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1909-11 T206 Tobacco Cards

In today's modern collecting world, there is a phrase used called "Master Set", meaning that you have collected one of each reasonably attainable card. One of the great examples of an extreme "Master Set" was in the late 1990's when Topps created a "Tek" release with 8,100 different varieties based on a 90 times 90 breakdown. And yes, there were actually collectors who were able to collect all 8,100 cards. However, there is one set for which the odds favor that there has never been a master set created, and there may never be a master set. That set is the first truly mass-produced 20th century set, which we now know better as T206.

The T206 set has 525 different poses, but there are two major reasons for the master set issue. The first is there are some cards which exist in significantly less availability then the average card, and the other is some backs are hardly ever seen. Most of those cards with less availability are among the hobby legends, while the backs are more known amongst advanced collectors but are not as bothersome to average collectors.

The more important part of completing a T206 pose set is what is called the "Big Four". Just about everyone in the hobby, and outside the hobby has heard about the legendary Honus Wagner card. While the legend says this card was removed from circulation because of Wagner saying he did not want to promote tobacco usage to kids, there is also a story that there was a money dispute which caused this card to be pulled from the packs. There are significantly fewer Wagner cards available then most cards, but while no one has a truly accurate count on how many are actually in existence, it's estimated that there are less than 50 examples in circulation. The Wagner card has sold both publicly and privately for more than $1 million and is certainly the baseball card hobby "holy grail". Here are a few examples:

In 2007, a PSA 8 example sold for $2.8 million in a private sale via SCP Auctions
In 2012, a SGC 40 example sold for $1.2 million in Goodwin's public auction
In 2012, a PSA 2 example sold for $651,750 in REA's public auction
In 2013, a PSA 1 example sold for $402,900 in REA's public auction
In 2011, a PSA Authentic example sold for $188,000 in REA's public auction

Regardless of condition, the Wagner T206 is the Golden Ticket for all collectors.

T206 Honus Wagner   T206 Eddie Plank   T206 Sherry Magee   T206 Joe Doyle

Meanwhile, the other three players who make up the Big Four are Eddie Plank (HOF), Sherry Magee, and "Slow" Joe Doyle. Eddie Plank is regarded as one of the best pitchers to ever play the game of baseball, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. Due to Plank's legacy and the rarity of his T206 card (less than 100 in existence), it is considered the second most valuable card in the hobby. Even in lesser condition, the card is worth $20,000-$40,000. Let's take a look at some recent sales:

In 2011, a PSA 6 example sold for $193,768 in Goodwin & Co.'s auction
In 2014, a PSA 5 example sold for $88,875 in REA's auction
In 2014, a PSA 2 example sold for $31,129 via SCP Auctions

The highest graded T206 Eddie Plank is a PSA 8, which has never sold publicly. There are also three PSA 7 examples in existence, but, as you guessed, those have also never made it to a public arena.

The two other cards that make up the Big Four are "error" cards. Sherry Magee has three cards within the T206 set, one featuring a portrait shot of him, the second with a bat on his shoulder, and the third is also a portrait shot, but his name is spelled wrong (Magie). The error card was short printed, and now comes at a premium. There are less than 175 examples known to the hobby, and even in low grade, the card is worth between $4,000-$8,000. Whereas his other examples from the set, in the same grade, are worth only $30-$50. The highest grade ever received by the error card has been a PSA 8, but nothing higher than an SGC 80 (6) has ever sold publicly.

In 2012, a SGC 80 example sold for $80,077 in Goodwin & Co's auction
In 2014, a PSA 3 example surfaced on eBay, and sold for $14,544 at auction
In 2014, a PSA 1 example sold for $5,800 in SCP Auctions

That brings us to Joe Doyle's extremely rare error card. Doyle has two examples (poses) in the T206 set, but one with a "N.Y. Nat'l" designation. The only problem was that Mr. Doyle played for the N.Y. American League team, and was obviously mistaken for Laughing Larry Doyle, who was a star for the N.Y. (National) Giants. This is the type of mistake one can still make till this very day when names and teams are similar. How rare is rare? Well, it is believed that only 10 or so examples of this error card still exist today. Doyle only had a brief stint in the Big Leagues, and has no real significance to the game, in terms of legacy - which is the reason why this ultra rare card is not a million dollar card. Can you imagine if he ended up being a Hall of Famer? How much would this card be worth? Only eight copies of this card have been encapsulated by PSA, with the highest grade being a PSA 6. To our knowledge, this card has only been sold three times:

In 2012, a PSA 3 example sold for $414,750 via REA
In 2009, a SGC 50 example sold for $329,000 via REA
In 2010, a SGC Authentic example sold for $186,155 in Goodwin & Co.'s auction (the card appeared to be trimmed on the left side)

And then after you have the challenge of completing those four cards there are examples such as the "Ty Cobb back" which is only found on Ty Cobb cards. A fairly recent notation of different types of backs said, counting the differences in back factories and colors there are almost 40 back types available. And then considering the volume of poses, you can see the issues of collecting this master set.

Here is complete list of all the backs, courtesy of PSA:

American Beauty 350 No Frame Lenox Brown Sweet Caporal 150/25
American Beauty 350 With Frame      Old Mill Sweet Caporal 150/30
American Beauty 460 Old Mill Brown Sweet Caporal 150 6490P
Broad Leaf 350 Old Mill Brown 6490P      Sweet Caporal 350/25
Broad Leaf 460 Piedmont 150 Sweet Caporal 350/30
Carolina Brights Piedmont 350 Sweet Caporal 350-460/25
Cycle 350 Piedmont 350-460/25 Sweet Caporal 350-460/30
Cycle 460 Piedmont 350-460/42 Sweet Caporal 350-460/42
Drum Polar Bear Sweet Caporal 350-460 420P
El Principe de Gales Sovereign 150 Tolstoi
Hindu Brown Sovereign 350 Ty Cobb Back
Hindu Red Sovereign 460 Uzit
Lenox Black  

Just completing one full set of any back is a daunting task, imagine trying to complete all 37!

Of course, there is also the challenge of finding signed T206 cards. Perhaps the most available signed T206 signed is of Hall of Famer Rube Marquard, who lived into the days of the fledgling hobby and was a fairly willing signer almost until his dying day. There are probably plenty of players who never signed or have a surviving signed T206 card. "Doc" Power, an A's catcher featured in the set was injured on opening day in 1909 and would pass away about one month later. Even in today's world the odds of that card being signed is difficult but the odds are truly against any signed copies ever of this particular card.

The other neat option with T206 is these cards truly appeal to all collectors in all price ranges. For those well heeled collectors, the PSA pop report shows very few cards with the grade of 7 (nm) or higher which indicates these cards will be expensive whenever they pop up. However, these cards are not impossible as there are nearly 8,000 total cards graded at 7 or better sans qualifiers. While that does not break down to a lot for each player, at least there is a chance of building a really nice looking set. And, for those well loved cards, one can pick up those beauties for less than $10 each. Either way, there is truly some collecting aspect for everyone in T206.

In addition, we mentioned about how poor Doc Powers probably has no autographed cards available but one great aspect about T206 is just as the Old Judge set covered several years in the late 1880's-early 1890's. the T206 set covered several years between 1909 and 1911. That time frame enabled the set producers to create cards of players with different teams or even players who were called up the majors during the set run. Yes, there are a few players for which this set is one of their very first cards. For Hall of Famers such as Tris Speaker, this was one of his very first cards while players such as Hugh Duffy, Joe Kelley and Joe "Iron Man" McGinnity, these cards represent their images as their major league career was winding down. McGinnity is a fascinating case as he would pitch in the minors for more than another decade and won more than 200 games after he departed the majors. 

A fascinating and interesting twist to these T206 cards is the incredible growth in the "printing errors" popularity. Many coin and stamp collectors have for years collected those items with factory errors from the mint or the printing presses. Well, in case the players and the backs are not enough of a battle, many collectors love those off-beat type of cards and that popularity has even translated into more modern cards gaining speed if there are issues such as off-cuts, wrong backs or blank backs. There are also people who collect "ghost" cards which have an image of another player on the featured card. Since printing press capabilities were not nearly as sophisticated as today's presses, those errors could almost be expected for the sheer volume of cards created.

What these cards lack in size (1 7/16" x 2 5/8"), they certainly make up for in stature!

Contact The Experts At Just Collect, Inc.

Do you have questions about the set? Do you want to know how much your card is worth? Are looking to sell your T206 cards? Well, you've found the right place! Contact us today to speak with one of our specialists! You can give us a call at 732-828-2261 anytime between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM EST during the week. We can also be reached off-hours and on the weekend via email, info@justcollect.com.

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