PSA Magazine


Set Registry

The Challenge of a Lifetime, A look at the T206 Tobacco Card Set

By Joe Orlando and Greg Bussineau


In 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

  Player Explanation Current SMR "8" Value
1 Honus Wagner few examples exist $1,265,000
2 Ed Plank few examples exist $200,000
3 Sherry "Magie" Magee error card $53,000
4 Bill O'Hara few examples exist $16,500
5 Joe Doyle caption variation $178,598
6 Ray Demmitt team chg. $18,500
7 Kid Elberfeld (portrait) team chg. $7,250
8 Carl Lundgren team chg. $1,850
9 George Brown team chg. $4,000
10 Frank Smith team chg. $410
11 Red Kleinow team chg. $1,400
12 Bill Dahlen team 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

  Player Explanation Current SMR "8" Value
1 Home Run Baker only card issued $1,850
2a Chief Bender portrait $1,900
2b Chief Bender pitching with trees $3,500
2c Chief Bender pitching no trees $2,200
3a Roger Bresnahan portrait $1,850
3b Roger Bresnahan with bat $1,750
4a Mordecai Brown Chicago $1,850
4b Mordecai Brown Cubs $2,300
4c Mordecai Brown Portrait $2,500
5a Frank Chance batting $1,850
5b Frank Chance portrait-red $2,350
5c Frank Chance portrait-yellow $2,500
6 Jack Chesbro only card issued $2,300
7a Ty Cobb portrait-red $12,500
7b Ty Cobb portrait-green $35,000
7c Ty Cobb bat off shoulder $13,000
7d Ty Cobb bat on shoulder $17,000
8a Willie Keeler portrait $4,000
8b Willie Keeler with bat $3,850
9 Eddie Collins only card issued $1,850
10a Sam Crawford throwing $3,000
10b Sam Crawford with bat $1,750
11a Johnny Evers portrait $3,150
11b Johnny Evers with bat, Chicago $2,800
11c Johnny Evers with bat, Cubs $1,850
12 Miller Huggins hands at mouth or portrait $1,800
13 Hughie Jennings 1 hand, both hands, or portrait $1,950
14a Walter Johnson portrait $11,250
14b Walter Johnson hands at chest $10,000
15a Addie Joss hands at chest $1,750
15b Addie Joss portrait $2,100
16a Nap Lajoie portrait $3,900
16b Nap Lajoie throwing $3,200
16c Nap Lajoie with bat $3,350
17a Rube Marquard hands at thighs $1,850
17b Rube Marquard pitching $1,750
17c Rube Marquard portrait $2,500
18a Christy Mathewson dark cap $6,400
18b Christy Mathewson white cap $6,500
18c Christy Mathewson portrait $11,000
19a John McGraw finger in air $1,850
19b John McGraw glove at hip $2,700
19c John McGraw portrait-no cap $2,250
19d John McGraw portrait-cap $2,200
20 Tris Speaker only card issued $5,750
21a Joe Tinker bat off shoulder $2,000
21b Joe Tinker bat on shoulder $2,200
21c Joe Tinker hands on knee $2,850
21d Joe Tinker portrait $3,200
22a Rube Waddell portrait $2,200
22b Rube Waddell throwing $1,850
23 Ed Walsh only card issued $3,500
24 Zack Wheat only card issued $3,300
25a Cy Young glove $9,000
25b Cy Young bare hand shows $8,500
25c Cy Young portrait $11,000
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