Nothing enhances the mystique and value of a popular sports cards more than a good background story.
Especially when the card is the Holy Grail of sports cards.
The very essence of the famous T206 Honus Wagner card is shrouded in mystery as no one knows exactly why the 1909 tobacco card is so rare, or even how many actually exist.
But every Wagner card passed down through the years has a story. And none of those stories is more sensational, more controversial and more fantastic than the Wagner card once owned by Hollywood star Charlie Sheen.
Sheen, one of the stars of the 1989 movie “Major League,” loaned the card to the All-Star Café in New York City, where it was displayed in a special “Sheen Room.” The card made national headlines in 1998 when it was stolen from the sports bar and became the focus of an an FBI investigation and later a presidential pardon.
The “Charlie Sheen All-Star Café card,” which has changed hands several times since then, is now up for bid at Mile High Card Company. Graded PSA 1, the storied card is part of Mile High’s March auction, which opens March 10 and closes on March 31.
The All-Star Café, located in New York City’s Times Square, was a restaurant chain that mirrored The Hard Rock Café with some heavy hitters among its investors, including sports stars Andre Agassi, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Griffey Jr., Joe Montana, Shaquille O’Neal, Tiger Woods and Sheen, one of Hollywood’s most popular actors at the time.
The grand opening was a gala affair, featuring such popular sports stars as John McEnroe, Roger Clemens, Doc Gooden, Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson, along with such notable celebrities as Stevie Wonder, Whoopi Goldberg, Brooke Shields, Cindy Crawford and real estate magnate and future president Donald Trump.
Sheen was an avid sports collector at the time with one of the most extensive card collections in the country. Among the cards he loaned to the All-Star Café was his famous Wagner, which was displayed in an unsecured plexiglass case in “The Sheen Room” by the bar.
In 1998, the card was stolen and replaced by a fake card by a group led by Thomas Gartland, the restaurant’s executive chef. The group then sold the card to noted New Jersey collector Al “Mr. Mint” Rosen for $18,000 — considerably less than the $222,000 a similar Wagner card had recently sold for.
The group then swiped more cards from Sheen’s collection, including an uncut sheet of 1934 Goudeys that Rosen also bought on the cheap. But during the second heist, a member of the group cracked the plexiglass case, damaging the cards and leading to a bizarre federal investigation.
During the FBI investigation into the theft of the Goudey cards, 20-year-old Benny Ramos, the nephew of the executive chef, confessed to being involved in the Wagner card heist. Four men were convicted of the theft, with one of them sentenced to four months in prison, and were ordered to pay restitution for the damaged Goudey cards.
Ramos was placed on probation but was pardoned in 2016 by President Obama for cooperating with authorities.
Sheen was thrilled to get the Wagner card back and praised the FBI and NYPD.
“I am deeply saddened that such precious artifacts have been mutilated by amateurs in the pursuit of greed,” he said.
Sheen sold the card in 2001 and it was purchased years later by the current owner for $400,000.
Now the famous card finds its way back onto the auction block and could fetch as much as $3 million based on recent sales of rare Wagner cards.
Proceeds from the auction of the card will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma.