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Sunday, 16 July, 2000, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Baseball card goes for $1.1m
Honus Wagner trading card
Mona Lisa of baseball trading cards
A baseball trading card has been auctioned online for $1.1m.

The card, not much bigger than a large postage stamp, dates back to 1909 and depicts Pittsburgh Pirates player Honus Wagner, considered by many to be baseball's greatest all-round player.

It was sold by the eBay online auction house.

The card, widely regarded as one of the rarest and most coveted among collectors, is the finest known specimen of about 50 Wagner cards known to exist from a 1909 set.

The winning bidder, whose identity is being kept secret, will pay $1.265m including a 15% buyer's premium.

Collector's dream

Bidding for the card started at $500,000 on 5 July, and a total of 13 bids were made.

Honus Wagner facts
Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop
Major League career began 1897
National League batting champion for eight seasons
Among first five players in Baseball Hall of Fame

"We've had several very high-priced items, but unfortunately because of the sheer volume of items we don't have a list of highest auctions," eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said.

"But it's safe to say that this Wagner card is in the top two or three."

The card's previous owner, Michael Gidwitz, a sports memorabilia collector from Chicago, bought the card for $650,000 in 1996.

"It has always been the most desirable item that a baseball card collector could aspire to own," Mr Gidwitz said.

The Flying Dutchman

Previous owners have included ice hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who bought it in 1991.

Card owner Michael Giodwitz
Previous owner Gidwitz: 'Something to aspire to'
The card is known as the "Gretzky example" and has been described as the Mona Lisa of trading cards.

The card was part of a promotion by the American Tobacco Company in 1909 in packets of its Piedmont cigarettes.

But Honus Wagner, nicknamed "The Flying Dutchman," was adamantly anti-smoking and the cards were quickly withdrawn.

Only 50-60 cards were ever printed, and of those only a handful were sold to the public.

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