T206 White Border Baseball Cards

T206-WagnerBetween 1909 and 1911, the American Tobacco Company issued one of the greatest baseball card sets ever, the T206 White Borders.

Nicknamed The Monster, the T206 series is one of the most complex, challenging and sought-after series to collect. Why? Because the T206 are the Mt. Everest of card collecting.

The set contains 524 or 525 (depending on your point of view, we’ll get to that in a minute) Major and Minor League player cards, five of which are among the most notable trading card rarities.

Any mention of this iconic issue begins and ends with THE most valuable card in the hobby, the Honus Wagner card. Due to Wagner’s objection to his initial inclusion in the set (for either monetary or anti-tobacco reasons), the American Tobacco Company ceased production of the card. (Side note; Wagner’s 1948 Leaf card pictures him as a Pirates coach with one hand holding a pouch of tobacco and the other hand about to pop it into his mouth.) Current estimates suggest that only around 50 of these cards are still in existence.

The other four rarities have their own quirky attributes. The Eddie Plank card is nearly as rare as the Wagner but without the intriguing backstory of the Wagner, it hasn’t achieved the same lofty value. Even rarer than the Wagner is the Joe Doyle N.Y. Nat’l Hands Above Head card. This variation went virtually unnoticed until the 1980s. The card currently fetches in excess of six figures. Bringing up the rear of the standard rarities is the Sherry Magee error card, incorrectly spelled as Magie. Don’t fret, even a poor condition example of the Magie will run five figures.

The last of the T206 rarities is the Ty Cobb Red Portrait card with the Ty Cobb King of the Smoking Tobacco World back. Valued well over $100,000, even in poor condition, fewer than 20 of these are known to exist.

The above five cards are so difficult to obtain, that even veteran collectors consider the 520-card set to be complete without them.

So, if you want to conquer Everest, all you have to do is to purchase 520 baseball cards produced from over a century ago? Not so fast.
T206-Brown-LenoxDid I mention that depending on the brand of cigarettes the cards were included with, there are 38 different back varieties in the T206 series? Sorry.

The back varieties range from rare (Lenox, Old Mill, Uzit, Drum, Broad Leaf, Hindu) to somewhat difficult (Carolina Brights, American Beauty, Cycle, Tolstoi, El Principe De Gales, Polar Bear, Sovereign) to very common (Sweet Caporal and Piedmont). Some of the brands even have their own variations including 150, 350 or 460 series backs (Sovereign, Sweet Caporal, Piedmont), Southern League (Old Mill) overprints (Sweet Caporal) and in the case of Lenox (black & brown), Hindu (red & brown) and Old Mill (black), color variations.

So, now with the heavy lifting out of the way, we can focus on the incredible player content of the T206 set. The T206s contain a veritable Who’s Who of early 20th century baseball talent. The set contains an incredible 36 Baseball Hall of Famers: Frank Baker, Jake Beckley, Chief Bender, Roger Bresnahan, Mordecai Brown, Frank Chance, Jack Chesbro, Fred Clarke, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Jimmy Collins, Sam Crawford, George Davis, Hugh Duffy, Johnny Evers, Elmer Flick, Clark Griffith, Miller Huggins, Hugh Jennings, Walter Johnson, Addie Joss, Wee Willie Keeler, Napoleon Lajoie, Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, John McGraw, Eddie Plank, Tris Speaker, Joe Tinker, Rube Waddell, Honus Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Ed Walsh, Zach Wheat, Vic Willis and Cy Young.

T206-JOHNSONThe player selection is even more impressive since the majority of the stars are available in multiple poses. Most of the stars have portraits (typically positioned in front of single pastel colors with sensational aesthetic appeal) as well as action images.

Baseball’s biggest Dead-Ball era star, Ty Cobb, has four different cards; two portrait cards, one in red, one in green along with two action cards, one with the bat on his shoulder and one with the bat off his shoulder. Besides Cobb, only four other players have four or more cards; Hal Chase (five), John McGraw (four) and Joe Tinker (four). Generally, the player portrait cards are more desirable and command more money.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen; The Monster.

If you have any T206 baseball cards to sell or any items on our baseball buy list, PLEASE CONTACT Mark Rubin at 914-725-2225 or via email at mark@amerlegends.com. A quick phone call is all it takes to get started.