We've written about T206 backs before and the appetite for these variations seems to be insatiable among avid collectors. The history of the tobacco products that carried T206s in their packs is fascinating in and of itself.
This week, we are offering two cards featuring the Tolstoi brand advertising on the reverse. The Tolstoi backs aren't as rare as some in the series, but they're not easy to find and when a couple of new examples hit the market, it’s cause for celebration among T206 collectors.
We have a Harry Krause in PSA 4 grade. It’s one of only two at this level with none graded higher. We also have a PSA 4 Jimmy Slagle, also a PSA 4 with none higher and a population of just one in PSA’s records. How rare are Tolstoi cards? PSA has graded only a little over 1,000 of them and fewer than 50 grade ‘6’ or better.
When these were produced from 1909-1911, the Tolstoi brand box looked much like the more readily available Piedmont design. The cigarettes inside were created, it’s said, to appeal to immigrants from Eastern Europe. They were Russian style with cardboard mouthpieces and that attribute, “Russian mouthpiece cigarettes”, is actually printed on the back along with the cursive Tolstoi logo.
According to T206 scholar Scot Reader, the Tolstoi backs were distributed out of a New York factory for the American Tobacco Company and the packaging of athletes and ballplayers was discontinued just prior to the start of the 1911 baseball season as the tide shifted toward the inclusion of cards featuring the military.
We encourage you to check out the bidding on these cards and consider adding at least one to your collection of vintage cardboard. Rare T206 backs will always be in demand.