Barney Pelty is Still King of the Horizontal T206 Cards
The obscure player has the most desirable of the T206 horizontals
The T206 set is home to many subsets. One of those is the subset consisting of six horizontal cards.
These aren’t a true subset, I suppose. But the cards have a horizontal orientation as opposed to the other 518 cards in the set that are verticals. That has made them a bit more sought after than the other commons and has subsequently made them a bit more expensive.
The price for your average, run-of-the-mill low-grade T206 card generally starts in the $15 neighborhood, though you can sometimes get really low-grade ones for less. Low-grade horizontals are closer to $20 or so.
The horizontals are all common players, really, which is kind of a shame. Can you imagine the interest/demand for, say, a Ty Cobb or Christy Mathewson horizontal? Given the numbers of cards some players had, it’s kind of weird that the producers of the set didn’t go for a horizontal of at least one of the big stars. But, alas, that’s what we’ve got. The six horizontal players are:
- Joe Birmingham
- George Mullin
- Danny Murphy
- Harry Pattee
- Barney Pelty
- Jack Powell
Like I said, not really a big name in the group. To be fair, a few were pretty good players. Powell, won 245 career games and Murphy was a career .289 hitter. Mullin, who was a five-time 20-game winner, may have been the best.
But when it comes to the desirability of the horizontals, one player stands at the top — and that’s Pelty.
Pelty’s card is not the top horizontal in the set because of his playing ability. Pelty did produce a solid 2.63 career ERA but with a 92-117 record, his career isn’t one that’s remembered much. No, Pelty’s card is popular much in the same vein that John Titus’ card is popular. It was hoarded, causing a shortage of his cards on the market.
Hoarding in card collecting, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is when a collector picks up as many of one card as he/she can. In modern cards, that often doesn’t mean much. But when pre-war cards are hoarded, it can really cause a significant shortage because there just aren’t a ton of most of them to go around. Some issues are so rare that even a small hoard of a dozen cards are so can have fairly big ramifications.
Some collectors hoard cards simply for the fact that they enjoy a particular card and want as many of them as possible. Others, though, are doing it with price manipulation in mind, buying up as many as possible and then waiting for prices to rise when others realize the card is getting awfully tough to find.
The Pelty T206 card had been suspected to have been hoarded for some time because they were known as tougher cards to find compared to most T206 cards. But that was confirmed in 2016 when REA offered a single lot of 117 Pelty horizontals from a consignor.
Now, 117 might not mean all that much to modern or even post-war vintage collectors. But in terms of T206, it’s a grand amount. It’s difficult to even get a handle on the population reports because SGC’s is not exactly clear as to how many they have graded. But between PSA, SGC, and Beckett, it looks like a little more than 500 Pelty horizontal cards in all have been graded. And while there are plenty of raw ones out there, too, it’s easy to see that the population of 117 makes a sizable dent and is certainly enough to cause a shortage of his cards.
The shortage is caused not only by those specific cards that were hoarded, of course. Some collectors were also holding onto them for their sets. And because the card was more valuable, other collectors were determined to hold onto them in their collection.
The cards used to be quite valuable but, like the Titus cards, have come back down to earth. Even despite that, they still sell for more than the other horizontals. Low-grade Pelty cards generally still start around $35-$40 with even modest ones fetching about $100.
A final note here is that collectors should be abundantly clear not to mix up Pelty’s cards. His vertical ones (he has two in the set) were not hoarded and sell for about what a standard common does.