PSA Magazine

PSA Set Registry: The Challenge of a Lifetime - A Look at the 1909-11 T206 Tobacco Baseball Card Set

Greg Bussineau and Joe Orlando
Apr 27, 2004

By Joe Orlando and Greg Bussineau


n the hobby, there are a host of challenges that collectors encounter each day but no challenge may be greater than attempting to complete a T206 baseball set in high-grade –especially if a collector wanted to include all the great rarities that help make this issue so special.

Years ago, a gentleman by the name of Kirk Harris assembled an incredible T206 group but later auctioned it off through the notable veterans at SportsCards Plus for over $1,000,000! That set, interestingly enough, did not include the Honus Wagner card. Once that collection was disassembled, it was time for someone else to step up to the plate and attempt this massive undertaking.

Very few have attempted this since but, today, there are a small group of collectors working on PSA graded T206 sets and not just any sets – but high-grade sets. What is even more incredible today is the renewed interest in the lower grades. As many of you may have noticed, one of the hottest areas of the market is low-to-mid grade T206's.

It was really just a matter of time. When you combine the fact that these cards are about 100 years old, they feature beautiful artwork and the set includes so many classic keys – it's no wonder that collectors have once again been drawn to these tobacco gems. This set seems to offer everything a collector would want in a particular issue.

Hobby veteran Greg Bussineau has put together some thoughts about this legendary set, providing collectors with the basics and the detail needed to fully comprehend the challenge that lies ahead.

The T206 set is a true classic! It is the most comprehensive set of the twentieth-century tobacco card era, with 524 different cards. Not until the 1952 Topps issue did any set feature as many major-league cards as the T206.

The T206 is perhaps the most studied and chronicled sports card set ever issued, yet new observations and discoveries are constantly being made. This set contains the most famous and expensive sports card ever issued, the T206 Honus Wagner. It also includes dozens of Hail-of—Famer cards, which feature many immortals of the game.

These cards were absolutely beautiful, extremely high-quality full-color lithographs. The artwork and color combinations on some of the cards are truly stunning. The standard measurements for this set are 1 7/16" x 2 5/8", although many issues vary in size. Several come shorter than 1 7/16" right to left, and longer than 2 5/8" top to bottom.

The T206 set is one of the three most important issues of all-time (along with the 1933 Goudey and 1952 Topps sets). Although in lower grades many of these cards are fairly common, in high-grade (NM or better) all T206s are rare and several are either extremely rare or virtually unknown. There are literally thousands of T206 collectors, so demand for these cards is extremely strong and broad based.

This set has a long history of steady price appreciation, and I think that it still holds fantastic future potential. It would definitely be in your best financial interest to study the T206 set, develop an accumulation strategy, and then go about selectively purchasing some really great cards!


T206 Rarities

 PlayerExplanationCurrent SMR "8" Value
1Honus Wagnerfew examples exist$1,265,000
2Ed Plankfew examples exist$200,000
3Sherry "Magie" Mageeerror card$53,000
4Bill O'Harafew examples exist$16,500
5Joe Doylecaption variation$178,598
6Ray Demmittteam chg.$18,500
7Kid Elberfeld (portrait)team chg.$7,250
8Carl Lundgrenteam chg.$1,850
9George Brownteam chg.$4,000
10Frank Smithteam chg.$410
11Red Kleinowteam chg.$1,400
12Bill Dahlenteam chg.$2,000


By The Numbers

The T206 set was produced by the American Tobacco Trust as a sales premium for their tobacco products. The set was produced over a three-year period of time, 1909-1911. It was issued in three different series: the "150 Series," the "350 Series" and the "460 Series." Because of several variations, a total of 524 different cards were issued.

Eight cards were differentiated by a team change (George Brown, Bill Dahlen, Ray Demmitt, Kid Elberfeld, Red Kleinow, Carl Lundgren, Bill O'Hara and Frank Smith). One player, Sherry Magee, was issued with both a misspelled name (Magie) and a correctly spelled name. The Joe Doyle card came in two varieties; one with "N.Y. Nat'l" listed at the bottom and one with "N.Y." listed at the bottom. Close to 150 cards were multiple design formats or color schemes for the same player.

Many cards featured minor-league players, including several very scarce cards featuring Southern Leaguers. Hal Chase is the player with the most number of different cards (five), followed by Ty Cobb, John McGraw, and Joe Tinker (each with four). Several other players have three cards issued of them.

Interestingly, some prominent Hall-of-Famers only had one card: Home Run Baker, Eddie Collins, Hugh Duffy, Joe McGinnity, Tris Speaker, Ed Walsh and Zack Wheat. Most of these players were either just beginning their careers or had already ended them when the T206 set was produced.


Most Important T206 Hall of Famers

 PlayerExplanationCurrent SMR "8" Value
1Home Run Bakeronly card issued$1,850
2aChief Benderportrait$1,900
2bChief Benderpitching with trees$3,500
2cChief Benderpitching no trees$2,200
3aRoger Bresnahanportrait$1,850
3bRoger Bresnahanwith bat$1,750
4aMordecai BrownChicago$1,850
4bMordecai BrownCubs$2,300
4cMordecai BrownPortrait$2,500
5aFrank Chancebatting$1,850
5bFrank Chanceportrait-red$2,350
5cFrank Chanceportrait-yellow$2,500
6Jack Chesbroonly card issued$2,300
7aTy Cobbportrait-red$12,500
7bTy Cobbportrait-green$35,000
7cTy Cobbbat off shoulder$13,000
7dTy Cobbbat on shoulder$17,000
8aWillie Keelerportrait$4,000
8bWillie Keelerwith bat$3,850
9Eddie Collinsonly card issued$1,850
10aSam Crawfordthrowing$3,000
10bSam Crawfordwith bat$1,750
11aJohnny Eversportrait$3,150
11bJohnny Everswith bat, Chicago$2,800
11cJohnny Everswith bat, Cubs$1,850
12Miller Hugginshands at mouth or portrait$1,800
13Hughie Jennings1 hand, both hands, or portrait$1,950
14aWalter Johnsonportrait$11,250
14bWalter Johnsonhands at chest$10,000
15aAddie Josshands at chest$1,750
15bAddie Jossportrait$2,100
16aNap Lajoieportrait$3,900
16bNap Lajoiethrowing$3,200
16cNap Lajoiewith bat$3,350
17aRube Marquardhands at thighs$1,850
17bRube Marquardpitching$1,750
17cRube Marquardportrait$2,500
18aChristy Mathewsondark cap$6,400
18bChristy Mathewsonwhite cap$6,500
18cChristy Mathewsonportrait$11,000
19aJohn McGrawfinger in air$1,850
19bJohn McGrawglove at hip$2,700
19cJohn McGrawportrait-no cap$2,250
19dJohn McGrawportrait-cap$2,200
20Tris Speakeronly card issued$5,750
21aJoe Tinkerbat off shoulder$2,000
21bJoe Tinkerbat on shoulder$2,200
21cJoe Tinkerhands on knee$2,850
21dJoe Tinkerportrait$3,200
22aRube Waddellportrait$2,200
22bRube Waddellthrowing$1,850
23Ed Walshonly card issued$3,500
24Zack Wheatonly card issued$3,300
25aCy Youngglove$9,000
25bCy Youngbare hand shows$8,500
25cCy Youngportrait$11,000