Ty Cobb’s Least Expensive Pre-War Cards
A while back, I wrote about some of the more inexpensive cards from Babe Ruth’s playing days. Ty Cobb is another common player I’m often asked about.
If you’ve just started collecting Cobb in recent years, you’ve missed out a little. His cards have continued to increase in value and even some of his more common cards, such as his green background T206 card, have started to take off in the last couple of years.
But there are a few cheaper ones still out there and the good news is that, several of these are usually found in pretty good condition. Here are five of his least expensive cards from prior to 1940.
1935 Whitman Game
If you’re looking for the least expensive Cobb card, the 1935 Whitman Party Stunts Game card might be it. The card was part of a set of cards that comprised a party game where guests were forced to complete stunts, imitating various people.
Cobb was one of those in the game that was to be imitated as guests were supposed to imitate him sliding to beat a ball across home plate. I’m not sure exactly what type of party you’d have to be at to attempt such a thing, but there you have it.
The cards in the set were printed in black, green, and orange ink and Cobb’s card is no exception here, as the character is wearing green socks and a green shirt along with orange pants. The set also includes the legendary Babe Ruth as participants were to mimic the slugger striking out with the bases loaded.
To the value of the Cobb cards, these can be all over the place because the cards aren’t seen all that often. PSA made an error in grading at least some as you will sometimes see them advertised as the Rook Game. That is incorrect, however. You can sometimes find full sets of the game being sold by non-collectors and, thus, can see them for a low price. But dealers that are aware of them and looking to sell them can ask for $50 or more for them. Finding one under that price, however, is possible with some digging and a little luck.
1925-27 Famous People Strip Card (W512)
If you’re looking for something a little more concrete, a lot of collectors start with strip cards. Arguably Cobb’s most common and plentiful strip issue is his W512 card.
The W512 Famous People Strip Cards featured a total of 50 personalities. Ten baseball players were in the set along with ten boxers. Other athletes, along with actors and actresses, made up the rest of the set.
Part of the reason that you can find these card with some degree of regularity is because they were produced over a period of three years. That put a lot onto the market and, even though many have been destroyed or discarded over time, a good number seem to remain.
As athletes changed teams, etc., some of the cards reflect changes in the text on the front. Cobb’s was one of those and, ironically, gambling allegations may have played a part in his card changing, as I wrote here for Sports Collectors Daily.
The picture of Cobb isn’t great, obviously, but most strip issues don’t have good images. You can find this card in lower-grade condition for around $150-$200.
1923 German Transfers
The 1923 German Transfers issues is one of those things that veers on the edge of trading cards. Let’s be honest. This ain’t technically a card.
These were actually small transfers that could be applied to skin or other surfaces. So the image and text display properly, the unused transfers are printed backwards. These are small stamp-like collectibles and while they aren’t technically cards, they’re basically collected as such.
The German Transfers set features crude images of baseball players and a total of 25 are in the set. They were originally printed as part of a five-row, five-column sheet. Usually found individually, you can sometimes find the full sheets that have not be separated. Pictures are not the best and the predominant ink color in the pictures is red and green. While the set is known for the baseball players, boxers also make up the checklist. In all, there are 15 baseball players and ten boxers.
One small note is that these should not be confused with the earlier and significantly rarer German Stamps set.
The transfers are beyond affordable. Commons are often under $20 and Cobb is usually in the $75-$125 range.
1911 Mecca Double Folders (T201)
One of my favorite affordable Cobb cards is a tobacco issue. Most of Cobb’s tobacco cards are pricey but the T201 Mecca Double Folders card is pretty affordable. If you’re looking for this best, cheap card, this might be it just because it’s a common tobacco issue that is collected pretty frequently.
I’m not crazy about the design of these cards. The idea is that you get two players for the price of one with a player on each side. But these aren’t your typical double-sided cards. These card have a full-length player on one side and an upper half of a player on the other, which also includes statistics at the bottom for both players.
The cards intentionally came with a fold in them so that when you folded one half down, the player on the back (with his half body) would come down, utilizing the same lower half of the full-length player on the other side. Confusing? A little but when you see one in person, you quickly understand the concept.
Part of the reason this Cobb card is so inexpensive could be in part because he’s the player that has only a half body until you fold that portion down. Still, it’s a widely-collected issue among pre-war collectors and arguably the most mainstream issue here.
Often you can get these in decent shape for around $400 and low-grade ones can be even less. It’s pricier than others on this list but for a legitimate tobacco card of Cobb, it’s significantly cheaper than his others.
1913 Barker Game (Sliding)
If I’m picking one card that gives you the most bang for your buck from this list, it might be this one.
Cobb is featured in the 1913 Barker Game card set with a regular individual card like other players. But a little known fact is that, among the card’s random action cards, which don’t name players, he’s found there, too. One one card, Cobb is pictured sliding into home plate with an umpire behind him. Collectors should note that there are two cards of sliding players in the action subset. The Cobb card is the one where he is facing the front and has the umpire in the back.
The card is not always classified as a Cobb card and, as a result, can be easy to miss. But there’s no doubt that the player sliding on the card is Cobb and this is one of his better, more affordable cards. The card, unfortunately, doesn’t have his name on it but it’s a genuine Cobb.
I particularly like this one because it’s a real image of Cobb. I generally prefer art cards to real photography black and white issues but I’ll take this one any day of the week over the terrible art on the German Stamps, Whitman Game, or, to a lesser degree, the W512 cards.
Unlike his regular, half-portrait Barker Game card with his name on it that can run $300-$400, this one can often be had for half of that price. Another perk to collecting game cards is that they are usually in great condition because of the rounded corners that were specifically cut that way and for the fact that many of the games went untouched or were little used.