Of the countless baseball cards sets issued before the second world war, none has managed to capture the imagination of the American public in the way the white bordered set issued by the American Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911 has. Designated ‘T206’ by hobby pioneer Jefferson Burdick, the set has transcended collecting and has become part of Americana. Due to the unprecedented prices realized by the Honus Wagner card, the entire set has continued to increase in value, or as collector/commentator Keith Olbermann recently stated in Holy Grail: The T206 Honus Wagner: “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Over the past several years printing ‘freaks’ featuring miscuts, overprints, ghost images, or anything that looks out of place have continued to appreciate. Cards featuring proof marks, or those that appear to have been discarded as printer’s ‘scrap’ have also benefited from this market increase as collectors compete for rarity and bragging rights. Though arguably the greatest result of the feeding frenzy among T206 collectors has been the inflation of back prices, with examples previously selling for reasonable figures now selling for exponentially greater.
The result of this recent bonanza has been an increase in research, sales, and marketing of the T206 set. The father and son pairing of Michael and Derek Hogue think they have found the balance with their new venture: T206 Society.
“They’re like the great pyramids of Egypt,” Michael, 61 of Southern California explained. “The more you explore – the more mysteries there are.”
A fan of the New York Mets and Jets, Michael grew up in what some baseball historians have described as the ‘golden age’. As a child he would open packs of Topps and assemble cards of baseball icons like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, but while he had heard stories referencing Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson – he had no idea cards existed of these players.
Michael would go on to produce sporting events for nearly thirty years, but when his son, Derek, was born he returned to a familiar hobby – baseball cards. Rather than collect modern players, Michael chose to share the stories of the players of his youth and the two began collecting vintage 1950s and 60s stars.
That all changed the day Derek discovered a T206 Cy Young portrait. The two were amazed to learn these cards existed and in the years that followed ceased collecting anything but T206 including their favorite – the T206 Walter Johnson portrait. Their passion for their set has ultimately transitioned into a business – T206 Society – where they plan to offer nothing but T206 cards for sale. Unlike some sets that simply feature information on the card, their site will feature complete biographies on each player – attempting to make even a common player’s story read like that of legend.
The website launched last Friday, with a public launch the next day at the Southern California Collectors Show. “We were offered some amazing cards from one of the guys we have worked with for awhile that will be an incredible addition to the inventory we already have up,” Hogue stated, referencing the numerous T206 cards he already has for sale.
When asked if a site devoted to a single set can be successful, both father and son seemed very optimistic. “T206s will continue to go up,” Hogue explained. “Rare backs will go up making it impossible for most people to get a Uzit, Lennox, Drum, etc.”
In addition to the website and storefront, T206 Society plans to launch an auction soon. They have also contracted T206 experts to write about the set in order to provide more information on the set and the individual cards to novice collectors who may have heard about the set, but are not fully versed in it.