The American Tobacco Company produced the T205 and T206 sets. And while a few have questioned the idea, they are widely believed to have also created the T207 issue. To most, the set is distinctive for its vastly different look to those first two releases. But the more significant difference is that it’s a whole lot rarer.
About the Three Sets
T206 was the first set created by the conglomerate. Production on those cards began in 1909 and ran through sometime in 1911. Also in 1911, the company produced the successful follow-up to that set in T205. Finally, they created a third set in 1912 known as T207.
It doesn’t take much to see that the T207 set is the redheaded stepchild of the group. The cards are dark, solemn, and markedly different from the others. In addition, the player selection was drastically different as the set didn’t include quite a few stars. Among those missing in action were players like Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson. Honus Wagner and Cy Young also aren’t there but Wagner had not previously agreed to be a part of the other two sets and Young had retired after 1911 so their absences were more understandable.
All three sets included cards that were distributed mostly in packs of cigarettes. Polar Bear, one of the advertisers that distributed the cards, included them in their packages of scrap tobacco instead. Each set also has cards with different advertisers on the backs.
In all, there are a total of 932 cards in the basic sets (not including the non-pose variations and errors) and they got smaller each year. The T206 set had 524 cards, T205 had 208, and T207 had 200.
A Look at T205 and T206 Rarity
Of the three, the T206 set is easily the most popular. It is not only the most famous pre-war card set of all time but the most famous set of any time period. Part of the reason for it’s popularity is that it can be widely collected.
The cards are extremely plentiful and between SGC and PSA, more than 300,000 have been graded with countless ungraded raw cards in circulation. Practically anyone can have a seat at the T206 table and despite the high volume of the cards, steady demand has kept prices high.
T205 is a little different. That set is popular as well, particularly with pre-war collectors. And prices are generally on a similar level with T206. However, there are far less cards in existence.
Less than 1/3 (approximately 70,000) have been graded by PSA and SGC and the cards are not nearly as plentiful. Most are still easily seen and with a standard checklist less than half of T206, the basic 208-card set is much easier to assemble than a 520-card T206 minus the four big rarities of Wagner, Magie, Plank, and Doyle.
T207 Rarity on Another Level
While the first two sets are plentiful, T207 cards are much tougher to find. Obviously, the Big 4 in the T206 set are the four biggest cards out of the three sets. But in general, the rarity in T207 is on an entirely different level compared to those two first sets.
Only about 9,000 T207 cards have been graded by SGC and PSA to date. Using the population reports as a barometer, that would make them about 35 times as rare as T206 cards and about eight times as rare as T205 cards.
In particular, individual rarity on the numerous shortprinted Broadleaf/Cycle cards makes completing a set extremely difficult. Many cards have only a few dozen examples and finding all of them is a real challenge.
Interestingly, prices are extremely low on them despite the rarity. Low-grade commons are shockingly on par with T205 and T206 commons and even the tough Broadleaf/Cycle-backed cards are significantly lower than they have been in the past. Low-grade examples of those cards are often in the $50-$75 range and that is amazing, considering their rarity.
T207 prices are not expected to remain low forever, though. While the prices have come down on them, that will likely change at some point as their rarity begins to be appreciated as it once was. The cards are simply too rare to sell comparably with the T205 and T206 sets. Demand is always the driver so we can’t merely look at the rarity of this set and expect they will skyrocket in value. However, demand is often increased once collectors notice specific issues are truly rare and my guess is that will again happen at some point.