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Memorabilia dealer admits to altering famed $2.8 million Honus Wagner card

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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Bill Mastro admitted to altering a Wagner card, like the one here, that has since sold for $2.8 million. (AP)

We all know the lure of the famous 1909 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card. It is the holy grail of cards, garnering the most interest from high-profile owners and the biggest price-tags at auction. One of the 50-100 in circulation sold at auction last week for $2.1 million.

Now a big development: Notorious memorabilia dealer Bill Mastro has admitted to altering the most famous version of the card to better its appearance and increase its value. Within the hobby, some have believed for years that Mastro trimmed the edges of his card, which was later owned by Wayne Gretzky and now belongs to Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick bought the card for $2.8 million in 2011.

Mastro is currently trying to procure a federal plea agreement on charges that he used shill bidders in auctions to drive up prices and sold fake items — including a lock of Elvis Presley's hair and a 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings trophy, that are both believed to be fake.

[Also: Red Sox historic sellout streak ends at 794 games]

As part of his effort to save face with the law, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, Mastro admitted to doctoring his T206. It's something he denied for many years. That still wasn't enough, though, as U.S. District Court Judge Ronald A. Guzman rejected a 30-month prison agreement that Mastro had made with federal prosecutors.

Want to hear the crazy part? One auction expert and the card's owner think this turn of events will increase the value of the card.

Through a Diamondbacks spokesperson, Kendrick — the card's current owner — told Yahoo! Sports:

"As a collector of rare cards and a fan who enjoys the history of the game of baseball, today's news does not change my pride in owning the Honus Wagner T-206 card. In fact, I've been advised that the notoriety of this turn of events has actually increased the value of the card and I will continue to enjoy having it as part of the 'Diamondbacks collection.' "

The Daily Mail talked to Steve Levine of Goldin Auctions (which sold the T206 last week) and he believes the same:

"I think in this industry and hobby, the bigger the story, the better. Also, especially if you can verify it ... Now it’s the infamous Bill Mastro-trimmed-Gretzky-Honus Wagner card."

Dishonest as it was, Mastro's trimming the card did work. The version he once owned is the highest-graded and most expensive. The one sold last week has been deemed three grades lower than the one Mastro cut.

Now we wait to see what happens next time it's sold.

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