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October 5, 2017

Honus Wagner’s Parker Brothers Shotguns

By Joel R Kolander

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You don’t have to be a collector to have heard about Honus Wagner. Baseball fans are certainly familiar with the name – Wagner is readily considered the best player in baseball’s dead-ball era behind Ty Cobb, and was one of the first five men inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. His votes for admittance were second again only to Ty Cobb and tied with Babe Ruth, though even Cobb would extol Wagner as “Maybe the greatest star ever to take the diamond.” Even those not familiar with baseball have undoubtedly seen news coverage when one of Wagner’s prized T206 baseball cards comes to market. With only 57 copies known, prices have increased dramatically in the last decade. A 2016 sale netted $3.12 million dollars, the world record price for a baseball card and one that it has set several times.

The record setting Honus Wagner T206 Baseball Card.

While RIAC is unfortunately not currently offering a Honus Wagner T206 (but would be happy to do so), they are offering two Parker Brothers double barrel shotguns owned by the baseball legend. The first, a trusty Parker DH Grade side-by-side 12 gauge, features a checkered forearm and grip, dual triggers, and D grade engraving. Scenes of hunting dogs adorns the sides while pheasants take up roost on the receiver’s bottom, all of which are surrounded by tight American scroll work. The presentation oval seen at the beginning of this article is located on the bottom of the buttstock, and commemorates the gift from friends of his hometown. Already a local phenom, by 1900 Wagner had signed with the Pittsburg Pirates (the ‘h’ in Pittsburgh would get added back to the team name in 1912) and won his first batting title, leading the league in doubles, triples, and slugging percentage. Already in the majors for several years prior with Louisville Colonels, this shotgun was perhaps presented as a gift for the rising star’s awarded offensive prowess. The baseball immortal was in his prime and supremely deserving of such a gift.

Both shotguns were sold on December 7, 1956 by his wife, Bessie B. Wagner, to Joseph Cyprowski, the receipts for which are included with their respective shotgun . In 1998, they were sold to Dan Hardesty becoming  part of his collection with the intention of being displayed in his Wild West Museum. For any firearm collector out there fascinated with the history at the turn of the 19th century, this shotgun is a quintessential collection piece of Americana. To a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, it borders on a religious artifact.

The second Parker Brothers side-by-side shotgun is a well-preserved look in 16 gauge.  Beautiful checkered wood, a pistol grip, and plenty of finish make this gun attractive, but its low weight and excellent geometry make shouldering the gun a quick and effortless exercise. Combining such handling with its crisp action and any future owner will have a hard time not taking this sweetheart on their next hunt. The silver name plate on its buttstock

It’s currently October so as the MLB begins its postseason, an article about one of baseball’s all-time legends seemed more than appropriate. RIAC’s 2017 December auction is filled with an outstanding selection of meticulously crafted and high art sporting arms, but a firearm undoubtedly held and used by one of the greatest players of all time was simply too cool to pass up. Hopefully, these history-touched shotguns find their way to a collection with a T206 looking for its perfect companions pieces.

Honus Wagner, 68 skins his smoke wagons after being named deputy sheriff of Allegheny County in 1942.
A 1915 photo of Wagner taken by Charles M. Conlon.

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