All About Estates

An unexpected gift: a Honus Wagner Baseball Card

Here is a good news story for the holidays.

A Baltimore based religious order, the School Sisters of Notre Dame (“Sisters”) received an early Christmas gift last week.  The Sisters auctioned off a rare T206 Honus Wagner card earlier this year for $220,000.  However, the original highest bidder failed to pay up. Fortunately, a few days before Christmas, another collector of sports memorabilia came through with the winning bidding price. The money from the sale of the card will be used for the Sisters’ educational programs in 35 countries.

The Honus Wagner baseball card is the holy grail of baseball cards.  It is believed that less than 60 cards are in existence.  The card was circulated sometime in 1909 to 1911 by the American Tobacco Company.  The card is very rare because Wagner had the card pulled from circulation as he did not want children to purchase tobacco to get his card (or the less altruistic reason may be that the American Tobacco Company was not properly compensating him). A mythology has developed around the ownership of the card and there was great interest when the Sisters found themselves in possession of a previously unknown card and were willing to auction the card.

The Sisters receved the card when the brother of a nun left all his possessions to the Sisters when he died earlier this year. The card was kept in a safety deposit box and the box also contained the note: “Although damaged, the value of this baseball card should increase exponentially throughout the 21st century!” By all accounts, the card was extensively damaged, but even in poor condition, the card attracted a bid of over $200,000.  A near-mint-condition T206 Wagner card sold in 2007 for $2.8 million, the highest price ever for a baseball card.

At first, the Sisters’ did not know the value of the card bequeathed to them and they are very grateful to have received such a valuable gift.  A suggestion to those turning their minds to estate planning in the New Year is to create a list of all of your personal property of a significant value.   The list , if  the items of significant value are otherwise not mentioned in your testamentary documents, will assist the executor of your estate to identify and protect items of significant monetary value.

Happy Holidays and have a great new year!

Diane Vieira

About Diane Vieira
Diane has practiced in the area of estate, trust and capacity litigation since she was called to the Ontario Bar in 2006. Diane obtained her law degree from Queen’s University after completing an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto. She received the Certificate in Elder Law from Osgoode Hall Law School. She is a member of the Ontario Bar Association and the Toronto Lawyers Association. Diane has chaired various continuing legal education programs regarding estate, trust and capacity matters. She can be reached at