How a Common T202 Card Became Worth Hundreds Overnight
A mysterious baserunner created a craze for a former common T202 Hassan Triple Folders card
If you’re unfamiliar with them, the T202 Hassan Triple Folders featured two cards (usually referred to as panels) on the end and a black and white action shot in the middle. In all, you’ve really got three cards in one and, as the panels included a factory-made crease, they are called ‘Triple Folders.’ The cards were distributed in packages of Hassan Cork Tip Cigarettes in 1912. Mostly, they are noted for their close relationship to the T205 gold borders set as the panels featured pictures and cards almost entirely from that set.
One particular card in the set never drew much notice as it featured a pair of common players in Harry Lord and Lee Tannehill of the Chicago White Sox. The card pictured Lord and Tannehill on the ends and a grainy shot in the middle features Lord making a tag on an unknown sliding baserunner. Lord is referenced on the back with the title, “Lord Catches His Man,” but in the description that follows, there’s no reference to the baserunner.
The back reads, well, like a Harry Lord card:
“The runner was out at third, and he might well be; for the bag was being held down by the able Harry D. Lord of the Chicago White Sox. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth among the Boston fans when they found out that Lord’s health had not been lost, which was the reason given for trading him to the Chicagos for Pitcher Frank Smith and Third Baseman Purtell, and now President Comiskey of the White Sox says he wouldn’t take $25,000 for his new third baseman. Boston originally got Lord from the Worcester team of the New England team, and he made good in the first season. As an infielder he is one of the best in the American League.”
Back in May 2010, a new poster to the Net54 board introduced a theory that the T202 card featuring Chicago White Sox players Harry Lord and Lee Tannehill actually contained a pretty important player:
Shoeless Joe Jackson cards are, as they have been for decades, extremely popular. Jackson, one of the best players of his generation, is sort of a cult hero as he was banned with seven other players on the Chicago White Sox for their part in allegedly fixing the 1919 World Series. Jackson is often said to have taken the money but not throwing any games. For his part, he batted a blistering .375, which was a full .24 points over his already healthy .351 average in the regular season that year. Jackson was banned after the 1920 season and would never play major league baseball again.
Because he didn’t become a full-time player until 1911, and also because there weren’t a ton of cards during World War I, which occurred during his career, he doesn’t have many cards in general. That makes the hunt for his stuff even more popular.
Many collectors on the board were unimpressed immediately after the initial question stating that it wasn’t Jackson. You can read through that thread, which shows a heavy dose of skepticism early on. Beyond that, others were harsher and downright hostile and, as message boards are wont to do, the thread took kind of a nasty turn.
Others, though, took a chance, anyway, as the Lord Catches His Man card, generally about a $20-$25 card in low-grade condition, was scooped up off eBay quickly ‘just in case.’
At first, nothing could be proven. But slowly, more and more people thought that the card could resemble Jackson. And eventually, a photograph of a similar picture identifying Jackson surfaced from a newspaper, which pretty conclusively identified him in the shot as it looks like the same play.
The picture is in that thread but you can see a larger version of it here.
It’s Joe Jackson but is it a Joe Jackson card?
So Joe Jackson is now widely recognized as being pictured. But is it truly a Joe Jackson card?
The debate still goes on to this day. Virtually everyone believes that Jackson is the runner pictured. But does his mere presence mean that we can call this a Joe Jackson card?
More specifically, Jackson is a part of a play where he is unnamed. And, as that description on the back reads, the focal point is really about Lord, who is pictured in one of those panels on the front. Because of that, some collectors feel that Jackson is only an ancillary part of the picture and that it is difficult to really call this a Jackson card. They often will cite that, because he is not really the key subject that he is no more than a background player, similar to the famous Sam Vincent 1990-91 Hoops basketball card.
The Vincent card, shown here, features the guard driving to the basket. It is generally worth a couple bucks not because of Vincent himself, but because Michael Jordan is in the shot wearing a No. 12 jersey instead of his customary No. 23. Not to go too far down the rabbit hole here, but the tl;dr is that Jordan’s jersey was believed to have been stolen causing the last-minute switch. Thus, Jordan’s presence on the card in a jersey that wasn’t his own has increased its value.
Now, despite Jordan’s presence on it, this isn’t really considered to be a Jordan card. It’s still Sam Vincent, right? Jordan, while pictured (and admittedly the reason for the price bump), is not the true subject. Such is the thought here. Jackson is shown but he is not named and not the real subject. But while some collectors take umbrage with calling this a Joe Jackson card, I do not and the reason for that is pretty simple.
Jordan, or any other player merely in the background of the picture, is definitely not the focal point. But the description on the card flatly discusses the play of which Jackson is an important part of. I would contend that he was not named simply because he could not be identified by the card manufacturer. He was surely identified by the photographer as stated in the newspaper. But he would have likely been mentioned on the card if it could be proven it was him.
Jackson, while a young player at the time, was already emerging as one of the best in the game. He hit an unbelievable .408 that year (1911) and led the league in on base percentage at .468 while finishing fourth in the Most Valuable Player race. It is hard to imagine that he would not have been named if he could have been reasonably identified.
But that really isn’t relevant, anyway. The key point on the card is that Lord is tagging a baserunner and that baserunner is Jackson. This is not merely a player in the background as a fielder that wouldn’t be relevant to the play being discussed. He is the subject that is literally identified on the card as the baserunner. For that reason, I believe it is more than reasonable to call this a Jackson card.
The card, which had already begun selling for more money, really took off after the evidence was discovered. Today, auction houses reference this as a Joe Jackson card and instead of selling like a common, it usually sells for a few hundred dollars in decent shape.
Now, that’s nothing compared to what a more unquestioned Jackson will cost you. Even Jackson’s ‘cheap’ cards like his game and strip cards often run more than $1,000. But it’s now worth much more than it was when it was an unknown.