About 25 years ago, you could still walk into a lot of sports card shows and buy T206 commons for a couple of dollars. Hall of Famers for less than $50.
Those days are just a fond memory now, but there are still great cards in the set that won’t put a crimp in your wallet. Forget the superstars of the dead ball era and focus on the history. Feel good about very good and ditch the minty expectations and you’ll be the happy owner of a nice quintet from card collecting’s “Monster”.
Our five picks can often be found for under $150 each, if you’re willing to shop around and are OK with lower grades. Click the title of each to see them on eBay.
1) T206 Hal Chase with trophy. Prince Hal was no prince. He was known to throw a game or two if the money was right. When he tried, he was among the best first basemen of the pre-War era. He once walked away in a contract dispute and when he returned, he received a trophy for being such a grand guy. A classic card of one of baseball’s first real scoundrels.
2) Eddie Cicotte. A decade before the Black Sox, Cicotte was just another pitcher trying to make a living. He carved out a nice career before the 1919 World Series and this card pictures him in happier times. Cicotte’s T206 cards cost about the same as Chase’s.
3) Chick Gandil. The apparent instigator of the Black Sox scandal, Chick and Eddie form a nice vintage card duo you can put together. We forget just what established veterans the two were before the gamblers corralled them. You’ll stretch your budget a little on this one, but if you’re willing to sacrifice condition and buy others in a bulk deal, you can probably keep the average cost around $150 or less.
4) Addie Joss hands at chest. Unlike #1-3, Joss was never in big trouble. He didn’t have a chance, even if he’d wanted to. Struck down by tubercular meningitis at age 31, Joss’ fine career was cut tragically short. He was so well-loved, players got together for a benefit all-star game to help his family. Joss was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978. Look for a 2.5 (G-VG).
5) Hughie Jennings. There are three Jennings cards in the T206 set; two are cheaper than the other. Jennings was an outstanding 19th century player who became the long-time manager of the Detroit Tigers. Famous for yelling “Eee-yah!” from his third base coaching spot to encourage his hitters, he’s one of those characters that fits the era so well.
Hughie made the Hall in 1945, 17 years after his death. There are three different T206 Jennings cards. We like the one that shows his famous pose or the one that shows him with a big smile. A “2” should be available for around $100 as of this writing.