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Altering ‘The Card’ a ‘serious infraction’

Bill GoodwMissouri collectibles dealer holds up rare 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card Sunset Hills Mo. A New Jersey man whose

Bill Goodwin, a Missouri collectibles dealer, holds up a rare 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card in Sunset Hills, Mo. A New Jersey man, whose name has not been released, was the winning bidder for the rare baseball card _ at $1.2 million _ in an online aucti

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Updated: August 27, 2012 11:20AM

It’s known as the Holy Grail of baseball collectibles.

The 1909 Honus Wagner T206, also known as the Gretzky T206 Wagner, is said to be the most valuable and most famous trading card in the world.

It has had a long, intriguing history, in part because it was once owned by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

The mention of the card in a federal court case on Wednesday — that sources confirmed is a reference to the Gretzky Wagner card — is likely to only further that mystique.

Sources say that there is evidence alleging that Mastro Auctions had trimmed the sides of the card without disclosing it had been altered, knowing it would lessen the value.

There were few Honus Wagner baseball cards ever in circulation. That’s because the tobacco industry had been including the card in cigarette packs until Wagner, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, put a stop to it.

Other Wagner cards have survived, in varying conditions.

While any Wagner card is desirable among collectors, “The Card,” the Gretzky T206, is thought to trump all others because an authenticator had determined “it was in near mint to mint condition, an eight on a scale of one to ten,” according to the book “The Card,” by Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson.

In 2007, it fetched $2.8 million at auction from Ken Kendrick, the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Altering a T206 Wagner — or any other card — is like putting arms on the Venus de Milo,” wrote O’Keeffe. “In the arcane world of trading cards, it is a serious infraction.”

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