The story behind a fake tobacco card of Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner baseball card forgery

Honus Wagner baseball card forgery

From time to time, one sees offered for sale or auction this Freeman Cigar Co. card depicting the legendary early 20th century baseball short stop Honus (Hans) Wagner. If offered as vintage (as it nearly always is), it is a fake. The card was made in the 1990s. It has a computer printed image on paper, pasted to cardboard stock.

There are authentic early 1900s Hans Wagner tobacco labels printed on white paper and to be stuck onto tobacco boxes. The labels are extremely rare, with just a few examples known to exist, and come in various designs. The most expensive examples will most likely offered by major auction houses or top dealers. One of the labels has a close design to this card.

About 1993, a manufactuer of collectable retro tin signs made a sign based on the design of the just mentioned tobacco label. This man was selling his signs as modern collectables, not representing themselves as vintage. The sign was not an exact copy of the label. He added the 5 cents sign at the bottom for artistic balance. He also used a different text font in parts, as he could not find a modern duplicate of the original font.

A couple of years ago, a man in Ohio used a computer printer to reprint the tin signs as the tobacco trade cards– naturally roughing them up and scuffing the cards to make them appear old. He sold them at flea markets to unsuspecting non-collectors, who knew the legend of Honus Wagner and thought they had struck gold.

So, when you see one of these cards for sale, treat it as a modern fantasy card in bad condition– worth two bucks at very most. If you like the design, you can go out and buy one of the ‘original’ tin signs.

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