sporting Life for free distribution would be a violation of the postal laws inasmuch as the cards contained ‘Sporting Life’s advertisement on the back.”

Rather than mothball the entire program, Sporting Life informed readers they could still get these “artistic and beautifully colored cards” for free as long as they included a coupon and paid the postage (a pair of two-cent stamps). The added inconvenience of having to mail in for the cards would help set the stage for the set's extreme rarity over a century later. In point of fact, this set is far less plentiful than the much coveted T206 set of the time which has approximately 300,000 cards graded.

In 1910, Sporting Life enlisted the services of none other than Carl Horner whose classic portraits would become the hallmark of the hobby. There are only a handful of Honus Wagner issues boasting the classic Carl Horner portrait images. The famous portrait of the Flying Dutchman is extremely popular and carries the likeness of Carl Horner's classic T206 depiction, considered by many to be the “Holy Grail” of the hobby. If one pays attention to which T206 cards are most popular it is generally the portrait cards.

The 1910-11 Sporting Life series features full-color likenesses of each player centered within a white border and the player's surname, team's city, and league printed at the bottom. This stunning set is amongst the most brilliant eye appeal cards, enhanced by beautiful pastel colors, the abundant Hall of Fame and superstar roster, and comprehensive player selection. The Sporting Life portrait cards have increased considerably in price in recent years as adept collectors have begun to recognize the beauty and rarity of this collection. The similarity of the above offering to the famed T206 Wagner dating from the same era is not lost on savvy collectors who acknowledge the extraordinarily high prices realized for even low-grade examples of the T206 which can reach stratospheric heights of over 2 million dollars!

What is also important to note is that the Sporting Life set was issued in 24 series, with the final three series being the rarest. While the majority of the set had various ads from the weekly paper printed on the reverse, the final group of 72 cards had the much rarer "Over 300 subjects" printed on the back. Just this year, a Honus Wagner M116 Sporting Life Pastel PSA NM-MT 8 sold for over $90,000 at auction, the same grade as the above offering.

However, that card depicts the more common Sporting Life advertisement on the reverse. The current offering features the much rarer “Over 300 Subjects” print. In fact, this specimen shares the distinction of being one of only two known examples on the planet to be graded PSA8 and don the rare “Over 300 Subjects” back!

1911 M116 Sporting Life Hans Wagner (Pastel Background, Scarce 300 Subject Back) – PSA NM-MT 8 (Pop 5, None Higher!)
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $20,000
Final prices include buyers premium.: $82,864
Number Bids:15
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