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T206 Vintage Baseball Cards

Updated on March 12, 2012

Collecting "The Monster"

The most popular vintage baseball card set of all time is the 1909-1911 tobacco issue commonly known as T206. If you think tackling this set is easy, think again. Hard core collectors don't call it "The Monster" for nothing!

Consisting of 524 different cards, the T206 cards were issued by American Tobacco Trust and included both major and minor leaguers.

Measuring 1 7/16" by 2 5/8", the T206 set consisted of three series, printed in various locations, primarily in the southeast.

The set is really considered complete at 520 cards without "the big four", Honus Wagner, Eddie Plank, the Sherry "Magie" error card and the Doyle "NY Natl" variation, all of which are on the list of the most valuable baseball cards in existence.

T206 Collection; The Players and Their Stories

New book is a must for fans of the T206 set

There is a new book set for release that should get collectors and fans of deadball-era baseball interested. The 242 full-color, hard-bound pages of T206 Collection - The Players & Their Stories- includes biographies of every player in the T206 set from Honus Wagner, to over 100 minor leaguers along with each player's personal and professional statistics.

The book is a beautifully done tribute to the hundreds of players featured in this iconic baseball card set. The publishers have already created a series of well received videos telling the stories in the book.

The only 'negative' if there is one, is that the illustrations are primarily reprinted cards, rather than the originals.

The Players and Their Stories celebrates the 100th anniversary of the T206 set which includes 38 Hall of Famers, but also interesting personalities who aren't quite as well known. The mini-biographies should be a great read.

The T206 subjects were from all walks of life and had much different skill levels. The book gives a true idea of how baseball's 20th century development was shaped by the events and players of the time. You'll definitely learn something about early pro baseball in the pages of this T206 book.

Joe Orlando of PSA wrote the book's foreword, and an entire chapter on how the value of the cards in the set has evolved. For collectors of vintage baseball cards or fans of baseball history, we'd highly recommend T206-The Players and Their Stories.

T206 Book - The Players and Their Stories

T206 Players Video - Video vignettes of T206 Baseball Card Subjects

Who were the players in the T206 baseball card set? The folks who are bringing you T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories offer up short videos of some of the players featured in this iconic set.

Collecting the T206 Series

The most valuable baseball card set in the world

Despite their age, T206 baseball cards are relatively plentiful. Millions were printed and their unique, colorful nature made them a natural to collect, even in an era when baseball cards weren't in the mainstream.

Condition is another story. T206 cards are often found with creases because of their age and general lack of extreme care that was provided by those who handled them.

Thankfully, lower grade commons from the T206 series can be purchased at baseball card shows or on sites like eBay for a reasonable price and many collectors choose to purchase cards in mid to lower grade.

The T206 Honus Wagner card is expensive in any grade. Less than 100 are believed to exist because they were pulled from circulation early in the process, perhaps because Wagner was opposed to the association between smoking and baseball cards.

A collector paid $317,250 paid for a PSA 1 (poor condition) T206 Wagner in an April 2008 sale conducted by Robert Edward Auctions. The card's story was fascinating. An Atlanta man needing money and looking around his house for items to sell, discovered a stash of T206 tobacco cards early this year. Amazingly, the group included a Honus Wagner--the first new Wagner to surface in the sports collecting hobby for years. The man sent them to Beckett card grading, which consigned them to REA for the original owner.

A one and only PSA 8 Wagner, the first card graded by the company, sold for $2.35 million and is considered the "Holy Grail" of baseball cards, despite talk of it having been cut by hand from a sheet.

The Plank is rare for reasons that haven't been fully explained, while the two error cards--Magee and Doyle--exist in minuscule numbers as well.

A Plank card graded SGC 40 sold for $77,675 in the spring of 2008.

Collectors who don't want to tackle the set often chase the myriad Hall of Famers in the set. A Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb back, graded Fair by SGC, sold for $64,625 in REA's sale. The card had been purchased at auction by the consignor for $28,970. "He thought he was going to lose a few dollars because of the economy," said REA officials. "Instead it sold for more than double what he paid. That's a pretty big difference for such a major high-profile rarity."

A near complete mid-lower-grade set of T206 cards sold in August of 2008 (519 of 524 cards) for $33,600.

Many collectors prefer to have their cards graded and authenticated. Placed in a sealed plastic slab, they are protected and preserved with both sides visible. PSA grading is a one choice for vintage sports cards, but other vintage card collectors prefer SGC (Sportscard Guaranty) or Global Authentication (GAI).

The T206 series may be the most valuable baseball card set in existence, but it's not out of the reach for average collectors to own at least a few examples of this century-old favorite.

Vintage Baseball Card Market Stays Strong

REA Auction Highlighted by T206 Wagner Sale

The strength of the high-end baseball card and memorabilia market amazed collectors at Robert Edward's record-setting May 1, 2010 auction.

An astounding 181 lots sold for $10,000 or more.

The most anticipated baseball card and memorabilia auction in the world always generates great excitement and strong prices. Collectors, dealers, and market watchers look to REA's annual event as the key barometer of the health of the market and the most important auction event of the year.

According to REA president Robert Lifson, "The market was extremely strong. While common sense tells us that our market is not immune to problems in the larger economy, you'd never know it from the results. This was our most successful auction ever. More items sold for over $50,000 than ever before (twenty-eight lots), and more items sold for $100,000 or more than ever before (nine lots). It was also the smoothest running auction in all respects, including collecting the money. You'd think that there would be a few delays here and there in collecting money and getting it in the hands of consignors when you're talking about ten million dollars. There weren't. And all consignors were paid in full, 100 cents on the dollar with no adjustments due to nonpaying bidders, and in record time."

The positive numbers and the facts speak for themselves: No auction in history has ever generated the dollar volume of this auction for vintage baseball card sales. By virtually every measure, despite economic pressures of the economy, the historic spring REA auction was the most successful baseball card auction in the history of collecting. The total $10.12 million in sales for the auction set a new world record for a multi-owner all-consignment baseball card and memorabilia auction. This total also represents a new world record for any multi-consignor auction in which the auction house, auction house executives, and employees are prohibited from bidding in the auction. In fact, the $10.12 million dollar auction total is also a new record dollar volume ever to be hammered down in a single day in the history of sports collecting. No other sports card or memorabilia auction in the history of the universe (except REA) has ever sold anywhere near this dollar volume in a single day.

The stunning prices on all nineteenth and early twentieth century baseball cards and memorabilia totaled a staggering $10.12 million dollars across 1720 lots. The average lot sold for $5,883.

The T206 Honus Wagner (reserve $50,000) in the lowest possible grade (PSA 1) sold for $282,000. This card was named "The Connecticut Wagner" because in 1985 it was purchased by the consignor at a card convention in Connecticut for the then-princely sum of $10,000 and its mysterious whereabouts (until unveiled in this auction) have been completely unknown in the organized collecting world for the past twenty-five years.

Wagner Card Sold Privately for Top Price

A very respectable T206 Honus Wagner card is changing hands for a price close to $1 million.

California sports auctioneer Memory Lane Inc. has announced the record-setting sale of a T206 Honus Wagner.

The professionally authenticated card rated a grade of 40 (very good) by Sportscard Guaranty and sold for $925,000. It is the highest price paid for a Wagner card in this condition and the third highest recorded price ever paid for a baseball card of any kind. The top two are also Wagner cards; a near mint version that sold for $2.8 million in 2007 and an excellent condition copy that brought $1.62 million at auction last year.

Memory Lane brokered the sale between two unidentified east coast collectors. The owner had kept it in his personal collection for about ten years before deciding to sell.

The Wagner card's scarcity stems from the American Tobacco Company's decision to pull the card from production not long after its release in 1909. It's believed Wagner did not want early 20th century kids to have to buy packs of cigarettes to obtain his picture and demanded the card be removed from the now-iconic set of cards now cataloged as "T206". Long-time collectors and dealers believe that fewer than 100 T206 Wagner cards exist, perhaps no more than 60. The story behind the card and Wagner's status as a Hall of Famer have made it the most popular and desired card of all time.

"The sales price is just another indicator that the demand for Wagner cards is still much greater than the supply," said Memory Lane Inc.'s J.P. Cohen. "When one does come up for sale, there are usually collectors standing two or three deep waiting to buy it."

The Wagner card has also proven to be a great investment for those who have had the resources to purchase one. "It just keeps appreciating, " Cohen said. "This sale just continues the trend and proves the market for rare vintage baseball cards is alive and well."

The SGC 40 Wagner card exhibits better eye appeal than most of the Wagner cards that have been sold in recent years, without the heavy creasing that has accompanied some of them.

"The buyer said he has wanted one all his life and we're glad we were able to help him buy a very nice one," said Cohen.

T206 Doyle error card
T206 Doyle error card

T206 Doyle error card sells for big bucks

Get the skinny on some rare baseball cards seen here that were recently sold

A T206 Doyle "hands over head "NY Nat'l" variation has sold at auction for $186, 155. The Joe Doyle card was printed with the "NY Nat'l" label at the bottom.

The problem? Doyle played in the American League. The printer apparently got him confused with Laughing Larry Doyle, a player for the National League team in Gotham.

Only a handful of the Doyle error card exists...possibly as few as eight.

The card sold by Goodwin & Co auctions was graded "Authentic" thanks to some condition issues, but the demand for the card is much, much higher than the supply. The Doyle is several times harder to find than the much more famous T206 Honus Wagner.

T206 on Amazon

Shop for vintage baseball cards and baseball card books.

1962 Article Pinpoints T206 Issue Dates

Exactly when were T206 cards issued?

The following article appeared in an issue of The Sport Hobbyist, a popular collecting mailer of the time.

(T206 cards) were issued in three separate series which overlapped each other. The exact release dates are very difficult to determine but after considerable research, I find many instances wherein the approximate dates can be found. For instance, Wid Conroy was transferred from the New York American League Highlanders to the Washington Senators on Feb. 17, 1909. This date can be safely stated as being the earliest issue date of the 150 series since conroy is shown as a Washington player in the 150 series. Had these cards been issued prior to Feb. 17, 1909, Conroy would have worn a New York unfirom.

There are two identical cards for G. Brown; one in the 150 series with the ChicagoImage Cubs and the other in the 350 series with Washington. Brown switched teams on May 12, 1909 so it appears that the 150 series did not extend much beyond that datae.

On the other hand, Neal Ball was also shown with two teams. Cards with a 'New York' were issued in both the 150 and 350 series. Ball was sent from New York to Cleveland on May 17, 1909 which certainly shows that the change from the 150 series to the 350 series was made before May 17, 1909. This is proved conclusively in the case of Bad Bill Burns of the Chicago White Sox who came to them from Washington in a trade on May 16, 1909. The card for Burns was issued in the 350 series showing definitely that the series could not have started before May 16, 1909.

We arrive at near certain evidence that the change from the 350 series to theImage 350-460 series was made by the same manner of deduction. On October 27, 1909, Bill Dahlen was sent from the Boston Rustlers to the Brooklyn Superbas. There are two identical cards for Dahlen also. The Boston card was isued in both the 350 and the 350-460 series which proves nothing new except that the 350 series was still in circulation on Oct. 27.

The earliest date of issue for the 350-460 series must be Dec. 16, 1909 since on that day Lake and Demitt were traded by the New York Americans to the St. Louis Browns for Lou Criger. To substantiate that fact, Lake of St. Louis was issued in the 350 series as well as the 350-460 series so more correct data would be somewhere during the early part of 1910 since we have found that the 350 series was still being issued on Dec. 16, 1909.

The 350-460 series was being issued as late as April 6, 1910 as witness the case of Harry McIntire (errooneously spelled McIntyre on the card) of Brooklyn as well as the card stating Brooklyn and Chicago. McIntire changed from a Brooklyn uniform into one of Chicago's on April 6, 1910.

As we sum up our findings my opinion is that the 150 series began very soon after Feb. 17, 1909 and continued until May 16, 1909 when the 350 series started. The latter ended in 1910 when the 350-460 series began. If my memory serves me right, the last two series were put into the Piedmont (cigarettes), Sweet Caporl and other brands as late as 1911.

In addition to the McIntire misspelling, there were a few others also. Willett spelled Willetts. Another error was Doolin of the Phillies. There was a player by that name in the majors. He was Mike doolin. The 1907 Reach guide also misspelled the name so the cigarette people naturally figured there was a Doolin.

The Montgomery team is generally thought of as being in the South Atlantic League. However, they were members of the Southern Association from 1903 until 1914 and during the issuance of these cards.

Newspaper Ad for Tobacco Packs Containing T206!

Yes, minor league ballplayers were included in the T206 set.

Here's a copy of a newspaper ad that appeared in newspapers across the south promoting the Southern League players that were included in the T206 set.

T206 Wagner, Charlie Sheen, Burglars and the FBI

This T206 comes with a history!

The T206 Wagner card offered in Robert Edward Auctions' spring 2008 catalog sale was the very same card that was once owned by actor Charlie Sheen and it comes with quite a story.

Sheen, a noted baseball memorabilia collector, allowed the card to be displayed at the All Star Café in New York. In a plot worthy of a TV episode, many years ago the card was stolen from its display case by workers at the All Star Café, and replaced with a copy! When the theft was discovered, the thieves were soon caught, and the Wagner card was recovered by the FBI! The card is a low-grade example but a T206 Wagner is extremely valuable in any condition. It has a minimum bid of $50,000 and is expected to sell for in excess of $100,000.

The highlight of the two complete sets of T206 cards being offered by REA was one of the finest T206 White Border sets ever assembled, the seventh highest-graded T206 set on the PSA registry, a total of 520 cards with a grade point average of 5.65 (on a scale of 1-10), offered as a single lot, including four PSA NM-MT 8, seventy-one PSA NM 7, 277 PSA EX-MT 6, 163 PSA EX 5, four PSA VG-EX 4 (est. $100,000+, res. $50,000).

In addition to two sets of 1909-1911 T206 White Border tobacco cards, many other rarities from the set was presented for individual sale. These include four examples of the rare T206 Eddie Plank (one graded EX-MT 6 by PSA); five T206 Magie error cards; and numerous extremely high-grade T206 examples.

T206 Wagner Sold for $826,000

New York sports memorabilia auction

Phillip Weiss Auctions of New York sold a T206 Honus Wagner card for $826,000 at its most recent sports card and memorabilia auciton.

The card had not been in the sports collecting marketplace before. It is graded SGC 40--a mid to lower grade example, but still very respectable. The latest addition to the publicly known collection of most valuable baseball cards was expected to sell for at least $500-800,000. The final bid was $700,000. With the 18% buyer's premium, the final bid topped the pre-sale estimate, indicating that the vintage card market remains quite strong. The price, however, was about half of what a slightly better grade Wagner sold for last summer in a Mastro Auctions sale.

The Wagner card sold by Weiss generated over 40 bids with bidding live, by phone or eBay Live.

Yet another Wagner card, once the subject of a robbery at the All-Star Cafe several years ago, will be offered by Robert Edward Auctions next spring. It's been in the hands of a private collector and is graded PSA 1 (poor-fair).

The final realized price for the Wagner sold earlier this year was $1.62 million. The buyer was John Rogers, a collector from Arkansas. The card graded PSA 5. That was believed to be the second highest price ever paid for a baseball card.

As we mentioned, the T206 Wagner tops any list of the world's most valuable baseball cards.

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T206 Ty Cobb with Cobb back
T206 Ty Cobb with Cobb back

Recent High Dollar T206 Sales

Some high prices paid for super high quality and rare T206 cards

Ty Cobb (with Ty Cobb back) PSA 1.5 $135,402

Eddie Plank PSA 3 $52,638.83

Frank Chance (yellow back) PSA 9 $48,522.80

Bobby Wallace PSA 9 $48,522.80

Hughie Jennings PSA 9 $48,522.80

George Mullin PSA 10 $47,853.05

Walter Johnson PSA 9 $47,853

Ray Demitt PSA 7 $29,563

Rube Marquard SGC 96 $27,010

134 different with 31 Hall of Famers $10,812

Sports Collectors Daily News Widget - Sports collecting news headlines for your site

Grab the headlines from Sports Collectors Daily with this cool widget. Sports Collectors Daily updates with fresh stories from in and around the sports memorabilia industry/hobby Monday through Friday, gleaned from sources coast to coast. Perk up your site or blog with the sports collecting widget.

T206Card.com is totally devoted to the set. It includes links to all T206 cards being sold on eBay.

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    • JK Sterling profile image

      Jim Sterling 5 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

      Thanks for this great lens.

    • yano jl profile image

      yano jl 6 years ago

      When the Marlins became a team in the 90's, I bought a bunch of cards for their first-ever official player, Clemente Nunez. I thought for sure this would end up a collectors item one day - a little piece of baseball history time-capsuled for the future. Sadly, Mr. Nunez never saw the field, the baseball card is worthless and the Marlins have sunk to new lows since their last successful season in 03. Great site: 1 more SquidLike for you!

    • lefty78 profile image

      lefty78 8 years ago

      Great lens! check out my group Total Baseball

    • profile image

      MackyJay 8 years ago

      Back to add to last blurb a little. Needless to say when I got back home and found out what my parents had done I flew threw the roof. Why they thought I would not want my stuff I don't know as they knew I was a pack rat and did not throw any thing away that wasn't total garbage. Along with the T206s, I was also(and still am) a big Yankees fan. Grew up in the 50s so had about every Mantle, Berra, Ford and so forth card as well as several from the big stars of the day. Also used to collect Comics too. All of this stuff got thrown out. Even then the prices would have been fairly large. Went into the Army in 1968 and would not have even thought about selling any of my stuff at that time, so would have still had all of that stuff till way into the late 70s or 80s before I would have thought about selling. Now you can see what I could have had for money now. OUCH AND DOUBLE OUCH. LOL

    • SportsCollectorsD profile image
      Author

      SportsCollectorsD 8 years ago

      [in reply to MackyJay] Threw your stuff away?! That's not nice. I've never understood why parents would do that without asking first...no matter what we're talking about.

    • profile image

      MackyJay 8 years ago

      Looking over the price ranges for these T206 cards should sends a stab of regret through me at what my parents cost me. When I was about 8 or 9 years old my greatgrandmother passed away. While cleaning out her house they handed my an old cigar box and said, Here you might enjoy these. Inside was approx. 60 to 70 cards which I later found out to be called T206s. This was also the first time I had heard of some of the players in it. Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, etc. Do not now remember all in it except for this piece of heartbreak--there were two of almost every player and some had 3 or 4 of them and none were singles. I kept those cards separate from every thing else I owned and would not allow anyone to touch them unless I were present. Packed all of my stuff up and put it in the back of a closet and left for the Army (drafted). While I was gone(only 6months and got medical discharge) my parents threw almost all of my stuff away. see next blurb

    • CollectorsCottage profile image

      CollectorsCottage 9 years ago

      Excellent 5 star lens with great information! We'll all be keeping our eyes open for "The Plank" now! ;) Welcome to the Collector Clubs group! You're welcome to submit any of your other collecting lenses to the group as well.