Hundreds of online bidders fought over one of the hobby’s best collections of T206 baseball cards ever assembled Thursday night. When the curtain came down on the collection of 522 cards consigned by Rochester, Mich., attorney E. Powell Miller, over $3.5 million had been spent.
The figure, which included 20 percent buyer’s premiums, was almost $1 million more than pre-auction estimate. In fact, more than 70% of the 522 cards offered in the sale hit or exceeded their estimates.
The collection gained much notoriety during the two summers it was on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“It doesn’t surprise us at all that Powell Miller’s collection exceeded our estimates and expectations,” said Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “After all, he spent 20 years putting this together, and the auction was a celebration of that labor of love. Yes, the sports card market is doing extraordinarily well at the moment, and this sale was in part a reflection of that. But it’s also a tribute to Miller’s diligence and love for these cards.”
It comes as no surprise that the 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal Eddie Plank graded PSA EX-MT 6 was the auction’s top-seller, realizing a final price of $312,000. There are myriad theories concerning its scarcity, among them: The A’s southpaw deplored tobacco, and the printing plate used to make the card broke during production. But Miller’s offering transcended even that shortage: There are just two known cards graded higher, and his was but one of 15 known examples to note on the back that it’s “Factory No. 30” in the 350-subject set.
“I got my first Plank card, which was graded a [PSA EX] 5, from a great friend who is a collector and lives in Atlanta,” Miller told the grading service in 2018. “Then, a while later, I did a private deal with an auction house and upgraded it to a [PSA EX-MT] 6. That was very special. To get the Plank card in a 6 is a big deal.”
The second highest price paid was for Miller’s 1909-11 T206 Piedmont 150 Cy Young graded PSA NM-MT 8 which sold for $99,000. The portrait card is one of a dozen known in this condition among all the brands that were offering cards near the turn of the century, with only one Piedmont 150 Series “Factory No. 25” issue confirmed higher (at 8.5).
Not far behind was the 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal 350/30 Vic Willis (With Bat) PSA Mint 9, which sold for $96,000. It’s the sole card in that grade, with none ranked higher. The card pictures Willis during his final season with St. Louis – some 85 years before his posthumous induction into the Baseball Hall of fame.
Three cards from Miller’s collection each sold for $81,000: a 1909-11 T206 Piedmont 150 Clark Griffith (Portrait) PSA Mint 9; a 1909-11 T206 Piedmont 350-460/25 Sam Crawford (With Bat) PSA Mint 9; and a 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal 150/30 Frank Chance (Portrait-Red) PSA Mint 9.
Miller owned the famed T206 Wagner and Doyle error cards from the set but had sold those privately prior to the auction.
“I felt I climbed the mountain by having the entire set displayed for two summers at the DIA, and it was just time to take on new challenges in the hobby and otherwise,” said Miller of his decision to sell this collection. “I am going to miss these cards. But I am proud many of my cards are the best versions of those cards in the entire world. It will be a long time coming when there is another opportunity to get so many one-of-ones because I spent 20 years collecting these.”