The population of one of the rarest baseball cards in the world has grown by seven after an amazing discovery in the rural South. Only about 15 of the rare 1909-1911 T206 Ty Cobb variation, distributed only in tins of the short-lived Ty Cobb Tobacco product, were known to exist until a family began going through the belongings of a family’s deceased great-grandfather. While not immediately certain of the scarcity of what they’d found, it became apparent last month that they’d stumbled upon a small fortune inside the dilapidated home.
It’s one of those stories that makes collectors swoon.
T206 Cobb Cards Had a Humble Home
According to PSA President Joe Orlando, the cards were sitting inside a crumpled paper bag that contained other items, including some old postcards. The family almost tossed the bag away but decided to flip through the contents when the cards, turned face down, caught their eye. Having seen a TV report on the Black Swamp Find, they contacted South Carolina vintage card dealer Rick Snyder of Mint State, Inc.
“My initial reaction was absolute skepticism. I doubted they were authentic because finding seven of these cards at one place at one time seemed almost impossible,” Snyder recalled.
The Cobb rarity can easily be differentiated from all other T206 cards by the back, which reads “TY COBB – KING OF THE SMOKING TOBACCO WORLD” in green ink.
Cobb Tobacco was made in Reidsville, NC, and made its debut early in 1910, according to old newspaper accounts.
After about a week of phone calls with the family and examining emailed photos of the cards, Snyder finally saw them in a person and was convinced they were authentic.
“I told the family, ‘I’m going to help change your life.’ This is a historic find. It is something every single individual whoever unearthed anything in their family’s basement or garage has dreamed about: finding something important and valuable,” said Snyder, who sells high-grade cards privately and also sells on eBay.
Arrangements were made to have the seven cards shipped to PSA for authentication and grading.
The Real Deal
Orlando also was skeptical when he first learned about the cards’ discovery, and remained so until the shipment arrived at PSA’s southern California headquarters and he saw them with his own eyes.
“Our senior staff examined the cards. Due to the magnitude of the find I even had an outside expert come to our offices to examine the cards as well. They all shared the same assessment. No matter how improbable, each of the seven cards was undoubtedly authentic,” said Orlando.
“This is one of the greatest discoveries in the history of our hobby involving one of the greatest rarities in baseball cards from arguably the most popular baseball card set ever produced.”
Small creases and other light wear meant the technical grades were relatively low, but one was labeled a 4.5 (VG-EX+) and another a 3.5, making them the highest graded examples in existence. Four others were graded 2.5 and another was assigned a grade of 1.5.
T206 Cobb with Cobb Back Values
The combined value of the seven cards, should they be sold at auction, is likely well over $1 million.
In April of 2015, Robert Edward Auctions sold a Cobb with Cobb back graded SGC 30 for $132,000. They had sold a PSA 1 for $154,050 the year before. Goldin Auctions sold one in July of 2013 for $120,1098. With the values of rare vintage baseball cards continuing to rise, it’s likely the newly discovered examples will set new records.
“There have been some spectacular finds over the years, such as the 1952 Topps baseball card find of 1986 and ‘The Black Swamp Find’ of 1910 E98 cards found in 2012. As incredible as those were, and both were certainly larger in terms of sheer size, I am not sure if any other baseball card find is more remarkable than this new discovery,” stated Orlando.
The find is somewhat similar to a group discovered in Georgia about 20 years ago, when five of the Cobb Tobacco variations were pulled from an old book where they’d apparently been left decades earlier. They were all sold in through REA in 1997.
“Prior to this revelation, there were about 15 of these rare Ty Cobb cards known,” said Orlando, who chatted with ESPN about the find. “This group of seven previously-unknown Cobb cards raises the total to approximately 22 or so, which increases the population by around 50 percent. To put this in proper context from a scarcity standpoint it would be the equivalent of finding 30 to 40 newly-discovered T206 Honus Wagner cards in one shot. It is simply miraculous.”
The cards will be sold through MINT State but there was no immediate word on when they would be available or whether they’d be offered through a straight sale or auction.
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