Overview of the Rare Ty Cobb Cards with Ty Cobb Tobacco Backs

‘It’s In The Details’

Title Ty Cobb Cards with Ty Cobb Tobacco Backs
Year circa 1909-10
Size 1 5/8″ x 2 3/4″
Images Color
Type Tobacco
Number in Set

The famous Ty Cobb tobacco cards with the Ty Cobb advertising back have made their way into the public eye quite a bit in recent years. But what are these cards and where did they come from? Let’s take a look.

Ty Cobb Cards with Ty Cobb Tobacco Backs Overview

Ty Cobb Back Tobacco T206T206 095 CobbA true rarity among tobacco cards is the unique Ty Cobb portrait card with a Ty Cobb tobacco brand back. The card features a portrait pose of Cobb on the front with a red background while the back has a green-ink advertisement for the Ty Cobb tobacco brand.

Ty Cobb tobacco was a product manufactured sometime around 1910. The tobacco was loose and reportedly the product of a company called the F.R. Penn Tobacco Company. They marketed the tobacco inside of tins bearing Cobb’s likeness and with the slogan, ‘King of the Smoking Tobacco World.’

How exactly these cards made their way into the public isn’t entirely confirmed. However, many collectors believe they were packaged inside of the F.R. Penn Tobacco tins. The exact date of production for this set is not known. It is believed, however, to have been printed in or around 1910-11. That has been based, in part, on advertisements from F.R. Penn that mention the Ty Cobb tobacco product that some believe to have contained these cards. It is also important to note that no other different Cobb cards are known with this back. In fact, no other cards are known to exist with the ad at all.

Whatever the case, the cards are exceedingly rare. Only about 15 were known to the hobby until a large find of eight of them were discovered recently. The cards are among the most expensive in the entire industry, generally selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The cards note that they were printed by Factory 33, believed to be located in Reidsville, NC.

T206 Connections

The first thing most collectors notice when they see these cards is their resemblance to the T206 set. After all, they feature the exact same Cobb image found in that set and the layout of the card (white borders, font size/color) is the same as standard T206 cards. The primary difference, of course, is the back advertisement, which is not found on any other T206 card. Additionally, the cards are known to have a gloss on them – again, something not found on other T206s.

It wasn’t just the card that has a T206 connection, either. The tin, which bore Cobb’s likeness, was a picture of the bat on shoulder pose, also found in the T206 set. While not a card, the tins themselves are quite valuable as well, selling for thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars.

The case for these being official T206 cards is often made on three fronts. First, of course, the card front is the same as that found in the T206 set. Second, the cards are believed to have been issued at the same time period as T206. Third, F.R. Penn was acquired by the American Tobacco Company (distributor of the T206 set through their various brands) in 1903.

If this was an ATC brand product (through their ownership of F.R. Penn) that makes it a T206, right? By extension, yes. However, some evidence (such as an article mentioned in this thread) also suggests that F.R. Penn operated independently of the ATC, further muddying the waters.

Whether this should be classified as a T206 card is up for debate and will probably remain so unless more concrete information is discovered about them to conclusively make a determination one way or the other. Arguments exist for both sides.

Fakes and Reprints

Because the card is highly desirable, it is often forged. Often, it is offered with unknown authenticity with a seller leaving it up to the interpretation of the buyer. As the cards are very rare, your chances of encountering a genuine version of this card are slim to none.

Additionally, the advertising back also appears on other faked cards with different T206 fronts. As stated earlier, the Ty Cobb advertising back is only known to exist with the red portrait pose of Cobb. It is not believed to exist with any other player or with any other Cobb pose. Additionally, the advertisement is only found with green ink.

Finally, should you see a Ty Cobb-backed card and question its authenticity, know that the chances are most certainly against you. Other authentic copies unknown to the hobby are likely out there. However, finding one is very difficult.

Ty Cobb Cards with Ty Cobb Tobacco Backs Checklist

The only known card with a Ty Cobb Tobacco back is the Ty Cobb red portrait card shown here. Backs are only found with this image.

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