Wagner, Doyle, Plank, Magie … and Bug(g)s?

A long time ago, collectors had a difficult time finding a rather common T206 card

When you think about tough T206 cards, most collectors will usually cite the Big 4 — the shortprinted Honus Wagner and Eddie Plank cards, as well as the famous Magie and Doyle errors. Beyond that, there are a few other toughies with the Bill O’Hara and Ray Demmitt St. Louis variations. But in general, most T206 cards, are plenty easy to find.

Some of those are still quite desirable, of course. Cards of Ty Cobb, in particular, are red hot and numerous other Hall of Famers are quite expensive as well. But back in 1909 when the cards were first distributed, at least one town reported some difficulty in tracking down a relatively common card.

Bugs Raymond.

A brief article in the November 18, 1909 issue of The Evening Index mentioned the collecting of cigarette cards — more specifically, these were almost certainly T206 cards.

Actually, the newspaper called him ‘Buggs’ Raymond. But why Raymond? Even if his card was tough to find, why would anyone particularly care?

“Everybody has noticed the fever which possesses all small boys, almost, now to collect the pictures of baseball players which come in cigarette pictures. The boys swap with each other and make many trades to get missing ones.

According to the News and Courier, the pictures of ‘Buggs” Raymond are scarce in that city. It reports on small collecter (sp) as having sold one to another enthusiast for $2.50.

The city that is referenced would have been Charleston, SC, as that was the home of the News and Courier. The Evening Index was from a smaller South Carolina town, Greenwood, and they were reporting on the ‘big city’, so to speak.

And that $2.50 price tag was a hefty one. To give you some idea, the lesser cards in the set were often selling for a few cents. $2.50 is the price one might have paid for Cobb or one of the other really big stars.

Bugs Raymond T206But back to that earlier question? Why would anyone care about Raymond?

Fact is, a year earlier, they may not have. Raymond was one of baseball’s biggest losers before 1909. In fact, his 25 losses in 1908 led all of major league baseball. Entering 1909, Raymond was 17-30 in three career seasons with the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals. But things changed in 1909. That year, he joined the New York Giants, who won 92 games. That was a far cry from the dismal Cardinals team that he was on in 1908 as they had won only 49 games.

Raymond didn’t become a great pitcher overnight. He had always been decent but just had the unfortunate luck of not being on great teams. In 1907, he had a 1.67 ERA but only a 2-4 record. And in 1908, his 15-25 record was accompanied by a low 2.03 ERA. Raymond’s ERA actually jumped to 2.47 in 1909 but that year with a better team behind him, he went 18-12. Raymond wasn’t the ace of the Giants’ staff as that honor belonged to Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson. But he was undoubtedly a very good pitcher that had a breakout year.

Even aside from his playing abilities, Bugs was quite popular.

Raymond was often called eccentric and had a following of fans. He enjoyed alcohol a bit too much and, at least once was said to have borrowed cigarettes from a fan and sneaked under the grandstand during a game to smoke. Raymond was also known to have gotten into a fistfight with manager John McGraw Some called him trouble and his antics were well known. Think, I don’t know, Dennis Rodman. That was certainly one reason his cards would have been desirable.

Another could have been because of a $10 offer that was apparently being made for collectors that had put together a complete set of the cards. If Raymond’s card was needed to collect sets, that would have been another reason children were looking for his cards. But given the $2.50 price someone paid, even that doesn’t make much sense with a prize of ‘only’ $10 for the set.

Either way, finding Bugs was not easy. But were his cards any more difficult than others? Nothing really suggests that.

According to the PSA population report on the T206 set, Raymond cards are pretty easy to find these days with about 400 graded. That number compares well to other commons in the set and it’s even more plentiful than many.

It is important to note that 1909 was when the earliest T206 cards were being printed. Could Bugs’ earliest cards have been tougher to find? Possibly but I’m not sure there’s any evidence for that, either.

Why was the card difficult to find in Charleston?

Beats me. But it likely was simply plain, dumb luck. Or it could have been a case of exaggeration by the newspaper. The card isn’t hard to find these days and it’s also possible that Raymond cards were simply gobbled up by others due to the pitcher’s popularity.

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