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Honus Wagner is arguably the most important historical figure in the sports collectible hobby, with his iconic T206 trading card becoming the Holy Grail of sports cards.

While his famous 1909 Sweet Caporal card sells for million and holds the all-time record at $6.6 million, other Wagner memorabilia also holds incredible value — a 1912 game-used bat sold for $900,000 last year.

Heritage Auctions now has one of the most rare and intriguing Wagner items ever to hit the market — a commemorative wristwatch from his 1939 Baseball Hall of Fame induction.

Wagner was one of the first five players elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. The Flying Dutchman — a nickname bestowed upon him for his speed and German heritage — was one of the top players of the Deadball era, batting .328, collecting 3,420 hits and winning eight National League batting titles, all while playing sterling defense at shortstop during his 21-year career with his home-state Pittsburgh Pirates.

Also See: Half of Honus Wagner T206 card sells for $475K

The Hall of Fame’s first induction ceremonies did not take place until June 12, 1939. Wagner and his fellow stars were honored along with six other honorees, with all 11 receiving the commemorative watches.

Wristwatch presented to Honus Wagner during his 1939 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wristwatch presented to Honus Wagner during his 1939 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The watch, which is being offered in Heritage’s Feb. 26-27 Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction, is a stylish Gruen Curvex timepiece stamped “14K Gold Filled” on the back. The engraved text reads, “Presented to Honus Wagner, Member of The Hall of Fame, Baseball Centennial, 1839-1939.” According to Heritage, “the original crystal is clear and uncracked, and the dial is beautifully accented with golden numerals. A brown calfskin bracelet with a gold buckle replaces the original delicate model that was lost over the passage of time.”

Back of Honus Wagner's commemorative watch from his 1939 Baseball Hall of Fame induction.

Back of Honus Wagner's watch from his 1939 Hall of Fame induction. 

Also See: Historic Jackie Robinson document, MLB debut ticket highlight Heritage auction

The watch, which had an opening bid of $26,000, represents one of the most collectible and unique awards from baseball’s formative years. With only 11 in existence, they are rarely offered for sale. Walter Johnson’s watch sold at auction in 2013 for $57,000, while George Sisler’s sold for nearly $45,000.

It comes with a letter of provenance, which tells the fascinating story of the watch’s origin and background. The current owner, which chose to remain anonymous, is from Carnegie, Pa., where Wagner is from and spent most of his life before he died in 1955 at age 81. Many of Wagner’s descendants are also from the Pittsburgh suburb, including his nephew, Bill Gallagher, and niece, Marie.

The watch was originally given to Bill and Marie by Honus’ wife, Bessie, following his death.

The current owner and consignor lived down the block from Bill and Marie as a kid in the 1970s and mowed their lawn and helped with other tasks around the house. An avid baseball fan, he was interested in Wagner’s career and was given his watch and other Wagner memorabilia by Bill and Marie.

Joe Piszczor, a Pittsburgh-area financial advisor and close family friend of the consignor, shared the story with Heritage Communications Director Robert Wilonsky.

“[Bill and Marie] really appreciated this young man and all the help he gave them, and had a real fondness for him,” Piszczor said, via Heritage. “Bill liked baseball and went to watch this kid play American Legion ball, and as they got older, they gave all their uncle’s baseball stuff to him.”

The watch remained in the consignor’s possession for decades and with the help of his wife, who worked for the local historical society, was carefully preserved.

“[He] had a good job and he didn’t need money, but knew he had something special,” Piszczor says. “He just knew it was important, especially the watch. With all the other stuff, there were a lot of cool family tchotchkes and such. But he knew that the watch was very important and should be protected and kept in his farmhouse outside the city.”

According to Piszczor, preserving the watch and making it available to the public was important to the consignor.

“The responsibility to preserve this history of a person from his hometown that was very important to Pittsburgh, that was a burden to him for many years in some ways,” Piszczor said through Heritage. “So it’s cleansing for him to make sure it gets back in the public domain appropriately.

“It’s great that we can get it out and back into the public eye and make sure this gets celebrated. Hopefully this helps to tell the Honus Wagner story a little bit better.”