For many, collecting rookie cards of star players is a focal point. But sometimes, finding a player’s first true issue can be a bit difficult depending on how you define ‘card.’ That goes for players like the great Ty Cobb. Cobb has several early issues that collectors may or may not call true rookie cards. Here’s a look at his earliest cards.
1907 W600 Sporting Life
Dated to 1907, this may be Ty Cobb’s earliest appearance on something resembling a trading card. Really, it’s a cabinet – a photograph mounted onto a backing. These were premiums distributed by the publication Sporting Life and, despite not being a strip card or exhibit, have been classified as W600.
Cobb is pictured as a young member of the Detroit Tigers in a familiar pose, which was used for other cards, like his T206 portraits. Card, cabinet, whatever – it’s expensive. A PSA 1 sold in an auction for nearly $35,000.
Ty Cobb is also featured on several postcards that all have been dated as being printed from 1907-09. All are pretty tough to find and, while not nearly as expensive as the W600 cabinet, they are pricey these days.
The Hall of Famer is found in several of these issues, including the H.M. Taylor set, Novelty Cutlery set, and the Dietsche set. Cobb’s appearance in the Dietsche set is interesting as he shows up in Detroit Tigers team sets in both 1907 and 1908. Thus, while the series is sort of grouped together, only his 1907 cards would be considered the first ones.
Postcards are an interesting topic of discussion. Some collectors do consider them to be in the debate as true rookie cards while others do not. Personally, while they are ‘cards’ of a sort, I don’t consider them to be trading cards, per se. They were no doubt traded and collected to some degree when they were printed. However, their original intent was not to be traded and collected as much as it was to be mailed as a greeting. Same with things such as pins. Collectible? Yes. Trading card? Not in my mind. But that’s just one man’s opinion and, nevertheless, they are very much in the rookie card debate as others do consider them to be potential rookie issues.
Prices on these vary depending on the issue and condition. But the Dietsche of Ty Cobb, perhaps the most popular of the group, starts around $2,000. This PSA 2 in a 2017 Heritage auction sold for just under that amount.
Others not sold on the idea that these earlier issues can be rookies will have to look to some of Ty Cobb’s later, more mainstream cards. According to PSA’s Cobb registry checklist, those start in 1909 and, by that time, Cobb was a bonafide star. By the end of the 1909 campaign, Cobb had led the league in hits, batting average, RBI, OPS, total bases, and slugging percentage for three straight years. His Tigers also reached the World Series that year for the third consecutive time, falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Cobb has plenty of cards issued in 1909, starting with things such as the E101 and E102 Anonymous candy issues. He also appears in the mainstream E90-1 American Caramel set, E92, and E95 Philadelphia Caramel sets.
That’s not all, though. Ty Cobb is also found in the W555 strip issue, the Colgan’s Chips set, and the popular 1909-11 T206 sets. The ultra rare Ty Cobb-backed tobacco card also falls into this grouping.
If you’re looking to get your hand on one of these, they are readily available on eBay. The most common ones are his T206 issues, which have risen in price over the years. Even half-decent low-grade cards will usually cost more than $500.