The T206 Big Four: Joe Doyle Error (Part III of IV)
The T206 release has become the most popular baseball card set of all time. There are many rare and valuable cards in it but the keys to the complete set are undoubtedly what are collectively known as ‘The Big 4.’ The Big 4 is comprised of the four most valuable cards in the set and also the toughest ones to obtain. In this series, I’ll take a closer look at each of the four cards.
Part I: Eddie Plank
Part II: Sherry Magie Error
Part III: Joe Doyle Error
Part IV: Honus Wagner
Joe Doyle, the Player
Of the four players in the T206 Big Four, the least noteworthy from a career standpoint is certainly pitcher Joe Doyle.
Doyle spent most of his five-year career with the Yankees franchise (then, the New York Highlanders) before appearing for a brief stint with the Cincinnati Reds. With a career 22-21 record, it is well documented that he was not a spectacular pitcher. His most notable seasons were in 1907, when he went 11-11, and 1909, producing an 8-6 record.
In addition to his major league service, he logged quite a bit of minor league time, playing for various teams from 1902 through 1915. But he was out of baseball by 1915 at the age of 33.
About Doyle’s Card
Doyle has two cards in the T206 set. The more common version has the print, ‘Doyle, N.Y.’ at the bottom. However, a much rarer version has an error and includes the print, ‘Doyle, N.Y., Nat’l.’ The problem is that Joe played for the Highlanders, New York’s American League team.
The error card is understandable. A separate ‘Doyle’ named Larry actually played in New York for the National League’s Giants at the same time. Further muddying the waters was that Larry’s middle name was even Joe! Despite those coincidences, the two were not related. But the fact that Larry Doyle played for the Giants is likely where the mixup originated.
At any rate, a very small amount of the ‘N.Y. Nat’l’ cards were printed before someone realized the error. To make up for it, the card was then produced with the ‘Nat’l’ part removed. It is likely that printers removed that part of the printing plate so the abbreviation would not be printed. We know that completely new type was not created/set because the corrected cards without the ‘Nat’l’ text do not have the rest of the type re-centered. Instead it is shown slightly to the left where it was on the error cards, making for a somewhat odd placement.
Why an ‘Amer.’ to denote the American League team was not added is unclear. Breaking the original ‘Nat’l’ part on the plate was probably the easiest fix and I envision a scenario where the printers wanted to resume printing as soon as possible. The real issue was fixing the ‘Nat’l’ problem and, well, they did that. Adding an ‘Amer.’ would have probably been more work. now, adding that corrected designation later surely could have been done. However, that would have only created yet another variation — something that would have been frowned upon.
The error was certainly caught much earlier than Magee’s was. We can deduce that by the number that have survived. We’ll take a closer look at the rarity in a bit but, suffice to say, there are far more Magie error cards than there are Doyles.
Despite the popularity of the T206 set, it took quite a while for collectors to even realize the mistake. This article mentions that noted collector Larry Fritsch was the first to discover it at some point in the 1990s.
Similar to the Magie card, whether this one should be required for a complete T206 set is a bit up in the air among collectors. The card is an error that was later corrected. But while error cards are typically required to complete a ‘master’ set, I’m not sure it is necessary for the completion of a standard set as long as one has a version of the corrected card. I dove into that topic a little bit here.
Like the others, this card has been heavily faked. Most forgeries are entirely new cards created. However, like the Magie, other more complicated forgeries have surfaced. Some of those include altering authentic copies of the common Doyle cards where the Nat’l abbreviation is missing. That can include things such as taking the Nat’l portion from other cards and carefully affixing it to the corrected Doyle cards that do not have the abbreviation.
Rarity and Value
Doyle might not have been a remarkable major leaguer but his error card is the most impressive from a rarity standpoint. The Honus Wagner card is often touted as one of the rarest baseball cards in the hobby. In fact, it is not even the rarest card in the set. Without taking front/back combinations into consideration, that distinction belongs to the Doyle.
To date, only a few of these cards exist. This article from Sports Collectors Daily in 2016 suggested only nine copies were known at that time. Thus, even collectors with the means to purchase this card often have a difficult time locating one.
In terms of price, while it is not on the level of Wagner, it is not an inexpensive card by any means. It is quite easily a six-figure card even in low-grade condition and an SGC 4 sold in 2016 for $312,000.
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