When Does a Card Cease to be a Card?

There’s card damage … and then there’s card damage

A really interesting eBay listing popped up recently. Now, I track all sorts of cards on eBay and bumped into a rather unique Ty Cobb T206 card.

Cobb OnThe card was Cobb’s ‘Bat on’ variation, which is one of the Hall of Famer’s four cards in the set. It’s called that because the bat is resting on his shoulder as opposed to another card he has in the set with the bat off of his shoulder.

As I’ve written before, while Cobb’s green background card gets all of the attention, the bat on card seems to be nearly as rare based on population reports. For a collector looking to buy only one Cobb T206 card, that’s probably the one I’d go for as it represents a pretty good value to me.

This auction, though, was for a different kind of Cobb Bat on card.

See, the card was more like a half card.

Technically, the card was probably more like 60% complete as the seller noted. But you get the point. Not only was much of the card gone, but that part included Cobb’s head. Remaining was roughly the lower half of Cobb’s headless card.

The card sold, of course. Everything can sell for the right price. Not only that but it sold for just under $140. That was, by the way, just shy of the $150 base I figured it would bring.

$140 for half a card? Yep.

Here’s the thing. Couple of things, actually. I concede that a great many collectors would not want this card in their collection. It’s ugly, doesn’t have Cobb’s face, and is, again, like half a card.

But people targeted it like I knew they would. For one thing, the whole card in beater condition is probably worth between $700-$800. It’s very difficult to get a Cobb T206 in one piece for much less than that. As a point of comparison, this Bat On Cobb card with two small punch holes in it sold for $700 as a Buy it Now. Had it been listed as a traditional auction, I suspect it could have gotten even more on the right day.

So who would be in the market for this card? Possibly a collector looking for a Cobb. Or maybe someone else realizing how Cobb T206 prices have risen feeling that they could get even more than that for it. But another group of collectors after it would be set collectors.

Many collectors are always working on T206 sets at any given time. They come and go as the challenge is quite considerable. That is particularly true in today’s climate where even very low grade examples of the four Cobb cards can easily run $4,000 – $5,000 total. Someone looking to put the set together may not have that kind of money. Even if they do, they may not consider it reasonable to spend that much money on pieces of cardboard. A set collector working on this issue would have saved themselves hundreds of dollars by settling on this particular one.

The question from naysayers is, is this even a card? I can’t answer that. No one can, really. If this isn’t a card, how much of a card can technically be missing to still be a card? The interpretation of what constitutes a card and what doesn’t is, like many things in this crazy hobby, up to interpretation. For example, is a card where the back has been entirely skinned still a card? Ask a bunch of collectors and you’ll get no consensus.

I don’t know who won this card and I don’t know their motivation behind it. But dear collector, I salute you for finding something that works for you.

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