No vintage set captures the imagination more than the white bordered set issued by the American Tobacco Co. between 1909 and ’11. Due to the quality of the lithography, the star-studded checklist, and the inclusion of the hobby’s most valuable and iconic card – Honus Wagner – T206 has transcended mere card collecting and become part of Americana.
As prices continue to increase – particularly for rare backs, printer’s scraps, and printing errors known as ‘freaks’ – a novice collector may find entering the set daunting. However, many T206 Hall of Famers with common backs remain accessible in desirable conditions. Below are five such examples.
Click the player’s name to see those cards on eBay.
Waddell was one of the greatest hurlers of the 1900s and led the league in strikeouts from 1902-07. A fixture on Connie Mack’s first great A’s team, Waddell missed the 1905 World Series due to injury and the Giants made quick work of the Athletics. Now, in large part to Ken Burns’ baseball, he is remembered for his antics such as being distracted by shiny objects, chasing fire engines, and doing cartwheels on the mound.
Waddell is a popular player with collectors because of both his talent and eccentricity, but a PSA 4 example of a Waddell portrait recently sold for $220 on eBay. A PSA 3 of Waddell’s throwing version sold for a reasonable $130, while a ‘just to own one’ PSA 1 hammered for only $39.
Manager cards are always reasonable – even if you’re the greatest manager of all time. McGraw’s Giants were always in contention and he won the World Series in 1905 and back-to-back in 1921-’22. During the T206 era, Christy Mathewson led McGraw’s Giants to three consecutive World Series from 1911-13, but came up short each time. Only the Merkle boner in 1908 kept the Giants from making four World Series appearances in six years.
VG or VG-EX graded examples of McGraw’s three different cards in the set can be found for under $250.
Although Baker led the league in homers – with 19! – in 1909, he is perhaps best remember for his two home runs in the 1911 World Series. Splitting time between Connie Mack’s A’s and Babe Ruth’s early Yankees teams, Baker appeared in six World Series – winning three. Baker is arguably the best third baseman of the deadball era.
A member of Mack’s famed ‘100,000 Infield’, most of his T206 cards can be had for a fraction of that sum. VG-EX graded examples are mostly all under $250 with lower grade examples dipping down to around $100.
Addie Joss twice led the league in ERA and his career WHIP – a stat that wouldn’t be invented for more than a half-century after his death – remains the lowest in history. However, it is Joss’ untimely death at the age of 31 from tuberculosis meningitis for which he is today most remembered. Decades before unions and player benefits, Joss teammates and rivals – including the irascible Ty Cobb – played an exhibition to benefit his family.
The 1911 T205 has become a memorial to Joss’ lasting legacy in the hobby and is considered desirable by collectors, but the result has been to make his two T206 cards affordable. You should be able to find a VG ‘3’ type example for under $200. Cards graded a ‘2’ rarely cross the $150 threshold, making Joss one of the most affordable on this list.
George Davis is one of the victories of sabrmetrics. It took 90 years after Davis retired for him to ultimately be enshrined in Cooperstown in 1998 – but when he did his card immediately shifted from the common pile to the Hall of Fame showcase. His WAR numbers are impressive – among the best for a player whose prime was during the Spanish-American War. T206 represented Davis’ last days, a shell of his former playing career with the Giants of the 1890s and the 1906 ‘Hitless Wonders’ White Sox team that shocked the crosstown Cubs.
Cards in the 3-4 range are under $165 with GD graded Davis cards available for the shockingly low price of $75 or less.
These are just five of the many Hall of Famers that can be had in a VG/EX slab for under $250. With a set literally bursting with star players – bargains can always be had.