Behind the Lens: A Close-up Look at T206 Cards
Using a macro photography lens on the T206 card of Jack Warhop
Aside from collecting cards, my other favorite hobby is photography. I am quick to add that I’m no professional but I do enjoy taking pictures and experimenting plenty. About five years ago, I got a little more serious and bought my first SLR camera. I’ve since upgraded it and one thing I’ve gotten a bit more into is macro photography, getting real up-close shots of small subjects. The fact that I can do much of that in the house without having to leave during the cold winter days is a bonus.
I thought it would be great to try to marry these two hobbies in some way and, instead of merely photographing sports cards, I wanted to focus on something a little different – macrophotography of them. Seeing some of these cards up close reveals some very cool things and I’ll be doing these kinds of articles from time to time to give you an idea of what a card looks like up close. They won’t really focus on the printing aspect of the cards since that’s not an area of expertise for me. But they will hopefully allow you to see some of these cards in a different light.
If you’re a photographer and wondering about the equipment, I’m using a Canon 80D DSLR camera with a Laowa 25mm macro lens. Most of the shots here are taken at 2.5x magnification but the lens actually goes up to 5.0x.
Today’s subject – a Jack Warhop T206 card.
Jack Warhop was a pitcher for New York in the American League. When his career began in 1908, the team was called the Highlanders. In 1913, they became the Yankees and his career spanned from 1908 through 1915.
Warhop was a modest pitcher with a career 68-92 record and a 3.12 career ERA. He was also known to be a bit wild, leading the entire major leagues in hit batters with 26 in 1909 and 18 in 1910. Those numbers would drop a bit as his career went on but for the next five seasons, he would finish in the top five in the league in hit batters. His 114 batters plunked over his career is 61st all-time. He also led the league in home runs allowed in 1914 and 1915, giving up a total of 15 during that time.
Ironically, the artist assigned to his card for the T206 card featured him as a batter and not a pitcher. Here, we’ll take a closer look at that card in my collection.
Above, we’ve got a full view of the card’s front/back. It’s in reasonable low-grade condition with a bit of ink, some rounding of the corners, and a few light creases. These are often cards I target — ones with a bit of damage that don’t detract too much from the card’s picture and overall appearance.
First up, we have a close up of the irregular dots that make up the picture. This style of printing can help determine a real card from a reprint.
The printing back in the days of T206 cards, 1909-11, was not nearly as refined as it is today. Thus, the dot patterns that make up the images will be a lot more random in terms of style/size than reprints from modern times. The sizes of the dots vary quite a bit as does even the spacing between them.
This particular shot shows the chin area of Warhop along with his collar and part of the baseball bat. A bit of blue is seen quite clearly in the shadowing beneath his neck while it’s far less evident when you look at the card as a whole.
Next up is a pretty important part of T206 cards in helping to watch out for fakes. The names and teams at the bottom of T206 cards are actually printed using brown ink — not black. This can be a little difficult to spot on some cards as it may appear black. And the variances in the brown can be significant, too.
Under magnification, though, it’s pretty easy to see the brown ink for Warhop’s name here.
One notable thing on early cards is the imperfections under magnification are easily seen — and there are a lot of them on almost any card you look at. Let’s take a closer look at the upper border area to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Here, we’ve got the upper border line on the Warhop card. The dark line for the border has all sorts of imperfections and, frankly, does not even line up with the yellow background in the picture.
Looking deeper, we see some other imperfections, too. Look at the stray yellow horizontal print ink in the upper white border area. And speaking of that white border, it’s littered with all sorts of imperfections. Some, no doubt, have been added to the card over its 100+ year life span. Others were probably evident even immediately after the printing.
To be fair, I’ve photoshopped this image slightly. Not to add anything, though. Rather, I simply used the software’s dehazing tool to help cut through the clutter of an imperfect picture and really show off the dirt and imperfections in the card’s white border. That helps those sorts of things stand out more and serve more of a purpose here.
So we’ve seen what the magnification can do just in terms of the quality of the pictures. But that magnification also gives us a great look at damage on a card.
I mentioned this card had some pretty standard damage to it and part of the reason I chose this one is that I wanted to show what some relatively minor paper loss looks like up close.
More specifically, many collectors would refer to this as chipping. It is technically paper loss but that term is usually reserved for more severe damage. This is really just the small bit of wearing away of paper in the corner.
Here, we’ve got the lower right corner of the Warhop card. Just seeing the card in hand, you can see the small bit of chipping even without magnification. But it looks relatively minor compared to the blown up version here. Here, we get a better idea of just how significant the damage is.
Finally, here is an image of the back.
The back on this particular card is a Sweet Caporal 350 Series card that used red ink. One reason I wanted to highlight the back here is because we can not only see the red ink, but also a close up look at the fibers of the card since there’s plenty of white space.
Again, I’m dehazing here a bit just to show off more of the fibers and imperfections in the white area. And again, some of that will be from dirt on the card as part of normal wear and tear so to speak. But even on completely fresh cards, you would see all kinds of details in the fibers that make up the cardboard.