Rick Snyder has been a sports card dealer for a long time. He’s bought and sold plenty of expensive cards. He’s never experienced anything quite like this.
“Oh my gosh. My phone has been blowing up,” the owner of South Carolina-based MINT State said Thursday morning, about 12 hours after word of his involvement in one of the hobby’s great all-time finds had begun to spread.
Snyder has been the point man and confidant of a family that found seven rare and valuable T206 Ty Cobb Tobacco cards last month. Combined, they should slide easily into seven figures. Most major TV news and sports networks reported the story. The Associated Press spread the basics to member newspapers coast-to-coast and beyond. Even NPR mentioned it.
One never knows what a new year will bring.
“It’s surreal,” Snyder said, still marveling at the improbability of the valuable discovery. “Every single large auction house is knocking on my door.”
But the cards, authenticated and graded by PSA, won’t be consigned. Mint State is keeping them all in-house, offering all seven cards for private sale. In fact, Snyder says two sold on Thursday: one graded 2.5 and one of the two cards rated 1.5. The sales prices weren’t disclosed but in the recent past, even low-grade Cobb advertising back T206s have brought well over $100,000.
As expected, Snyder has been flooded with calls from advanced collectors anxious to talk about the cards. He’ll only discuss prices with serious buyers and expects more to be sold fairly soon. It’s the way he’s always done business, brokering some of the hobby’s largest single card transactions, including several record setters.
“It’s the highlight of my professional career,” he told Sports Collectors Daily, while sharing details of his involvement. “When you factor in rarity, value, quantity, and quality, it can be argued this is the single greatest baseball card find the hobby has ever witnessed.”
T206 Cobb with Cobb Tobacco Back
The T206 set contains 524 different cards with sixteen tobacco brand advertisement backs. The rarest ad back – and by a considerable margin – is the “Ty Cobb” reverse design which proclaims Cobb to be the “King of the Smoking Tobacco World.” Found only on the reverse of the Ty Cobb red background portrait, one of four Cobb cards in the T206 set, the “Ty Cobb” back is by far the rarest of the 16 tobacco brand backs with approximately 15 known examples prior to the most recent find.
Cobb Tobacco was sold inside its own special tin, a very rare piece of memorabilia today. Many theorize the cards were distributed with the tobacco in those tins rather than put into packs of American Tobacco Company products as were other cards in the set. It’s interesting to note that Cobb began smoking in 1909 and when word of it leaked, you can bet tobacco companies began courting him for endorsements. It may be no accident that his own brand of tobacco was created and hit the market as the calendar turned to 1910.
Considered one of the great prizes among collectors, the T206 Ty Cobb with “Ty Cobb Tobacco” back is not only much scarcer than the famed Honus Wagner, its unique nature makes the case it should have never been classified as a T206 many years ago by Jefferson Burdick, the pioneering author of The American Card Catalog.
The ‘Lucky 7 Find’ includes a PSA 4.5, a 3.5, four cards graded 2.5 and one rated 1.5. Previously, the highest grade ever assigned by PSA to any example of the Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb back is VG 3. Most of the others are graded Poor. “None have the eye appeal of these,” Snyder stated of the newest additions to the Population Report. “They’re stunning.”
Thorough Cleaning Led to Potential Million Dollar Discovery
The tale reads much like a familiar Biblical narrative. The seven little pieces of old cardboard sat inside a humble paper bag, face down, resting on the floor of a home that had seen better days. Initially cast aside during a clean-up by descendants of the southern man who almost certainly saved them more than a century ago, they were revealed only because family members wanted to make sure there was nothing worth saving inside the torn and crumpled bag. Who knows how long they’d been there?
The family has chosen to keep a low profile for now but did offer a statement about the possible history of the cards:
“We were amazed at the find, because, even though we are not collectors, we certainly recognized the name ‘Ty Cobb,’ especially after seeing a similar story on the show ‘Strange Inheritance.’ All of the cards inside the paper bag appeared to be from the same time period so we believed our great-grandfather and his family used loose tobacco for pipe smoking and to roll cigarettes. They used to travel frequently to Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, perhaps explaining how they became in possession of the Ty Cobb cards. After doing some initial research and still not knowing if the cards were real, we contacted Rick Snyder of MINT State for assistance.”
Initially believing the cards had to be reprints of some sort, Snyder says he nonetheless spoke with the family, giving them “an education on T206 lithography” by phone. An hour later, they sent more high-resolution photos.
“My eyes bugged out.”
Sealing the Deal
Snyder’s initial skepticism had turned to excitement. Could seven new copies of one of the world’s rarest baseball cards really have been discovered virtually in his own backyard? He shared his photos with PSA President Joe Orlando, then made arrangements to see the cards in person, driving to the family’s home in a rural part of the southeast.
Arriving on a Saturday, Snyder was more convinced the family had hit the jackpot.
It couldn’t wait. He called Orlando in southern California with a heads up that a historic discovery might soon be headed west. PSA received the seven Cobbs on February 26 and authenticated them later that day.
While issuing a caveat about waiting for the cards to receive PSA’s blessing, Snyder had felt good enough to tell one family member there was a pretty good chance he was about to change their life.
“I think she wanted to cry,” Snyder said.
“When I called to say the authentication process had been completed and the cards graded, there was a lot of emotion. They are literally the average American family, likely just a couple of paychecks away from real financial hardship,” he said. “They couldn’t be more grateful. They really do appreciate that they found me as I am grateful that they shared this incredible find with me.”