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Ed Walsh

1909-1911 T206 White Border

The 1909 to 1911 T206 baseball card set has long been considered one of the most, if not the most, important issues in the entire hobby. The visual appeal of the cards, the immense size of the set, and the incredible player selection make this treasure a collector favorite. Along with the 1933 Goudey and 1952 Topps sets, the classic T206 set is one of “The Big Three” in the world of baseball cards.

You can easily make the argument that “The Monster,” as it is commonly referred to, is truly the pinnacle of all trading cards sets. It is much larger than the 1933 Goudey set, requiring more than twice the amount of cards to complete. It is also arguably more visually appealing than the 1952 Topps set due to the superb artwork used in the design.

Furthermore, the 524-card T206 set is home to the most valuable trading card in the world, the card that has become the symbol of the hobby itself. Of course, I am referring to the Mona Lisa of trading cards . . . the T206 Honus Wagner. The Wagner card shares the limelight with 75 other cards featuring members of baseball’s Hall of Fame, but it is worth more than the other 523 cards combined, assuming they are in the same condition. At the time of this writing (2009), the highest price ever paid for any trading card was $2.8 million, a Wagner example that was graded NM-MT 8 by Professional Sports Authenticator, the leading third-party authentication and grading service.

The Wagner card is so desirable that even low-grade copies that receive only a Poor 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 (the lowest possible grade on the PSA grading scale) have fetched $400,000 at auction. The card, like the set itself, has taken on a life of its own and become an iconic collectible. While Wagner was a true legend of the game and one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history, the card depicting this Hall of Fame member has certainly surpassed the man himself in terms of fame.

Yes, the T206 set may be the most significant release in hobby history. Yes, Honus Wagner was one of the most significant players ever to put on a uniform. Yes, after being pulled from production early on by the manufacturer, only 50 or so examples of this card are known to exist, making it one of the true rarities in the trading card world. All of these facts may be true, but the reason why the T206 Wagner has reached such lofty heights in value is the story behind the man and the card.

The most prevalent misconception about this great card is that it is the rarest of the rare, resulting in its staggering value. What may come as a surprise to most casual collectors or even noncollectors is the fact that the T206 Wagner is not nearly as scarce as some other notable trading card rarities. The number of surviving copies is only part of the story.

There is more than one theory behind the rarity of the card, including a simple contract dispute theory. Many people believe Honus Wagner wanted his card pulled from production because Wagner, though an avid user of tobacco himself, did not want to promote tobacco to children since the cards were packaged with various brands of cigarettes. Knowing what we now know about the dangers of tobacco, especially as it relates to cigarettes, this stance taken by Wagner over 100 years ago becomes all the more interesting.

As with most other great collectibles, such as autographs, game-used equipment, and original photographs, the stories behind the items make them interesting and desirable. Every collectible, in its own way, is a conversation piece. How were these cards distributed? What makes this game-used bat special? Why did Babe Ruth sign this particular document? Every collectible has a story.

This is also true of every figure the collectible relates to, and that is what makes this particular book different from so many of the published hobby guides released over the years. If Honus Wagner were a relatively unknown player, would his T206 card carry the value it has today? No. If a Mickey Mantle game-used bat was instead used by Mickey Vernon, would it be worth anywhere near the same amount? No. Would a baseball signed by Jackie Robinson and one signed by Jackie Jensen be valued the same? No. I think you get the point.

Above all, it is the story behind the person that drives the majority of the value. Otherwise, it may be just a card or just a bat or just a ball. More often than not, it is the sports figure’s name that makes the collectible special. This book takes a look at each individual pictured on the cards, from superstars of the day like Ty Cobb and Cy Young to lesser-known major and minor leaguers like Clyde Engle and Bill Cranston. Each player has a story and each player contributed to the game . . . and all of them are part of the “monstrosity” known as the T206 set.

Today, we see virtually everything and know almost everything about current players, both on and off the field. In some cases, I would argue that we are presented with too much information, but this is the culture we live in today. With the immense sports coverage on television and the multitude of Internet sites devoted to sports, it seems as if the modern athlete cannot move a muscle without being caught on camera.

We do not have that luxury when it comes to learning about baseball players who were active during the early part of the 20th century. We often have to rely on period photographs and statistical information, at least whatever statistics can be found, in order to paint the picture of a time long past, to tell the story of the players who made history before history was documented on film after every pitch, every swing, and every catch.

That is what this book is all about, the story behind each man found in this legendary set, men who put on a uniform during a time when the equipment was a bit crude and the game wasn’t plagued by performance-enhancing-drug controversies. The game of baseball, no matter the era, is a terrific sport. Somehow, it is complicated yet simple at the same time. Its combatants must use almost equal combinations of brain and brawn in order to defeat their foes, perhaps more so than in any other sport.

Like the game of chess, every move has an impact on the outcome. For the astute fan, there are many games within the game that go unnoticed by the casual spectator, but it is all part of what makes baseball so interesting. The subtle communication between defenders as they position themselves before each hitter, the tension between a base runner trying to steal a base and the catcher trying to stop him, and managers trying to outthink each other on every play are all part of the complicated dance known as baseball. Complexity defines the sport, and that term may best describe the iconic T206 set.

- Joe Orlando: The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories

Edward Augustine “Ed” Walsh

Born: May 14, 1881 - Plains Township, PA
Died: May 26, 1959 - Pompano Beach, FL
Batted: RH
Threw: RH
Position: P
MLB Pitching Record: 195–126
ERA: 1.82
Managerial Record: 1–2

Chicago White Sox AL (1904–1916; manager: 1924)
Boston Braves NL (1917)

Over a span of six years from 1907 to 1912, “Big Ed” Walsh was as good as or better than any Major League pitcher. During that time, he averaged 25 wins and 374 innings pitched per season, with an average ERA well below 2.00. His overall lifetime earned-run average of 1.82 is still a Major League record. Walsh helped the White Sox to the pennant in 1906 with his 17–13 record and 1.88 ERA. The Sox beat their crosstown rivals, the Cubs, 4–2 in the Series with the support of Walsh’s fine pitching. His 2–0 record with a miniscule 0.60 ERA and 17 Ks was a sign of things to come.

In 1908 Walsh led the league with his 40 wins, 42 complete games, 11 shutouts, 6 saves, 464 innings pitched, 269 strikeouts, and .727 win-loss percentage. One point of reference is that Walsh’s “out pitch” was the spitter that was later banned from baseball. Although he played a total of 14 seasons in the majors, the years after 1912 were unproductive for Walsh. After that season, his arm was pretty much burned out, but he managed to stick around for five more years. Ed Walsh certainly left his mark, however. Besides holding the record for the lowest career ERA in MLB history, he led the American League in innings pitched on four occasions; ranks number two all-time in WHIP (1.00), and had a total of five 200-plus strikeout seasons.

Over and above his playing skills and stats, Walsh is credited with helping to design Comiskey Park, which opened in 1910. After his playing days, he coached the White Sox and then managed the team during the 1924 season. Walsh lost nearly everything in the Great Depression and ended up running the baseball school in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Recreation Department. He later worked for the Meriden, Connecticut, water department and became a golf pro. Ed Walsh was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946. 

– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html

Click link to see a complete population breakdown by tobacco brand/back.

Condition Census

Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 NM-MT+ 8.5
2 NM-MT 8
2 NM-MT 8
2 NM-MT 8
2 NM-MT 8
2 NM-MT 8
2 NM-MT 8
2 NM-MT 8
2 NM-MT 8
2 NM-MT 8

Prices By Grade


Grade Most Recent Price Average Price SMR Price Population POP Higher
GEM - MT 10
NM - MT 8 $5,875.00 $9,000.00 4
NM 7 $560.25 $3,000.00 6 4
EX - MT 6 $1,026.00 $1,026.00 $1,350.00 16 11
EX 5 $480.00 $480.00 $550.00 41 27
VG - EX 4 $482.00 $490.50 $275.00 43 68
VG 3 $131.45 $150.00 42 115
GOOD 2 $75.00 24 160
FR 1.5 185
PR 1 $169.98 $120.27 $45.00 19 185
Auth 205

Auction Prices Realized

Date Price Grade Lot # Auction House Auction/Seller Type Cert
09/16/2020 $482 4 114399046368 eBay shufixer Auction 02003953
07/17/2020 $600 4 143659039191 eBay lukesvintagecards Best Offer 02003953
04/29/2020 $170 1 184221711328 eBay baseballguru2323 Buy It Now 90557215
03/17/2020 $71 1 372981880421 eBay aaacoll Auction 90557215
03/16/2020 $499 4 114150427767 eBay bdsales Auction 05145404
12/08/2019 $1,026 6 143455483518 eBay pwcc_auctions Auction 02468827
07/22/2019 $2,760 6 80212 Heritage Auctions 2019 July 18 - 20 Summer Sports Card Catalog Auction Auction 11364679
04/09/2019 $1,375 6 143194030927 eBay pwcc_auctions Auction 02468827
12/16/2018 $288 4 43014 Heritage Auctions Sunday Internet Sports Collectibles Auction Ended Dec 16th Auction 02003953
08/07/2017 $480 5 322626946357 eBay popinforbass Auction 12232961
05/28/2017 $432 7 (OC) 44018 Heritage Auctions Sunday Internet Sports Collectibles Auction Ended May 28th Auction 05023338
03/12/2017 $521 5 401284757949 eBay pwcc_auctions Auction 12448690
11/27/2016 $120 4 (MK) 44026 Heritage Auctions Sunday Internet Sports Collectibles Auction Nov 27, 2016 Auction 31558616
11/08/2014 $956 6 80239 Heritage Auctions 2014 November 6 - 8 Sports Catalog Auction - Dal... Nov 8, 2014 Auction 06503825
05/15/2014 $3,556 5 159 Goodwin and Co. Auctions Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons LV Auction 02035970
02/07/2014 $466 5 560 Goldin Auctions Winter 2014 Auction Closing Feb 7 Auction 31091836
12/13/2013 $468 5 130 SCP Auctions Fall Premier Auction 2013 Auction 11138562
06/06/2013 $176 4 420 Goodwin and Co. Auctions Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XLIX Auction 40487126
06/15/2012 $361 5 291 Lelands Spring 2012 Catalog Auction Auction 11909710
06/26/2011 $131 3 41036 Heritage Auctions Sunday Internet Sports Collectibles Auction Jun 26, 2011 Auction 11055041
12/02/2010 $377 5 301 Goodwin and Co. Auctions Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XXX Auction 90353689
01/01/2009 $5,875 8 242 Robert Edward Auctions 2009 Auction Auction 09031677
05/18/2008 $706 6 211 Memory Lane, Inc. Spring Fever Rarities Auction 04505977
01/28/2007 $120 3 12098 Heritage Auctions Monthly Internet Sports Auction Jan 28, 2007 Auction 07035306
11/06/2006 $1,776 6 166 SCP Auctions SCP Auctions November 2006 Internet Auction Auction 04505977
06/25/2006 $131 3 10003 Heritage Auctions Amazing Sports Auction Jun 25, 2006 Auction 31558617
05/28/2006 $120 4 (MK) 12051 Heritage Auctions Amazing Sports Auction May 28, 2006 Auction 31558616
06/26/2005 $311 5 10021 Heritage Auctions Amazing Sports Auction Jun 26, 2005 Auction 31018898
12/31/2001 $560 7 1368 Lelands December 2001 Auction 01811299
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