When people think of the T206 set, which made its debut all the way back in 1909 when William Taft was president, only one card comes to mind and it is the Holy Grail of baseball cards. Honus Wagner is, of course, the most well-known and most valuable card of them all. The set also contains cards of some of the early 20th century’s most celebrated players like Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Tris Speaker.
Others probably deserve more attention than they get from collectors and dealers, which in turn, makes them very attractive to collectors or those thinking future value. Any list of underrated T206 cards is highly subjective but here are five that probably deserve that moniker.
- Joe McGinnity: Winning 246 games in his short ten-year career, Joe McGinnity led the National League in wins five times while setting the records for most complete games and innings pitched in a season with 48 and 434 respectively. A true workhorse, McGinnity was nicknamed “Iron Man”, but that was because he worked at an iron foundry in the offseason. On the baseball diamond however, he was also an iron man, so much so that he was elected into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1946 thanks to the Veteran’s Committee. Despite such an impressive track record, you can find a graded example without creases for less than $150 on eBay, a bargain compared to other cards.
- Hooks Wiltse: Although he is not a Hall of Famer, fellow New York Giants pitcher Hooks Wiltse is another underrated pickup. He acquired the nickname “Hooks” for his nasty curveball which helped him post a career 2.47 ERA in 11 big league seasons. The lefty was Scottie Pippen to the Michael Jordan of New York Giants pitchers, Christy Mathewson. On the fourth of July in 1908, Wiltse retired 26 batters in a row before plunking one and finishing the game with a ten inning no-hitter.
Wiltse was so highly thought of at the time, ATC produced three different cards–two portrait shots and one showing his follow-through. Despite his immense success at the big league level, any one of the three can be had for less than $50 in decent condition. Compared to the other low-priced commons in the set, Hooks is a big standout.
- Eddie Plank: Isn’t Eddie Plank one of the ‘big four’ in the set? Don’t his cards sell for five, sometimes six figures? Well, yes…but his card is still underrated. Prices lag light years behind Wagner, but as we pointed out a few years ago, the Plank is rare, too with only a couple dozen more examples than the Wagner card believed to exist. It didn’t come with a story and so Plank lags behind. Too far behind, really. A 300-game winner in his long and storied career, Plank tossed 66 shutouts which remains a record to this day for lefties. Although it is not the easiest or cheapest card to come by, it’s an investor’s type of card: low supply, huge demand, Hall 0f Fame player and a little bit of mystery. It might be one of the few pre-War cards that could still be in for explosive growth if a couple of high rollers get into the mix. As of this writing, there is a PSA 1 Plank available on eBay for $27,500. A Wagner in the same grade just sold for over $400,000.
- Home Run Baker: Even though he hit fewer career home runs than you’ll find on a B.J. Upton career stat line, Home Run Baker was renowned for his power hitting ability. Elected into the Hall of Fame in 1955, Baker led the American League in home runs four consecutive years from 1911 to 1914. In that time span during the dead ball era, he smacked 42 home runs for the Philadelphia Athletics while, ironically, hitting more triples in that same period and in his entire career for that matter. A teammate of Babe Ruth later on, Baker was also a member of the New York Yankees for a short time. You can still buy a graded example in a respectable VG for no more than $200.
- Chick Gandil: If anything, Gandil is more infamous than famous. His 11 career home runs over the course of nine big league seasons and .277 lifetime batting average are hardly enough to bat an eye, but his actions off the field are what make him so notable. Gandil was at the heart of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal and was subsequently banned from baseball in as a result. It is worth noting that other than Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte, Gandil is one of three players from that team with a T206 card. It’s a great looking card that shows him swinging a giant bat while choked up on the handle and wearing a warm-up sweater. Thanks to his illegal activity on the side, Gandil’s card has gained some popularity among collectors and there’s a reasonable expectation it’ll increase as time goes on and some of that seems to have already begun. A mid-grade example is $175-250 on eBay here).
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