The T206 Honus Wagner card, one of the rarest and most sought-after baseball cards, went on sale earlier this month with a minimum bid of $500,000, and it almost instantly was bid up to $550,000. The card, once owned by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and former Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall, sold for $1.1 million on Saturday. With an additional 15 percent buyer's fee, the sale closed at $1.27 million.
The auction was the most expensive known sale on eBay and an anomaly in the online auctioneer's rulebook. To bid on the card, collectors had to agree to some new rules, including preregistering with the seller, making a $100,000 deposit, and agreeing to pay the 15 percent buyer's premium.
Analysts said eBay's rules change was a response to moves made by Sotheby's and others to capture the high-end auction market online.
"We are thrilled with the outcome," Robert Lifson, director of Robert Edward Auctions, which managed the sale, said in a statement. "Every trading card collector dreams of owning this very special card. Offering the card on eBay allowed millions more to feel a part of this record-making event."
Part of the high value of the card is its legend. In the early 1900s, the story says, Wagner insisted that the American Tobacco Company, maker of the card, stop using his name and image in association with smoking. As a result, the company stopped production of the card. It is believed, however, that about 50 to 60 Honus Wagner cards were distributed.
The final bid on the card was almost twice what it sold for in 1996, when Michael Gidwitz bought it for $641,500. Robert Edward Auctions, a division of Mastronet, expected the card to sell for between $1 million and $3 million.
The winner, who will remain unknown until a news conference tomorrow, is a sports memorabilia collector from Southern California.