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I have been thinking a lot about Barenaked Ladies lately. And yes, the winters are long and cold where I live. But no, what I’ve been thinking about is the band out of Canada that goes by that name and not women in their birthday suits who would get me in trouble on the home front.

The Barenaked Ladies been around forever, forming in 1988, making witty, rollicking music that defies you not to smile while listening. You’ve likely heard their tune “The History of Everything,” the theme song of the hit CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory

'The Big Bang Theory' theme song, 'The Theory of Everything,' is performed by Barenaked Ladies.

Great song, no doubt, but I’ve got another one of their tunes dancing in my head these days. It’s called “If I Had A Million Dollars.” Recorded in 1992, it’s a catchy, goofy song tinted in endearing innocence promising vast amounts of stuff the singer would buy a loved one if he had, well, a million dollars.

What would that shopping spree include, you ask? Here’s a sampling: a house, furniture to fill the house, a tree fort in the front yard of the house with a tiny fridge filled with pre-wrapped sausages, an exotic pet like a llama or an emu, John Merrick’s bones (you know, the Elephant Man), a limousine so as not to have to walk to the store (cuz the limo costs more).

And so on.

Barenaked Ladies

The Barenaked Ladies would buy a lot of stuff if they had a million dollars, including a tree fort with a tiny fridge filled with pre-wrapped sausages.

My favorite line? “And if I had a million dollars (If I had a million dollars)/ Well, I’d buy you some art/A Picasso or a Garfunkel.”


OK, so I don’t exactly know what I would buy if I had a million dollars, but I sure the heck know what I wouldn’t buy if I had half that much: A mutilated Honus Wagner baseball card.

Honus Wagner baseball card

A mangled Honus Wagner baseball card, graded and authenticated by PSA more than 25 years ago and stashed away by a collector ever since, just sold for way more than the average home in America.

The damaged Wagner card sold at auction recently for $475,960. I know we’re all dealing with inflation but ... what?!! Maybe I’m just showing my age, but I can remember when $475,960 seemed like a lot of money – like right about now.

I’d rather buy a llama. A whole one.

Initially issued in 1909 by the American Tobacco Company, the Wagner card is often referred to as the Holy Grail, or the Mona Lisa, of sports cards. There are roughly 60 known to exist.

In reality, this Holy Grail is a rectangular piece of cardboard, less than 2 inches wide and 3 inches tall, featuring a baseball player known, primarily, for his baseball card.

Which is too bad because Wagner was an early star of the game. In 1897, at age 23, he debuted with the Pittsburg Pirates – 14 years before the letter H was added to the city’s name. Wagner won eight batting titles in 21 seasons, hit .300 or better in 15 straight seasons and could throw a baseball more than 400 feet. He also had a nickname you just don’t hear often enough anymore, “The Flying Dutchman.”

Honus Wagner during his playing days with the Pittsburg Pirates. 

Honus Wagner during his playing days with the Pittsburg Pirates. 

In 1936, Wagner was inducted into baseball’s first Hall of Fame class, joining Babe Ruth, among others, in Cooperstown.

But unlike Ruth, the prodigious home run hitter known as “The Sultan of Swat” – can we please bring back these old-time baseball nicknames! – Wagner was mostly forgotten, except for his baseball card introduced in 1909 in a pack of cigarettes from the American Tobacco Company.

There are more than 4,200 Ty Cobb cards from that series of Tobacco cards but, for various and mysterious reasons, there are only a few dozen Wagner cards known to exist.

Just last year, one of those Wagner cards sold for $6.6 million, shattering the record for the most expensive sports card in history. Even so, I still think a tree fort with a tiny fridge filled with pre-wrapped sausages would be more fun. But hey, that’s just me. I’m not here to judge.

1909 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card

The front and back of the Honus Wagner tobacco card that sold for $6.6 million last year.  

Six-point-six million is a lot of cash. We can all agree on that. But at least for that boatload of green the buyer got a whole card, not a disfigured card that looks like it was pulled out of a washing machine by a not-too-happy mom about to lecture her kid on the benefits of checking pants pockets before tossing them in the clothes hamper.

People, Wagner’s left jaw is missing, as is most of his torso! He looks like he went to a pool party with the Great White Shark from Jaws.

And for this mangled Mona Lisa of baseball cards, someone paid nearly a half-a-million dollars?

Sorry. I’d rather have some real art.

Like a Picasso. Or a Garfunkel.

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