Is a six-figure baseball card 'underrated'? If that card is the T206 Eddie Plank, it just might be. While the Honus Wagner card from vintage collecting's most popular set gets most of the attention inside and outside the hobby, the Plank card flies under the radar to those who haven't really studied it. Small headlines are generated when one comes to auction, but there are reasons to believe it's worthy of attention--and maybe the investment dollars of those who can afford it.
Some have estimated that no more than 100 Plank cards exist today. That's not far above the general estimate of 75 surviving Wagners. Check out a list of selling prices for Wagner cards and you'll see they are often auction toppers. A Wagner card in low grade usually brings $200-400,000. A low end Plank? Maybe $50-75,000.
Like Wagner, Plank is a Hall of Famer; one of the greatest left-handed pitchers who ever lived. His T206 card is one of the keys to a master set. The Dutchman's face is an American icon, and the story behind his card being pulled from production in 1909 helps the card retain its status as an American collectible treasure. Eddie? Known only to serious collectors.
We don't know for certain why Wagner's card was dropped, but there is evidence to suggest he didn't want kids to have to buy tobacco to get his baseball card. Plank's scarcity is even more of a mystery. Was he pulled because of a similar stance? Did production adjustments because of Wagner's loss play into it? We don't know. The mystery only adds to the intrigue.
Most Plank cards come with a Sweet Caporal cigarette ad on the back, but not all. EX-MT graded copies have brought $155,000-193,000 at auction in the last few years. A PSA 3 sold at auction in 2010 for $75,082.
A small number of T206 Plank cards, a number that might be able to be counted on one hand--carry an ad for Piedmont. Evidence suggests they may have been cut from a sheet, but either way, the Piedmont Plank trumps most any vintage card in terms of scarcity. Robert Edward Auctions sold a low grade copy for $41,125 last spring. In 2009, they sold an aesthetically pleasing Piedmont Plank that may have been cut from a sheet and graded 'Authentic' by grading company policy, for $111,625.
It's a safe bet to say the Wagner card will continue to appreciate in value. Demand remains far greater than supply and historical data proves it's been a good investment for the lucky few who own them. What does the future hold for the T206 Eddie Plank? When one studies the set, the auction results and the other factors that generally determine the value of any trading card, it's hard not to believe it might have even more room for growth, especially the Piedmont variation that only a very exclusive club will ever get the chance to own.