Baseball card sold for $609,200

Marvin Westwestwords

The unidentified person who became only the fifth owner of a rare Honus Wagner baseball card paid $609,200.

The remainder of the J. Ross Greene card collection sold for $331,200.

“A little less than I expected, but I might have had a little more hope than reality,” said Greene, Atlanta investment counselor and a former Knoxvillian.

Ross grew up on Cherry Street. He purchased baseball cards (and bubblegum) at Wray’s Market for a penny a pack. He played Little League at Chilhowee Park. He graduated from East High and twice from the University of Tennessee.

He purchased the 1909 T-206 John Peter “Honus” Wagner baseball card in the spring of 1996.

“I spent 21 years in ownership anonymity.”

(See June 4 card story under westwords on KnoxTNToday).

In recognition of mortality, age (76), a desire to contribute to Christian work and grandchildren’s education – and to prevent possible family differences about the TV show “Strange Inheritance” – Greene decided to part with his piece of American history.

The on-line auction of Wagner started with a rush in late May. There were 13 first-day bids.

“Nothing happened after that until the last day,” said Greene.

Ross had been in Knoxville to attend the 100th anniversary of his home church, Fifth Avenue Baptist, three blocks from his childhood home. He returned to Atlanta and checked the action. Honus was hitting just under $500,000.

“I went to bed at 2:45 a.m. I thought it was over.”

The next day Ross was asked if he was sad about the collection sale falling short of a million dollars. He thought the primary card might bring $750,000. It did set a record for a grade-1 card.

“Forbes compared the return to that of the high-flying stocks for the same two decades and found that only Apple outperformed my Wagner,” said Greene.

Ross Greene will soon collect the proceeds. The auction house gets 15 per cent off the top.

“Uncle Sam’s calloused hand is reaching for my pocket. He has an insatiable appetite. Hopefully, President Trump will get his tax changes approved and I can save a few quid.”

This man with an outstanding record of managing others’ money is getting free advice on how he should invest.

This man with a lifetime record of supporting churches and Christian ministries feels a gentle shakedown about where to give and how much. Be sure he will give.

Ross admits there has been a minor letdown. After the decision to sell, after the intense period of planning and talking about the special card, the excitement is over.

“I have a coffee-table slick catalog with a six-page story of my collection, entitled ‘My Journey Chasing Ink on Cheap Cardboard,’ a story chronicling, arguably, the most storied version of the most sought-after baseball card in collecting history.

“I also have an exact replica, creases, rounded corners and all, encased in an acrylic holder. From two feet away, you can’t tell it from the original.

“All in all, I’ll take the result.”

Marvin West invites reader reaction. His address is


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