An elderly gentleman’s curiosity has led to the remarkable discovery of the ninth known example of the rare T206 Joe Doyle “NY Nat’l” variation. MBA Seattle Auction is offering the card through Live Auctioneers. Authenticated and graded PSA 2, it’s likely to fetch $150,000 or more when the auction closes August 18.
What makes the T206 white-border Joe Doyle card rare and valuable is not the player’s pitching record – he won only 21 games over five seasons – it’s the erroneous listing of his team on the front of the card, which turned Doyle into a National Leaguer. The right-hander was actually a member of the Highlanders (later known as the Yankees). The American Tobacco Company, which distributed T206 cards through its various cigarette brands, apparently caught the error very early in the printing process as only a small number were printed and fewer still survive to this day.
“Once the error was discovered they pulled the (printing) plate, chipped off the ‘National’ part, put the plate back on and continued making what experts believe was 99.9 percent of the run,” said Grant Zahajko of MBA Seattle Auction House.
T206 Doyle Error History
The last T206 Doyle error card sold in 2015 via Robert Edward Auctions. Graded SGC 50 (VG-EX) it brought $312,000. The top recorded price for such an error card, officially known as the “T206 Piedmont Joe Doyle N.Y. Nat’l Hands Up,” is $414,750. That particular card, which sold a in 2012, was graded PSA 3 – one point higher than the example being offered by MBA Seattle.
The Doyle card wasn’t even known to the hobby until the 1990s after well-known dealer Larry Fritsch discovered it. Still, the card flew under the radar.
“I think he got his hands on three or four of them before i t became public that there was an error-card variation,” said Zahajko, an auctioneer who has been cataloging sports collectibles auctions at MBA Seattle for 15 years. This is the first T206 Joe Doyle error card Zahajko has ever handled.
Undisturbed for Over 100 Years
About two months ago, Zahajko was doing some research on tobacco cards after hearing of the Lucky 7 Find of Ty Cobb cards earlier this year. That’s when he posted something online that generated the Doyle find.
“An elderly gentleman from the Midwest, who heard me talking about T206 cards on a podcast, called and mentioned that he had a whole album of antique baseball cards he wanted me to evaluate,” said Zahajko.
The caller said that his paternal grandfather had assembled the scrapbook in November 1910. The present owner had inherited the scrapbook many years ago upon the death of his father.
“There was a Ty Cobb, a Walter Johnson, a lot of big names,” said Zahajko, who had recently reviewed “population reports” from grading services that track the number of rare cards in existence.
The Joe Doyle error card is the scarcest of any from the white-border T206 baseball card series, which was produced from 1909 through 1911.
Zahajko says the album containing the cards was loosely packed by the consignor and the page containing the Doyle card had slid out of the album. A card on the same page slammed into the side of the box and was heavily creased but the Doyle card miraculously avoided further damage. The card suffers only from a minor bit of paper loss on the back, having been pasted into the scrapbook.
A paper conservator was able to remove the cards from the album pages without much further damage thanks to the original owner’s use of a water soluble paste.
Zahajko has placed a “conservative” estimate of $100,000 to $200,000 on the Doyle card.
“It’s really hard to know what a card like this will bring. It could have all the rarity in the world but the player is not a big name. We just don’t know what’s more important to collectors who are at that level,” said Zahajko. “Coin collectors tend to lean toward rarity – the number of coins known to exist – but baseball cards can be driven sometimes by the (players’) names.”
In any event, the Joe Doyle, N.Y. Nat’l card is considered king of the error cards.
“To the advanced collectors, if they’re going to have a complete set including all error cards, this is the toughest one of them all to find,” said Zahajko.
MBA Seattle Auction House’s Aug. 18 sale will also include the balance of the Ohio baseball card collection consisting of mostly T205 and T206 issues including a Ty Cobb with a rare Old Mill Tobacco advertising back. Fred Merkle’s 1911 New York Giants World Series trophy is also up for grabs.
For additional information, contact MBA/Seattle Auction House by emailing [email protected] or calling 425-235-6345 or 425-277-7915. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.com.
Check out the current ‘most watched’ T206 cards on eBay here.