Despite many being more than 100 years old, a good number of tobacco cards are still readily available for collectors. But while some sets are able to be pieced together, others are nearly impossible. Here’s a look at five tough tobacco card sets that are difficult to build because of their size and, in some cases, their rarity.
T210 Old Mill
Now, many T210 Old Mill cards on their own are not particularly scarce. While you might have some difficulty in locating specific subjects, finding any random T210 Old Mill tobacco card to buy isn’t that tough. On eBay, there are usually between 200-300 available at any given time.
The problem here is size. The set includes a total of more than 600 cards in it and many are quite rare. For this reason, even collecting one of the eight known series’ is an impressive achievement, let alone the entire thing. Even if you somehow managed the patience to find most of them, another hurdle is realized as the set includes a minor league card of Shoeless Joe Jackson, which is a six-figure card.
Another difficult set because of its size is the T212 Obak. Truthfully, the Obak cards are significantly easier to find than the T210 Old Mill cards. There are generally a few hundred on eBay and the prices on them are a little lower than the T210 cards.
Still, a 426-card tobacco set is a larger feat than most. And, like the T210 set, this one featured minor leaguers with some of them difficult to track down. Some players in the Obak tobacco card set, like the famous Ten Million, may have no other cards issued in other sets. Thus, they are collected sometimes for that reason alone.
In addition to the pure size of it, the set includes a couple of heavy hitters. Nothing like the T210 Old Mill Joe Jackson card is found here but minor league cards of Chick Gandil and Buck Weaver from the 1919 Chicago Black Sox team are not cheap cards. You can expect to pay more than $1,000 for each one in decent condition. Some T212s are generally available on eBay.
N172 Old Judge
The most difficult set on this list to complete is surely the N172 Old Judge tobacco card set. Produced from approximately 1886 through 1890, the set contains hundreds of players, many with more than one pose variation. A truly complete checklist is likely not even known.
Old Judge cards are also more expensive in general than most on this list. Even low-grade commons are tough to find under $100 and the set is capped by a rare pose of Hall of Famer Cap Anson wearing a uniform. Only a few copies of that card are known and it is rarely seen up for sale. A copy in 2001 sold for more than $66,000 and it would likely would top that mark if sold today.
Even beyond the Anson, though, putting a full set together just doesn’t seem all that realistic. There are probably only a few dozen copies of most cards in existence and with such a large checklist, a lifetime of looking for all of them probably is not enough time.
N175 Gypsy Queen
This is another extremely tough tobacco card set. Produced from around 1887-90, these cards were distributed in packs of Goodwin’s Gypsy Queen brand cigarettes. Cataloged as N175, the checklist is up in the air with all sorts of numbers thrown out there. PSA, for what its worth, has a checklist of 186.
These sepia-tone cards using real images of baseball players are unique in their appearance. They look somewhat similar to the N172 Old Judge cards but stand out by the large, arching Gypsy Queen name found at the tops of them. The set is smaller than the massive Old Judge issue but the cards are significantly harder to find. They occasionally pop up on eBay.
Even in lower grade condition, it isn’t strange for commons to sell for around $1,000.
You knew The Monster would make an appearance here, right? The famous T206 set is known not only for its excellent artwork and many Hall of Famers, but also for its massive size. A total of 524 cards make up this incredible set and while most are relatively easy to find, it’s the Big 4 that make things difficult.
Error cards of Sherry Magee and Joe Doyle as well as a Hall of Fame shortprint of Eddie Plank, make this a very expensive set to assemble. But it’s the card of Honus Wagner that ratchets the price up exponentially. The Wagner card is the most expensive one in the set and, in 2016, one sold for a record $3.1 million. Even in lower grade, the card still sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars, making a full set a pipe dream for most collectors. Today, many collectors will settle for a ‘set’ of 520 cards and call it a day.