T206 for Dummies: An Overview of the Popular Set

‘It’s In The Details’

Title T206 White Border
Year 1909-11
Size 1 7/16″ x 2 5/8″
Images Color
Type Tobacco
Number in Set
524

T206 Overview

Other sets may be more scarce but in terms of overall popularity, the T206 white border set remains the king of pre-war baseball card sets.

Perhaps it’s the elusive Honus Wagner card or the others in the ‘Big Four.’ Perhaps it’s the massive size. Or maybe it’s the beauty of the artwork. Possibly, it’s the various back advertisements. Likely, it’s a combination of all of those factors that has made it so popular among collectors.

This article isn’t meant to be a be all/end all of the T206 set by any means. Many more exhaustive resources have been developed. Instead, I hope to give collectors who know little about the set a bit more background information – hence the name, ‘T206 for Dummies.’

T206 Introduction

a-copy-2

Produced from 1909-1911 by the American Tobacco Company (ATC), the large 524-card release includes numerous Hall of Famers, minor leaguers, and other star players. The T206 set got its name from famous collector Jefferson Burdick. Burdick created a book called the American Card Catalog, which he used to help keep track of all of the various types of trading cards. ‘T’ was issued for cards produced by tobacco companies and 206 was simply the number of the set assigned to the issue.

The ATC was a conglomerate of various tobacco companies and had the cards designed and printed for their products. For this reason, the T206 cards have some of those companies on the backs of the cards. In other words, you will find a card with the same front but different backs. This means that even though there are 524 different card ‘fronts’ in the set, there are thousands of different cards due to all of the back combinations. Today, we know of most front/back combinations available but new ones are still being discovered. Some known combinations have only a few copies and are very scarce. For that reason, it is practically impossible to complete a master set.

The cards are small, measuring at only 1 7/16″ wide x 2 5/8″ tall. Sometimes, though, they will be found a bit larger or smaller due to the way they may have been cut. Shorter cards often mean the cards have been trimmed by collectors afterwards. However, like other pre-war issues, the cards may have simply been factory cut a bit short and cards that measure a little shorter isn’t always indicative of trimming. The fronts have full color artwork with the player’s name and team on the bottom.

Despite being more than 100 years old now, the cards are somewhat plentiful compared to other pre-war issues. Money is about the only thing that stands in the way of buying almost all of the cards since 99% aren’t too difficult to find.

The Big Four

The biggest reason the set is nearly impossible to complete is that aforementioned ‘Big Four’ – the Wagner, Sherry Magie (spelling error – his actual name was Magee), Eddie Plank, and Joe Doyle Nat’l.

The Wagner, selling for six or seven figures depending on condition, is the most expensive trading card of all time. It is famous because it was apparently printed before Wagner’s approval could be given and only a few copies made it into the public. No one really knows why Wagner wouldn’t want to be included in the set. Some collectors believe he was against his image being used to help sell tobacco. Others think he wanted more money. But no absolute proof has ever been fully confirmed. An example of Wagner’s card sold for more than $3 million in 2016.

The Plank is an ultra rare card of a pre-war era superstar with somewhere around 100 copies in existence by many accounts. The Magie likely has only slightly more copies and the Doyle is the rarest of them all with only a handful of known examples with the ‘Nat’l’ printed on the front of the card.

These cards are so scarce and valuable that many T206 collectors don’t even think about acquiring any of them – particularly the Wagner.

demmitt-t206

The ‘Sort of Big Four’

After those four are two more rareties in the famous Ray Demmitt and Bill O’Hara St. Louis cards – although neither is anywhere nearly as prestigious as those first four cards.

Both cards feature players who went to St. Louis from other teams while the T206 set was being produced. Demmitt went to the St. Louis Browns in 1910 after playing with the New York Highlanders the year before. A small number of St. Louis cards were printed to signify the move. His same card was used with only ‘StL’ added to his jersey. Ironically, O’Hara also went from New York to St. Louis from 1909 to 1910 as Demmitt did. O’Hara, though, went from the New York Giants to St. Louis Cardinals. O’Hara’s St. Louis card simply omitted the ‘NY’ on his jersey and features him with a blank one.

Polar Bear was the only cigarette manufacturer to print the cards out of Factory 6 so their cards are only found with Polar Bear backs. It isn’t known how many of these cards are out there but there are likely only a few hundred of each.

On a much lesser scale than those two are two more cards that are a bit harder to find than others in the set – the Washington Kid Elberfeld (Portrait) and Brooklyn Bill Dahlen. Like Demmitt and O’Hara, Elberfeld and Dahlen went to new teams. Collectors should be careful not to get excited about the Washington fielding card of Elberfeld – it’s his portrait that is the significant card and all of his fielding cards include him with his new Washington team. And while Dahlen’s Boston card holds some value as he was a star player, the Brooklyn one is the more difficult find.

Hall of Famers

Even collectors willing to settle on a 518-card or 520-card ‘set’ can find that to be a difficult challenge. Much of the reason the set is so difficult to complete is the sheer volume of not only cards, but big names. Many of those big names have multiple cards, too. Below is a list of only Hall of Famers (in alphabetical order) with more than one card in the T206 set.

baker-t206

  • Chief Bender – 3 cards
  • Roger Bresnahan – 2 cards
  • Three Finger Brown – 3 cards
  • Frank Chance – 3 cards
  • Fred Clarke – 2 cards
  • Ty Cobb – 4 cards
  • San Crawford – 2 cards
  • Johnny Evers – 3 cards
  • Clark Griffith – 2 cards
  • Miller Huggins – 2 cards
  • Hughie Jennings – 3 cards
  • Walter Johnson – 2 cards
  • Addie Joss – 2 cards
  • Willie Keeler – 2 cards
  • Nap Lajoie – 3 cards
  • Carl Lundgren – 2 cards
  • Rube Marquard – 3 cards
  • Christy Mathewson – 3 cards
  • John McGraw – 4 cards
  • Joe Tinker – 4 cards
  • Rube Waddell – 2 cards
  • Cy Young – 3 cards
  • Vic Willis – 3 cards

Even very low-grade Cobb cards sell in the $400-$500 range each so it’s very easy to see why this set is such a costly endeavor.

In addition to those multi-card Hall of Famers, there are also a bunch with only one card. Those include Home Run Baker, Jake Beckley, Jack Chesbro, Eddie Collins, Jimmy Collins, George Davis, Hugh Duffy, Elmer Flick, Joe Kelley, Iron Man McGinnity, Tris Speaker, Bobby Wallace, Ed Walsh, and Zack Wheat.

Southern Leaguers

It’s not only Hall of Famers that T206 collectors are after. Players from the old Southern League weren’t printed in the same large quantities that other cards were and, as a result, are harder to find.

Yet another problem with completing the T206 set is the large number of these cards. There are nearly 50 of them in the release and there are so many of them here that some collectors focus entirely on these.

Southern Leaguers are found with two different advertising backs – Piedmont and Old Mill. The Old Mill backs are the more difficult to find and the more valuable.

The Resta-copy

There are also a few guys here that have been close to the Hall of Fame or left out for other reasons.

A couple of banned members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team that conspired to throw the World Series are here in the form of Chick Gandil and Eddie Cicotte. New York Highlanders star Hal Chase is not only in the set but has the most cards of any player with five. Accused of being involved in fixing games, Chase was never admitted to the Hall of Fame despite being a legitimate star of his era. Finally, Dahlen, a player who has earned a lot of Hall of Fame consideration over the years, is here, too, with two cards, including that earlier referenced Brooklyn card.

In addition to those players, there are also a slew of commons that, while they can be found, are somewhat difficult to acquire due to collectors hoarding them over the years. One such player is John Titus, who is the only player in the set with a mustache. His cards have been feverishly collected but have cooled off in recent years. Still, Titus cards are more valuable than regular commons.

Advertising Backs

sovereign-t206-back

A large part of the appeal for T206 collectors are the various advertising backs. Not every back is found for every player, but each player has several different advertiser backs – some more than others. Advertising backs include the following:

American Beauty, Broadleaf, Carolina Brights, Cycle, Drum, El Principe De Gales (known as EPDG), Hindu (red or brown), Lenox, Old Mill (black or brown), Piedmont, Polar Bear, Sovereign (apple green or dark green), Sweet Caporal, Tolstoi, and Uzit.

That list, however, is just a start to the T206 backs. Collectors not only seek T206 cards based on those backs but also by Series and Factory Numbers. The complete list of backs taking all of that into consideration includes the following:

  • American Beauty 350 (with frame)
  • American Beauty 350 (no frame)
  • American Beauty 460
  • Broad Leaf 350
  • Broad Leaf 460
  • Carolina Brights
  • Cycle 350
  • Cycle 460
  • Drum
  • El Principe De Gales (EPDG)
  • Hindu (brown)
  • Hindu (red)
  • Lenox (black)
  • Lenox (brown)
  • Old Mill (black)
  • Old Mill (brown)
  • Old Mill (Southern League backs)
  • Piedmont 150 Factory 25
  • Piedmont 350 Factory 25
  • Piedmont 350-460 Factory 25
  • Piedmont 350-460 Factory 42
  • Polar Bear
  • Sovereign 150
  • Sovereign 350 (dark/forest green)
  • Sovereign 350 (light/apple green)
  • Sovereign 460
  • Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 25
  • Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 30
  • Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 649 Overprint
  • Sweet Caporal 350 Factory 25
  • Sweet Caporal 350 Factory 30
  • Sweet Caporal 350-460 Factory 25
  • Sweet Caporal 350-460 Factory 30
  • Sweet Caporal 350-460 Factory 42
  • Sweet Caporal 350-460 Factory 42 Scroll
  • Tolstoi
  • Uzit

A couple of other backs are also worth noting. Some cards have been found with blank backs. In addition, a small group of Ty Cobb cards have been found with a special Ty Cobb advertising back. Neither is formally recognized by all T206 collectors as T206 backs. Some, but not all, collectors regard the Ty Cobb cards with Ty Cobb backs as T206 cards. And the blank-backed cards are generally hand cut and believed to be scraps or unfinished cards – not cards actually distributed in tobacco products.

Of all the other backs, though, among the most difficult are the Old Mill Brown, Drum, Uzit, Lenox, Broad Leaf, and Hindu. Piedmont and Sweet Caporal are the most plentiful. However, even some of those are difficult finds, such as the Factory 42 cards.

Below is a complete checklist of the set (SL denotes Southern League players).

Interested in more on the T206 set? Check out T206.org and also be sure to check out Scot Reader’s excellent digital T206 book.

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Ed Abbaticchio (blue)
Ed Abbaticchio (brown)
Fred Abbott
Bill Abstein
Doc Adkins
Whitey Alperman
Red Ames (hands down)
Red Ames (hands up)
Red Ames (portrait)
John Anderson
Frank Arellanes
Herman Armbruster
Harry Arndt
Jake Atz
Frank Home Run Baker
Neal Ball (Cleveland)
Neal Ball (New York)
Jap Barbeau
Cy Barger
Jack Barry
Shad Barry
Jack Bastian – SL
Emil Batch
Johnny Bates
Harry Bay – SL
Ginger Beaumont
Fred Beck
Beals Becker
Jake Beckley
George Bell (hands up)
George Bell (follow through)
Chief Bender (no trees)
Chief Bender (trees)
Chief Bender (portrait)
Bill Bergen (catching)
Bill Bergen (batting)
Heinie Berger
Bill Bernhard  – SL
Bob Bescher (hands up)
Bob Bescher (portrait)
Joe Birmingham
Lena Blackburne
Jack Bliss
Frank Bowerman
Bill Bradley (portrait)
Bill Bradley (bat)
Dave Brain
Kitty Bransfield
Roy Brashear
Ted Breitenstein – SL
Roger Bresnahan (portrait)
Roger Bresnahan (bat)
Al Bridwell (no cap)
Al Bridwell (cap)
George Brown (Chicago)
George Brown (Washington)
Mordecai Brown (Chi. shirt)
Mordecai Brown (Cub shirt)
Mordecai Brown (portrait)
Al Burch (batting)
Al Burch (fielding)
Fred Burchell
Jimmy Burke
Bill Burns
Donnie Bush
John Butler
Bobby Byrne
Howie Camnitz (folded arms)
Howie Camnitz (arm at side)
Howie Camnitz (hands up)
Billy Campbell
Scoops Carey – SL
Charley Carr
Bill Carrigan
Doc Casey
Peter Cassidy
Frank Chance (batting)
Frank Chance (red)
Frank Chance (yellow)
Bill Chappelle
Chappie Charles
Hal Chase (dark cap)
Hal Chase (trophy)
Hal Chase (blue portrait)
Hal Chase (pink portrait)
Hal Chase (white cap)
Jack Chesbro
Ed Cicotte
Bill Clancy
Fred Clarke (bat)
Fred Clarke (portrait)
J.J. Clarke
Josh Clark (Clarke)
Bill Clymer
Ty Cobb (bat off shoulder)
Ty Cobb (bat on shoulder)
Ty Cobb (green portrait)
Ty Cobb (red portrait)
Cad Coles – SL
Eddie Collins
Jimmy Collins
Bunk Congalton
Wid Conroy (fielding)
Wid Conroy (bat)
Harry Covaleski
Doc Crandall (no cap)
Doc Crandall (cap)
Bill Cranston – SL
Gavvy Cravath
Sam Crawford (throwing)
Sam Crawford (bat)
Birdie Cree
Lou Criger
Dode Criss
Monte Cross
Bill Dahlen (Boston)
Bill Dahlen (Brooklyn)
Paul Davidson
George Davis
Harry Davis (Davis on front)
Harry Davis (H. Davis on front)
Frank Delehanty
Jim Delehanty
Ray Demmitt (New York)
Ray Demmitt (St. Louis)
Rube Dessau
Art Devlin
Josh DeVore
Bill Dineen
Mike Donlin (fielding)
Mike Donlin (sitting)
Mike Donlin (bat)
Jiggs Donohue
Bill Donovan (portrait)
Bill Donovan (throwing)
Red Dooin
Mickey Doolan (batting)
Mickey Doolan (fielding)
Mickey Doolin
Gus Dorner
Patsy Dougherty (arm up)
Patsy Dougherty (portrait)
Tom Downey (bat)
Tom Downey (fielding)
Jerry Downs
Joe Doyle (New York)
Joe Doyle (New York NL)
Larry Doyle (portrait)
Larry Doyle (throwing)
Larry Doyle (bat)
Jean Dubuc
Hugh Duffy
Jack Dunn
Joe Dunn
Bull Durham
Jimmy Dygert
Ted Easterly
Dick Egan
Kid Elberfeld (fielding)
Kid Elberfield (NY portrait)
Kid Elberfield (Wash. portrait)
Roy Ellam – SL
Clyde Engle
Steve Evans
Johnny Evers (portrait)
Johnny Evers (Chi. shirt)
Johnny Evers (Cubs shirt)
Bob Ewing
Cecil Ferguson
Hobe Ferris
Lou Fiene (portrait)
Lou Fiene (throwing)
Steamer Flanagan
Art Fletcher
Elmer Flick
Russ Ford
Ed Foster – SL
Jerry Freeman
John Frill
Charlie Fritz – SL
Art Fromme
Chick Gandil
Bob Ganley
John Ganzel
Harry Gasper
Rube Geyer
George Gibson
Billy Gilbert
Wilbur Goode
Bill Graham
Peaches Graham
Dolly Gray
Ed Greminger – SL
Clark Griffith (bat)
Clark Griffith (portrait)
Moose Grimshaw
Bob Groom
Tom Guiheen – SL
Ed Hahn
Bob Hall
Bill Hallman
Jack Hannifan
Bill Hart – SL
Jimmy Hart – SL
Topsy Hartsel
Jack Hayden
Ross Helm – SL
Charlie Hemphill
Buck Herzog (Boston)
Buck Herzog (New York)
Gordon Hickman – SL
Bill Hinchman
Harry Hinchman
Dick Hoblitzell
Danny Hoffman
Izzy Hoffman
Solly Hofman
Bock Hooker – SL
Del Howard
Ernie Howard – SL
Harry Howell (hand at waist)
Harry Howell (portrait)
Miller Huggins (mouth)
Miller Huggins (portrait)
Rudy Hulswitt
John Hummel
George Hunter
Frank Isbell
Fred Jacklitsch
Jimmy Jackson
Hughie Jennings (two hands)
Hughie Jennings (one hand)
Hughie Jennings (portrait)
Walter Johnson (glove)
Walter Johnson (portrait)
Fielder Jones (hands at hips)
Fielder Jones (portrait)
Davy Jones
Tom Jones
Dutch Jordan – SL
Tim Jordan (batting)
Tim Jordan (portrait)
Addie Joss (hands at chest)
Addie Joss (portrait)
Ed Karger
Willie Keeler (portrait)
Willie Keeler (batting)
Joe Kelley
J.F. Kiernan – SL
Ed Killian (hands at chest)
Ed Killian (portrait)
Frank King – SL
Rube Kisinger
Red Kleinow (Boston)
Red Kleinow (NY catching)
Red Kleinow (NY bat)
Johnny Kling
Otto Knabe
Jack Knight (portrait)
Jack Knight (bat)
Ed Konetchy (glove up)
Ed Konetchy (glove down)
Harry Krause (pitching)
Harry Krause (portrait)
Rube Kroh
Otto Kruger
James Lafitte – SL
Nap Lajoie (portrait)
Nap Lajoie (throwing)
Nap Lajoie (bat)
Joe Lake (New York)
Joe Lake (STL with ball)
Joe Lake (STL no ball)
Frank LaPorte
Arlie Latham
Bill Lattimore
Jimmy Lavender
Tommy Leach (bending over)
Tommy Leach (portrait)
Lefty Leifield (bat)
Lefty Leifield (pitching)
Ed Lennox
Harry Lentz -SL
Glenn Liebhardt
Vive Lindaman
Perry Lipe – SL
Paddy Livingstone
Hans Lobert
Harry Lord
Harry Lumley
Carl Lundgren (Chicago)
Carl Lundgren (Kansas City)
Nick Maddox
Sherry Magie Error
Sherry Magee (portrait)
Sherry Magee (bat)
Bill Malarkey
Billy Maloney
George Manion – SL
Rube Manning (bat)
Rube Manning (pitching)
Rube Marquard (pitching)
Rube Marquard (hands)
Rube Marquard (portrait)
Doc Marshall
Christy Mathewson (dark cap)
Christy Mathewson (light cap)
Christy Mathewson (portrait)
Al Mattern
John McAleese
George McBride
Pat McCauley – SL
Moose McCormick
Pryor McElveen
Dan McGann
Jim McGinley
Joe Iron Man McGinnity
Stoney McGlynn
John McGraw (finger)
John McGraw (glove)
John McGraw (no cap)
John McGraw (cap portrait)
Harry McIntyre (Brooklyn)
Harry McIntyre (Brooklyn/Chi)
Matty McIintyre
Larry McLean
George McQuillan (ball)
George McQuillan (bat)
Fred Merkle (portrait)
Fred Merkle (throwing)
George Merritt
Chief Meyers
Clyde Milan
Dots Miller
Molly Miller – SL
Bill Milligan
Fred Mitchell
Mike Mitchell
Dan Moeller
Carlton Molesworth – SL
Herbie Moran
Pat Moran
George Moriarty
Mike Mowrey
Dom Mullaney – SL
George Mullen
George Mullin (throwing)
George Mullin (bat)
Danny Murphy (bat)
Danny Murphy (throwing)
Red Murray (batting)
Red Murray (portrait)
Chief Myers (batting)
Chief Myers (fielding)
Billy Nattress
Tom Needham
Simon Nicholls (hands/knees)
Simon Nichols (batting)
Harry Niles
Rebel Oakes
Frank Oberlin
Peter O’Brien
Bill O’Hara (New York)
Bill O’Hara (St. Louis)
Rube Oldring (batting)
Rube Oldring (fielding)
Charley O’Leary (hands/knees)
Charley O’Leary (portrait)
William O’Neil
Al Orth – SL
William Otey – SL
Orval Overall (hands up)
Orval Overall (hands down)
Orval Overall (portrait)
Frank Owen
George Paige – SL
Fred Parent
Dode Paskert
Jim Pastorius
Harry Pattee
Fred Payne
Barney Pelty (horizontal)
Barney Pelty (vertical)
Hub Perdue – SL
George Perring
Arch Persons – SL
Francis Pfeffer
Jake Pfeister (sitting)
Jake Pfeister (throwing)
Jimmy Phelan
Eddie Phelps
Deacon Phillippe
Ollie Pickering
Eddie Plank
Phil Poland
Jack Powell
Mike Powers
Billy Purtell
Ambrose Puttman
Lee Quillen
Jack Quinn
Newt Randall
Bugs Raymond
Ed Reagan – SL
Ed Reulbach (glove)
Ed Reulbach (no glove)
Dutch Revelle – SL
Bob Rhoades (hands up)
Bob Rhoades (arm extended)
Charlie Rhodes
Claude Ritchey
Lou Ritter
Ike Rockenfeld – SL
Claude Rossman
Nap Rucker (portrait)
Nap Rucker (throwing)
Dick Rudolph
Ray Ryan – SL
Germany Schaefer (Detroit)
Germany Schaefer (Wash.)
George Schirm
Larry Schlafly
Admiral Schlei (batting)
Admiral Schlei (catching)
Admiral Schlei (portrait)
Boss Schmidt (portrait)
Boss Schmidt (throwing)
Ossee Schreck
Wildfire Schulte (back)
Wildfire Schulte (front)
Jim Scott
Charles Seitz – SL
Cy Seymour (batting)
Cy Seymour (portrait)
Cy Seymour (throwing)
Spike Shannon
Bud Sharpe
Shag Shaughnessy – SL
Al Shaw
Hunky Shaw
Jimmy Sheckard (glove)
Jimmy Sheckard (no glove)
Bill Shipke
Jimmy Slagle
Carlos Smith – SL
Frank Smith (F. Smith)
Frank Smith (white cap)
Frank Smith (Chicago/Boston)
Happy Smith
Heinie Smith
Sid Smith – SL
Fred Snodgrass (batting)
Fred Snodgrass (catching)
Bob Spade
Tris Speaker
Tubby Spencer
Jake Stahl (glove)
Jake Stahl (no glove)
Oscar Stanage
Dolly Stark – SL
Charlie Starr
Harry Steinfeldt (portrait)
Harry Steinfeldt (bat)
Jim Stephens
George Stone
George Stovall (batting)
George Stovall (portrait)
Sam Strang
Gabby Street (catching)
Gabby Street (portrait)
Billy Sullivan
Ed Summers
Bill Sweeney
Jeff Sweeney
Jesse Tannehill
Lee Tannehill (L. Tannehill)
Lee Tannehill (Tannehill)
Dummy Taylor
Fred Tenney
Tony Thebo – SL
Jake Thielman
Ira Thomas
Woodie Thornton – SL
Joe Tinker (bat off shoulder)
Joe Tinker (bat on shoulder)
Joe Tinker (hands on knees)
Joe Tinker (portrait)
John Titus
Terry Turner
Bob Unglaub
Juan Violat – SL
Rube Waddell (portrait)
Rube Waddell (throwing)
Heine Wagner (bat/left should.)
Heine Wagner (bat/rt. should.)
Honus Wagner
Bobby Wallace
Ed Walsh
Jack Warhop
Jake Weimer
James Westlake – SL
Zack Wheat
Doc White (pitching)
Doc White (portrait)
Foley White – SL
Jack White
Kaiser Wilhelm (hands up)
Kaiser Wilhelm (bat)
Ed Willett
Ed Willetts
Jimmy Williams
Vic Willis (Pittsburgh)
Vic Willis (STL batting)
Vic Willis (STL throwing)
Owen Wilson
Hooks Wiltse (pitching)
Hooks Wiltse (no cap)
Hooks Wiltse (portrait w/cap)
Lucky Wright
Cy Young (bare hand)
Cy Young (glove)
Cy Young (portrait)
Irv Young
Heinie Zimmerman
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