More than 100 years after its creation, the 1909-11 T206 White Border set continues to fascinate collectors. For as many collectors intrigued by the task of tackling ‘The Monster’, though, probably as many are turned away at the impossibility of doing so.
For most collectors, piecing together an entire 524-card set is out of the question. However, there are other ways to collect T206, which can still make it enjoyable. The good news, too, is that with sites such as eBay, finding them has been made infinitely easier.
Aside from snagging a reprint set, here are 12 popular ways to collect T206 cards.
To most collectors, the official number in the T206 set stands at 524 cards. Finding the resources to acquire the “Big 4” of Honus Wagner, Magie error, Joe Doyle error, and Eddie Plank are nearly impossible feats. But several collectors have achieved the task of putting together a 520-card set. While still an incredible challenge, 520 is a much more attainable number given the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed for the Big 4.
If 520 is too difficult, 518 is a little easier. In addition to the Big 4, a 518-card set doesn’t include the scarce Demmitt and O’Hara Polar Bear St. Louis versions, saving collectors a little hassle and money.
Build T206 Team Sets
One affordable way to collect T206 cards is to build team sets. While many of these still contain a few expensive cards, building only a team set is a much less daunting task and it can be even more rewarding if you are collecting players from your favorite or local franchise.
One of the great things about the T206 set is the artwork. And while the action poses are striking, visually, it is difficult to top the lifelike portraits. In addition to the excellent artwork, the colorful backs add to the allure of the subset. Adding to the collectability of these is that numerous Hall of Famers are included. That can make it a pricey endeavor, but if completed, a collection of all of the portraits is a quality feat.
Admittedly, this is one of the more difficult challenges when it comes to the various ways to collect T206 cards. However, it is also incredibly popular since many collectors opt to secure the cards of the best players. Should you choose this route, be aware that it is not an inexpensive one – particularly if you want cards in at least mid-grade condition. The set includes a total of 76 cards of Hall of Famers and individual mid-grade cards of these players can generally run anywhere from $100-$500, depending on the player. And for the biggest names such as Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, and Walter Johnson, that price will be much more.
While the focus of the T206 sets is on the players included, the various advertising backs are a continual reason why collectors remain fans of the issue. There are several different ways to collect only the backs themselves. It is possible to collect one of each of the various backs from the advertising companies. Not counting the controversial Ty Cobb advertising back, that includes 15 different brands (American Beauty, Broadleaf, Carolina Brights, Cycle, Drum, EPDG, Hindu, Lenox, Old Mill, Piedmont, Polar Bear, Sovereign, Sweet Caporal, Tolstoi, and Uzit). Some even consider the actual number to be 19, counting the Red Cross, Coupon, Ty Cobb, and/or blank back issues.
Whether you stick with 15 or choose to add any of the other backs, securing one of each of those will already be difficult. However, if you wanted to up the ante, an additional challenge can be found in collecting each back with the various color and factory combinations. That total can include anywhere from 37 to 41 cards, depending on the various brands mentioned previously.
Several players in the T206 have more than one card and collecting all of a player’s variations is another option. With five cards in the set, Hal Chase appears the most. But the four Ty Cobb cards present the stiffest challenge in terms of finances.
Another way to collect specific players is by securing each of the advertising backs for that player. All players are not found on all backs, so an easier way using this approach is to collect players without the most difficult backs.
Unique Personalities and Great Stories
The T206 set is full of plenty of memorable stories and personalities. From Tinker to Evers to Chance (and Harry Steinfeldt)–all in this set and not that expensive–to the tragic death of Addie Joss and the brilliance and eccentricity of Rube Waddell–there is enough to fill a book (and thankfully, there was one written). Do a little research, read some Deadball era history and pick out your favorite players. Many of them will be less expensive than you might think.
Underrated T206 Players Who Are Budget Friendly
SC Daily actually published a separate article just on that topic. There are several players in the set who made huge contributions during the era but have never gotten Hall of Fame recognition or made the Hall but don’t seem to get much respect.
While not the biggest names, Southern Leaguers present a challenge similar to the Hall of Famers. These were limited in production and are more difficult to find. Adding to the complexity is that some are very tough adds as their cards may have been hoarded by collectors over the years. Some of the most difficult cards to obtain are Shag Shaughnessy and Bull Durham, among others.
One of the unique aspects of the T206 set is that it included both major and minor league players. While the emphasis is no doubt on the major league players as well as the Southern Leaguers, the minor leaguers shouldn’t be forgotten, either. With nearly 100 of them (excluding the Southern League players), collecting minor league players can be a good way to focus on one specific subset while accumulating a lot of cards at a reasonable price.
There are only six of them but the horizontal cards in the T206 set are extremely desirable. The horizontal layout offers a nice distraction from the other 500+ cards that were printed vertically. Displayed together, the horizontal cards can make for an attractive piece. And while there is a slight premium affixed to them by most sellers, aside of the Barney Pelty card which can sell for more than the others, they are not outrageously priced.