Has a Second Blue Old Mill T206 Card Surfaced?

A true pre-war rarity may have surfaced this week

‘Wait? A second blue Old Mill T206 card?’

That might be the question you find yourself asking regarding the title. But indeed, a single, solitary blue Old Mill card did indeed surface a few years ago.

If you’re only vaguely familiar with T206 cards, you might not know why this is such a big deal. After all, T206 cards with Old Mill backs are not too difficult to find. The issue here is that almost all Old Mill cards in the set were printed with black ink. Some very rare ones were printed with brown ink and are worth substantially more money as a result. And before today, the hobby knew of only one blue-backed Old Mill card.

t206 old mill blue ink back vs. black ink back comparison

The cards are not particularly easy to spot if you’re not looking for them or, more importantly, if you aren’t familiar with regular Old Mill T206s. But here’s a close-up that might help. On the top is a regular, black-ink Old Mill card and on the bottom is the previously-known Old Mill card with blue ink. By comparison, they are much easier to see when blown up.

No such card would be accepted as legit on its face in raw condition. The card that was known before was one featuring Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. It was subsequently graded by SGC and even received a decent assessment of an SGC 30 (2), deeming it to be in Good condition. That card was  offered in 2012 by Huggins & Scott with one bid of $15,000. It was then offered again in the following year by Heritage, selling for a slightly less $14,300 that time around, with more action as eight bids were placed. That second sale helped establish it, for the time, anyway, as a legit five-figure card despite its authenticity concerns by some.

That authenticity has been a subject of hot debate ever since the card was brought to the public. And despite the fact that the card passed third party authentication by a reputable grading company, there are still some collectors that dispute its, shall we say, credibility.

Late Monday night, a second blue back Old Mill candidate was brought to the public.

The discovery on Net54 was made as a user posted his card, a Powell T206 with a blue Old Mill back. The user not only showed his card, but posted an in-depth video with extremely convincing imagery and up-close shots of the card. The back of the card, if nothing else, certainly looks like it was printed in real blue ink sans shenanigans. That alone, of course, will not give it the credibility it needs. Until it is graded, all bets are off here. But the card looks like the real deal.

So what do I think? Two things come to mind when I see cards like this.

How Have These Cards Remained Hidden?

First, if blue Old Mill cards are legit, how could they have taken so long to discover? That’s a very real and justifiable question. After all, T206 is arguably the most collected baseball card set of all time. How could so many collectors possessed so many cards and not found these earlier?

I don’t have a great answer to that question. However, I do think a few things are notable here, particularly in this case.

First, the blue ink cards, while noticeable compared to black ink cards, are not printed with a vivid blue. It might be obvious when looking at the blown up pictures above. But just as brown-backed Old Mill cards have commonly gone undetected by sellers, I can see how it would be easy to miss one of these. That is especially true for a collector without many examples of a T206 card. It is quite possible that more of these are out there and simply have gone under the radar. And along those lines, all kinds of discoveries are still being made in the hobby. A brand new Babe Ruth card was just brought to the public nearly 100 years after it was produced, for crying out loud.

Still seem hard to believe? Consider that new brown-backed T206s are still being discovered. There was even a somewhat recent find in the past couple of years of one mentioned on Net54 where a buyer found one on eBay that was not advertised as such. Some T206s have been in the possession of collectors for decades and not all of those owners are familiar with them. Experienced collectors may know of them and the Ed Walsh card but that, in reality, is a very small number in the entirety of the collecting universe.

Second, consider something like the Joe Doyle Nat’l T206 error. That card, which inadvertently listed Doyle as a member of New York’s National League team, is downright scarce, even though the hobby has known about it for much longer than the blue Old Mill cards. Even to this day, only a handful are known. Sure, they took less time to find. However, the error is far more obvious to see and still only a few are known more than 100 years later. It’s quite possible that this printing error (and that’s undoubtedly what it is) was simply caught early in the process and corrected before many were printed.

Finally, this isn’t a unique situation here. As stated, while most Old Mill cards were black, some were definitively printed with brown ink. If brown, why not blue? It’s a rather easy argument to make.

Still, there will be doubters as to how such a card could go undiscovered for so long. And despite the points I’ve made, I believe those questions are perfectly valid.

Print Errors in T206 are Not Uncommon

T206 Delehanty Scrap ComparisonMy counter to that argument, aside from the points made above, is that printing mistakes in the T206 set are hardly an anomaly. As a result, that these cards could have legitimately been produced in error is entirely reasonable.

Sure, there are the brown ink Old Mill cards. But look beyond that. Printing mistakes are very, very common in the set.

Now, I don’t know that they are more common, necessarily, than in other sets. T206 was printed in massive quantities and the number of cards with mistakes may simply be the result of, well, printing a lot of cards. But we do know that a lot of errors exist.

There are the brown-backed Old Mill cards. But then there all kinds of printing errors on Polar Bear cards. There are also plenty of cards missing certain ink colors, like the one shown here in the card on the right (the card on the left is how it should look). There are cards, like the Joe Tinker uniform variation, which have printing issues. There are cards that are drastically miscut. There are ghosts, freaks, and overprints. You name it, if it’s a printing mistake, it’s likely found in T206. That some blue-backed Old Mill cards could have been inadvertently printed is hardly out of the question. This shouldn’t be treated as nearly the impossibility that some seem to think it is.

Does that mean it’s undoubtedly legit? Of course not. But I do think the idea that this absolutely 100% cannot exist in the universe of T206 is silly. Far more egregious errors, after all, have been found in the set.

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