The well-known ‘common’ continues to draw strong prices
With dozens of Hall of Famers, the T206 set has its share of expensive cards featuring high-profile players. But the set also has its share of surprises and one of those is found in the card of John Titus.
As a player, Titus was nothing special, really. With a .282 career batting average, he was certainly a good player. And even by the time he retired at the age of 37 in 1913, he still proved he was more than capable, hitting .297. But Titus wasn’t a standout by any means and, in most sets, his cards are generally lumped together with other commons.
In the T206 set, however, his cards are a different story.
Collectors can buy most low-grade commons in the set starting around $15-$20. But if you manage to find a Titus for that price in virtually any condition, it’s worth snatching up. In general, Titus cards are difficult to find under $50 and often are in the $75-$100 for even low-grade ones.
Why the high price tag? Well, it’s kind of complicated but there are at least a couple of reasons for the irregularity.
First, from an aesthetics standpoint, Titus’ card is interesting. At first glance, it doesn’t look too odd. But his card is unique as he is the only player in the entire set with a mustache. And considering there are more than 500 different pictures in the set, that’s unique, to say the least.
The card is also different in terms of even other Titus issues. Other common cards, such as his T205, T202 and T201 cards all depict him without facial hair, as do his Sweet Caporal discs and pins. The uniqueness of the picture surely cannot be understated. He can be seen in vintage photos, such as this one, with facial hair. But in general, Titus images depict him clean shaven.
Still, facial hair in and of itself isn’t enough to drive up prices is it? Well, while we have seen cards with unique imagery rise dramatically in price, that isn’t the only driver here. The fact is that the Titus card was hoarded by at least one collector, who was said to have amassed over 100 of them. Other Titus collections of a handful here or there have popped up but that isn’t enough to move the needle. More than 100, though? That’ll do it.
The hoarding of the Titus card didn’t make them impossible to find but it definitely made them less plentiful. And with word out about the card being collected by at least one person, that likely helped drive prices even higher than they probably should have been. After all, there aren’t many John Titus collectors out there. But there are plenty of folks trying to collect the T206 set and with word that the card is a little tougher than normal, that didn’t make finding it at low prices all that easy.
So how many Titus cards are there? Tough to say. But PSA and SGC have combined to grade about 750 thus far and while many raw, ungraded Titus cards certainly exist, 100+ is still a nice dent in the overall population. And while the hoarder is believed to have since sold his collection at auction, what exactly has happened to all of the cards isn’t quite known. After all, if the new owner is keeping them to him/herself, nothing has really changed in terms of their availability to other collectors.
In reality, the card isn’t that rare. While BIN prices are generally quite high, there are always a good number of them available on eBay. But as we’ve seen with other cards in the set that are similarly not tough to find (looking at you, green background Ty Cobb card), prices are based on collectors simply willing to pay higher-than-normal prices for them.
Could the price come down on the Titus cards? They already have slightly since the craze of a few years ago and I expect they could continue to drop as well. But keep in mind that T206 cards are incredibly hot right now and rarities (or in the case of the Titus, perceived ones) are still going to draw big prices. Part of the reason the Titus prices are remaining healthy is because of how well the set is doing as a whole.
In other words, I’m not sure collectors should expect a significant drop in prices for the Titus cards anytime soon.