Assessing Rarity on T218 Subjects by Sport

Let’s take a fresh look on the rarity of the types of athletes in this popular multi-sport set

T218 Keyes Boxing

The T218 Champions set is one of the premier multi-sport issues from the pre-war era that doesn’t feature one of the four major sports. It’s popularity doesn’t reach that of the 19th Century Champions sets produced by Allen & Ginter, Kimball, and Goodwin. Heck, it doesn’t even reach that of the later 1933 Goudey Sport Kings issue, featuring a past-his-prime Babe Ruth and retired Ty Cobb.

Those issues all included baseball and there’s none of that in this set. But when it comes to other multi-sport releases not including any baseball, basketball, football, or hockey, the T218 Champions issue has to be near the top.

Interestingly enough, a set without those major sports cards can cost a little more than you think. That’s partially because of boxers, which are probably the most collected bunch in the set. But it’s also because some of the cards of the more minor athletes are treated like shortprints and often priced more.

As someone pursuing the set and only a few cards away from completion, it got me to thinking, just which of these cards are the tougher ones?

Typically, without regarding the stars, this is how I’ve come to see these cards most often priced from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Track and Field/Swimming (cheapest)
  • Boxing
  • Bowlers/Billiards/Others
  • Golfers (most expensive)

T218 Bowling Heins

T218 Billiards Cutler

Others here refers to the other handful of cards in the set featuring pedestrians, roller skaters, etc.

Now, two things are noteworthy here. First, sellers often ask way more for these cards than what buyers are willing to pay. Part of the reason this set has taken me longer than expected is seller expectations. Sellers often asked upwards of $30 or so for cards that, with some patience, I found for around $10 or even less. I’m basing this on what people are asking, not what they’re getting.

Second, the margins for pricing between those four groups varies a lot. For example, the track and field athletes are often dirt cheap and much less than what folks will ask for boxers. But there’s a much smaller gap between the Bowlers/Billiards players and the golfers. I did find the golfers to be a little bit more pricey and I attribute that to the fact that there are more collectors of golf cards than the others. However, the gap between those two groups is pretty small (again, in terms of what people seem to be asking for).

So what’s the point here? Well, mostly, I wanted to know if that ranking in terms of what people are asking for necessarily correlated with what the pop reports say. Let’s take a closer look.

To date, here is how many cards on average that PSA has graded for each type of athlete.

Sport/Type of Athlete Average # Graded
Aviation/Bowling/Other 37
Billiards 37
Track & Field/Swimming 43
Golf 59
Boxing 63

So, what, if anything, can we deduce here?

First, the boxing numbers are going to be skewed because those are, by far, the ones that are most collected here. As a result, they’re going to be the most graded. One thing I did to try to offset that was throw out the numbers for the two Jack Johnson cards and the two Jim Jeffries cards as both of those were graded in exceedingly high quantities compared to the other cards. Still, the boxing numbers came out on the high end here and that doesn’t surprise me. I’m not even going to try to evaluate anything from a population standpoint on those just because they are the runaway winner in terms of popularity for most collectors.

T218 GolfT218 Track and FieldThat said, a few other things did stand out to me.

I was surprised to see so many golf cards graded. Outside of boxing collectors, those are often treated as the crown jewel of the set aside from, I don’t know, maybe the Jack Johnson cards. The golfers do not appear to be as rare as some collectors probably believe. The pops are very similar to the boxers, many of which are generally a little cheaper by comparison.

Additionally, the cards of the track and field athletes, as well as the swimmers, appear to be a bit underrated. As stated, those are usually the cheapest finds when it comes to this set and the rarity for those seems to be on par with the others, such as the billiards cards, etc. As I said earlier, some of that could be about people not collecting those issues as much, leading to them being graded less. But I have a hard time believing that there is a big rush to grade things like the aviator cards, too, and there are close to the same amounts of those being submitted. I didn’t separate aviators out on their own in the table above but in doing so now, there are exactly 36 (average) of them being submitted as opposed to the 37 track and field athletes/swimmers. Basically the same.

Now, I’m not sure we can take any of this data and use it to suggest how these cards should be priced. After all, we know that rarity is only one piece of the pie in determining how much a card is worth. But it is interesting to see that the track & field/swimming cards, which are valued so low compared to the others, are not much more plentiful than most in the set. Similarly, it’s interesting that the golf cards have such a large following based on them not being household names and because so many of them seem to exist.

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