Rarity for the Four Ty Cobb T206 Variations

What can the Pop Reports for Graded Ty Cobb T206 Cards Reveal?

Recently, I delved into the subject of the rarity of the four Babe Ruth cards found in the 1933 Goudey set. But there’s an even more iconic set that also has four cards of a Hall of Famer that is practically on pace with Ruth.

The T206 set includes four Ty Cobb cards. And like the Ruth cards, prices have climbed on them a bit in the last couple of years. There are a few interesting notes on their rarity so I wanted to take a look at these using the population reports from the three major graders, PSA, SGC, and Beckett.

As a disclaimer of sorts, remember that pop reports aren’t always indicative of what’s fact/fiction out there. But they can often give a pretty decent indication on rarity for cards compared to others and, in this case, with all three spitting out virtually the same results, I think they provide enough data to at least form some opinions.

Before we go too far, though, let’s take a look at the four Cobbs in the set. For those unfamiliar, here are the four available Cobb cards:

  • Portrait (green background)
  • Portrait (red background)
  • Half body card (bat on shoulder)
  • Half body card (bat off shoulder)

With that out of the way, there are some things we can learn when looking at these four cards. First let’s take a look at the raw data and see what that tells us.

PSA SGC Beckett
Green Portrait 776 (17.7%) 264 (16.6%) 44 (13.5%)
Red Portrait 1860 (42.4%) 693 (43.5%) 145 (44.3%)
Bat On 811 (18.5%) 282 (17.7%) 66 (20.2%)
Bat Off 943 (21.5%) 355 (22.3%) 72 (22.0%)

The first number shown in each column is how many of each card that company has graded to date and the second is what percentage that is on all of the T206 Cobbs graded by that company. High numbers in either case, obviously, means the card is not as rare and the lower numbers mean it’s more rare.

One final note is that SGC’s population report didn’t do me any favors. In addition to all of the cards shown, they had nearly 1,000 additional Cobbs that were graded but unmarked as to which version they were. Those, of course, could not be factored into the metrics. But with all three grading companies saying essentially the same thing in terms of the data they provide, it’s probably not that important.

Several things jump out when viewing the pop reports.

Ty Cobb Green Portrait is the Rarest, but

Cobb GreenThe green portrait card is the most desirable and the most expensive. But while it is the rarest as many collectors probably suspect, it’s not by a wide margin.

As a whole, the bat on variation is about as rare as the green portrait based on the population reports – and even the bat off version isn’t too far behind. That’s interesting given that the green portrait card sells for much more than the others, all things being equal.

SGC has a little more than 260 green portraits documented to date and about 280 of the Bat On variations. PSA is similarly close having graded about 775 greens to a little more than 800 bat on cards. There’s a little more separation in Beckett’s numbers but those are much smaller by comparison.

In general, the Bat On card is a little underrated when you see how much more regarded Cobb’s green portrait is. Part of the interest in the green portrait card is because it’s just a great looking card as most of the T206 portraits are. But in terms of rarity, both that one and the Bat On card are essentially on the same scale.

Ty Cobb Red Portrait is, let’s just say, Plentiful

Cobb RedAnother falsehood regarding the Cobbs is that the red portrait is on mostly equal footing with the other three cards. Many collectors know that the green portrait is the rarest, but often lump the other three together in terms of rarity. But while the red portrait card doesn’t sell for much less (if at all) compared to the two bat versions, it is much more plentiful than the others. By a lot.

How common are the red portrait Cobb cards? So common that they’re even practically twice as more common as the next to least common Cobb cards, the Bat Off version. In fact, as the numbers tell us, more than 40% of all the Cobb cards out there seem to be of the red portrait variety.

As a result, you might be inclined to believe that the card is significantly cheaper than the others but that’s not true. The pricing certainly isn’t commensurate with how common they are in terms of the pop reports. In general, these still command quite a bit of money and can even sell for more than the the Bat Off variation.

PSA is King for Ty Cobb T206 Cards

While SGC generally holds its own with PSA (and in many cases, even grades more of certain issues), PSA remains the king for grading Cobb T206s. To date, they’ve graded almost three times as many as SGC, in fact.

Why the big disparity? It’s difficult to say for sure. But, generally, PSA prices command more than SGC prices. And while many collectors may opt to use SGC for lesser-valued cards, to get the most bang for their buck, selecting PSA for the Cobb cards, which are now mostly over $1,000 even in low-grade condition, makes sense. That could explain why so many collectors have gone the PSA route when it comes to the Cobb T206s.

The Ty Cobb T206 Cards aren’t Rare by Comparison

Cobb OnCobb OffT206 is a collector favorite but, compared to other pre-war issues, certainly aren’t rare. That’s true for the Cobb cards as well. In all, more than 6,000 have been graded and that doesn’t even account for the many that aren’t. In comparison to other pre-war issues, there’s almost an abundance of them.

That’s interesting given how much the cards have shot up in value recently. The Ray Demmitt and Bill O’Hara St. Louis variations are the 5th and 6th rarest cards in the set after the Big 4 (Wagner, Doyle, Magie, and Plank) – with only a few hundred graded, they are much rarer than the Cobbs. Still, the Cobb cards that once were on par with them have surged ahead and command significantly higher prices now.

Will the Cobb prices hold or eventually come back to earth? I’m guessing the latter but it’s also worth pointing out that more and more collectors are discovering the T206 cards every year.

As more try to build sets, the Cobb cards will continue to be sought after. It’s possible that the card continues surging upward, despite their availability.

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