What’s the Real Prize in the T212 Obak Set?
There are three big cards in the T212 Obak set, but what’s the best one?
The T212 Obak set is a massive series of minor league tobacco cards. With 426 cards, many with low known quantities, it’s an incredibly difficult (nearly impossible, even) set to complete.
Many of the cards feature unknown players because it’s a set full of minor leaguers. Some guys certainly made it to the major leagues but hardly any were stars. However, the set has three big cards in it that are pursued quite a bit. But if you had to settle for only one, which is the best one to have?
I typically hate subjective questions like that. In every case, people should always collect what they want. So this is less about telling you what to buy and more about providing some insight on the three cards.
Gandil wasn’t a bonafide star player but his cards draw a lot of followers because of his role with the 1919 Chicago Black Sox team that threw the World Series. A .277 hitter, Gandil was a solid player. In 1913 as a third-year player with the Washington Senators, Gandil batted .318 and even finished sixth in the Most Valuable Player race. But by and large, Gandil wasn’t a superhuman player or anything.
Nevertheless, the Black Sox scandal has driven the values of his cards through the roof and his T212 Obak card is no exception. Even in low-grade condition, it’s hard to find much under $500 and ones in better shape easily top $1,000.
The biggest case for Gandil as top dog in this set is the rarity of his card. The Obak cards were printed from 1909-11 and the 1909 cards are the toughest ones to find. That happens to be where Gandil’s card is from and, well, there aren’t a ton of them around. In all, there are only 21 graded between PSA and SGC. There are obviously a good bit that are probably ungraded but, you get the idea — pretty tough card.
Of the three players in the Big Three, Million is easily the least heralded.
First things first, Ten Million is legit his real name. You can read more about the story behind him here. In short, Million was a decent minor leaguer but never got to the majors.
So why is his card so valuable? A couple of things. The biggest thing, obviously, is his name. The name and the unusual story behind it has sent collectors to these cards and, because there aren’t a ton of them around, that has driven prices up considerably. The other part of the puzzle is that, because Million didn’t have much of a baseball career, this is actually the only known card on which he appears.
Million could have an Obak cabinet card, which were oversized premiums given away. But one has never been found yet (or at least one isn’t publicly known to the hobby). As a result, this is the only known card of Million.
Million’s card is slightly cheaper than Gandil’s but not much. You can sometimes find low-grade ones starting around $350-$400.
Door number three gives us a minor league card of Buck Weaver.
Like Gandil, Weaver’s fame has largely been driven through the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Unlike Gandil, Weaver’s role in the fix appears to be a little different. Allegedly, Weaver heard about the fix but was not involved. However, he was banished from the majors because he did not report the incident.
And similar to Gandil, Weaver wasn’t really a star, per se. He once finished seventh in the Most Valuable Player race in 1914 but still only managed to hit .246 that year. A career .272 hitter, no one would mistake Weaver for a Hall of Famer.
Weaver is pictured here as a member of the San Francisco Seals. Weaver just barely got into the Obak set as 1911 was the final year he was in the minors. He hit .282 with the team before making the jump to the White Sox in 1912. The bio on the back of his card calls him the ‘hardest hitting utility player in the league.’
Weaver’s card is on part with Gandil’s, though it’s generally slightly higher. In low-grade condition, his card is usually in the $600-$700 range. That is despite the fact that it is easier to find than Gandil’s card as a total of 59 have been graded to date — about three times the amount of the Gandil card.
So what’s the best card to have if you could have only one?
Personally, I’d rule out Million for sure. It’s his only card and I can see why it’s desirable, but I don’t think it should be considered a better option than Gandil or Weaver.
Between Gandil and Weaver, there are reasons to opt for both. The Gandil card is much rarer and, as the intermediary between the players and gamblers in the scandal, he’s even a more central character than Weaver. But the flip side is that Weaver is the more iconic and sympathetic figure as he was believed my many to be treated unfairly. And as stated, his cards sell for a bit more.
You can make a good case for either but, personally, I’d probably lean towards having the Weaver if I could have only one. Weaver wasn’t the best player among the banned ones but, aside from Shoeless Joe Jackson, his stuff is arguably the most sought after. And from a less important standpoint, I just love the way his card looks.
Close one for me but I’d take Weaver for the set’s top card.
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