As the story goes, American Tobacco Company was about to put out their now famous 1909-1911 T206 set in packages of cigarettes. In order to do this they needed to get permission from each individual player since a players union did not exist at the time. One player who had evaded their inquiries was Hall of Famer Honus Wagner. As you can imagine, it was hard to fathom releasing a set like this without one of the league greatest stars, so they procured the help of a local newspaper man to approach his old friend.
Legend has it that Honus Wagner still refused to allow his portrait on a card to be released in packages of cigarettes. He even offered to compensate his newspaper friend with the amount promised to him by the tobacco company. Wagner sent a check of $10.00 to his friend, but it was promptly returned out of respect to the ballplayer. From there a legend was born as the card was removed from the printing presses (although a few did go out) and would soon become the most valuable Baseball card in the hobby.
Below is proof strip card featuring the rare Honus Wagner T206 card (second on the left) that is currently at auction at Hunt's 2010 LiveAuction at the All-Star Game Fanfest in Anaheim. It resided for many years within the collection of fabled hobbyist Barry Halper and is said to have come directly from the estate of Honus Wagner. It is believed it was presented to Honus by American Tobacco to convince him to sign on with them. Considering its condition and giant crease across Wagner's face, I think it's safe to say that he didn't hold it in great regard. My recollection is that it was found folded and stuffed in one of Wagner's suit pockets. It is expected to sell for over 6 figures.