Just over 100 years ago, they were finally disappearing from store shelves. The last cards had been placed in cigarette packs. The fad was over. But for collectors, it was really just beginning. A century later, they’re still a big hit. Millions were produced. Millions were thrown away. However, the T206 card set is still accessible enough to be encouraging for collectors who decide to take the plunge and start collecting.
Make no mistake, there’s never been a glut on the market. But at the same time there’s enough of them around that avid collectors can complete the set (perhaps minus the four most rare cards) in a few years. There are plenty of commons that don’t cost a lot and unlike many vintage sports sets, which are unapproachable for most collectors because of their scarcity, the set remains a popular goal. Add to this its mesmerizing charm and you have one of the most valuable and collectible vintage baseball sets available.
Visually, the T206 collection is considered one of the most attractive vintage sets ever produced. With vivid colors, timeless posses of legendary players, and simple, clean fronts, the cards in the set catch your eye immediately. There are in fact many collectors today who regard the color lithographs of the set higher than the more ornate monochromes of other early sets. It’s perhaps the simplicity of the T206 set which makes it so charming visually.
Portraits of Legends
There are over 70 cards in the set that portray players who are now the eternal inhabitants of Cooperstown, and of these two are in the “Big Four” of scarcity; Eddie Plank and of course, Honus Wagner. And there are plenty other great names scattered through the impressive collection, at the forefront of which are the likes of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and Christy Mathewson.
He’s not the most valuable card, but the appeal of Young’s cards is irresistible. You can talk about Cy Young Award winners, but here’s a set that actually includes a contemporary baseball card of Cy Young. Even if your non-collecting sports fan friends aren’t impressed with the other 500+ cards, they’ll love the three Young cards that are in T206.
Besides the nostalgic design of the cards, it’s the aura of legend surrounding these players that make the T206 set a favorite among not only baseball card collectors, but also among sports cards collectors in general.
Romance of the Early Pro Game
The period the set evokes with nostalgia is yet one more thing that makes T206 so awesome. There were no controversies with drugs and steroids at that time, no professional sports agents, nor any television contracts worth millions of dollars. In fact. it was an era before electronic media of any kind and most newspapers of the day didn’t have photos.
Many players began their baseball career – which was for them more of a hobby taken to extreme rather than a stable job – for the same team for whom they were going to end it – not many switched teams during their whole career, bound as they were by an iron-fisted collection of owners. At the beginning of the 20th century baseball was still more game than business, and one that was quickly winning the hearts of the nation. Kids who lived 100 years ago had gone crazy over the release of the “baseball card pictures” in cigarette packs, buying them directly from drug stores, removing the cards and selling the cigarettes on the street.
Collectors today have to deal with much less frustration when putting together the set than their counterparts had 25 years ago. This is mostly because of the Internet, which not only allowed the formation of more accessible communities of collectors and allowed for the easier gathering of information about cards, but also gave collectors auction sites like eBay. As a result, collectors can now purchase cards online, even with a mobile phone. What’s more, because now it’s easier to sell cards, collectors do not have to keep the cards they buy locked away for years before being able to resell them for a profit. The Internet has made collecting card sets easier, and so it has further increased the appeal of T206.
The demand for T206 is also boosted by professional grading services such as Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) or SGC.
These services save collectors a lot of trouble by protecting them from fake cards and offer set registries that offer the chance to build the set and see where you stand compared to others in terms of quantity and quality. This in turn stimulates the trading of the T206 set, making it more open, and encouraging collectors to make more purchases.
The frequent issues arising in the past when one dealer gave a higher grade to a card than the guy next to him, are now almost entirely gone. The bottom line is that the availability of grading services makes collecting the set less stressful.
Like most vintage sets, T-206 has its fair share of mysteries, which have invited discussions from collectors and which will continue to do so. O’Hara and Demmitt artwork was issued only by the Ohio Factory 6 – why was that? What’s the definitive answer as to why the Wagner card so scarce? Why is Plank in short supply today? Why did the cigarette company stop the promotion? Many of these mysteries are almost decades old, and will continue to engage collectors for generations to come.
Finally, you don’t need a storehouse to store the T-206 collection. A large album or a few boxes will do. So there’s really no excuse good enough to make any ardent card collector desist from collecting the timeless T-206 card set, issued over 100 years ago.
Check out T206 cards on eBay here.