The American Tobacco Company’s successor to their T206 baseball card product, T205 cigarette cards are often overlooked because of how closely they followed after T206.
No, there is not an ultra-rare Honus Wagner card in the set worth millions, nor is there a Honus Wagner card in the set at all. What the 220 card set does feature are gorgeous gold borders. Yes, they are actually metallic as David Cycleback explained a couple of months ago in his Guide to Authenticating Pre-War Baseball Cards article.
Like T206, the T205 set once again offered a wide variety of variations and short prints as the backs of the cards vary greatly depending on what type of cigarette/tobacco brand they were pulled from. In all, there are 17 different backs to chase if you desire.
Putting together a complete, basic set without regard to variations can be expensive and so can higher grade examples of the many Hall of Famers like Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. That doesn’t mean you can’t own some great cards. Let’s take a look at five underrated T205 cards you might want to consider adding to your collection, most of which can be found in an eye-pleasing grade for under $200.
Eddie Collins (closed mouth)
A lifetime .333 hitter who stole nearly 750 bases in his big league career, Eddie Collins made his way into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame on his fourth ballot in 1939. He was one of the best of his time although his legacy is marred a bit by his time as a General Manager after his prejudice against black, Jewish and Catholic baseball players was revealed.
In the T205 set, there are two different cards of Collins. While his open mouth card is more popular and fetches more money, the T205 card of Collins with his mouth closed is often overlooked since it is a bit more common. While the open mouth variant fetches $500 in PSA 5 condition, the closed mouth variation sometimes fetches much less than that on eBay.
Roger Bresnahan (closed mouth)
Like Eddie Collins, Roger Bresnahan is a Hall of Famer, but his career is often overlooked. A catcher who hit .279 in his career and 26 home runs in 17 big league seasons, Bresnahan may not seem like a Hall of Fame player, but behind the backstop he gunned down 45% of attempted base stealers in his career. He’s also credited with being the first catcher to regularly wear shin guards (a very unpopular and controversial move when he debuted them in 1907) and developed an early version of the batting helmet 30 years before they became fairly common.
Bresnahan also has two different cards in the T205 set, the same variants as Collins. His open mouth card is the one collectors want making the closed mouth variant a low-key option that flies under the radar a bit. While the open mouth option card goes for $515 in a PSA 5, the closed mouth variant can be found for much less.
A member of both Chicago Cubs World Series Championships who led the National League in home runs in 1903, James Sheckard might not be a Hall of Famer, but he certainly had an interesting career. The only player to hit two inside the park grand slams in two consecutive games, Sheckard had an unreal year in 1911 as well. That year, he led the league with the highest on-base percentage after drawing 147 walks in 156 games while striking out just 58 times. To put it this way, his OBP was 158 points higher than his batting average (.276 average compared to a .434 OBP).
Despite all he accomplished, Sheckard is not in the Hall of Fame, and the prices of his cards reflect the spot he does not have in Cooperstown. His T205 card in PSA 6 condition typically fetches $200 according to recent sales and PSA’s website but slightly lower grade examples can be had for under $100.
A lifetime .268 hitter who found his way into the Hall of Fame, Bobby Wallace hit, pitched, managed and umpired his way to Cooperstown. Despite the fact that he had a significantly lower lifetime OBP than Bill Mueller (41 points), Wallace will still go down as one of the all-time greats.
Although there are three different cards of his from the T205 set, the most overlooked one is the one in which he is wearing a cap. Those where he is not wearing a cap catch a pretty penny, especially the version with just one line of stats on the back. A PSA 5 of him wearing a hat goes for a little over $400 while the one line of stat card without a hat would command nearly $2,000. Check them out here and decide which you like best.
The Pete Rose of his time, Hal Chase did not set the record for most hits in MLB history. Instead, the excellent defensive first baseman bet on baseball but unlike Rose, he purposely laid down in games and bet on his team to lose. Despite such allegations that blackballed him from Major League Baseball, he received consideration for the Hall of Fame but ultimately fell short. “Prince Hal” was talented, handsome, daring and popular with the ladies.
There are three different cards of Chase in the T205 set with a couple of variations but the one pictured here is the one we like most for Chase’s impish smile and the bright red colors. You can buy a very respectable mid-grade example for under $100. Then be sure to read about Chase’s exploits on and off the field.