Finding Shag: Shag Shaughnessy’s T206 Card can be a Tough Find

One of the T206 Southern Leaguers has proven to be difficult to locate for collectors

While the cards of Hall of Famers and stars often are the targets in the T206 set, the issue also includes any number of interesting other cards. Among those are cards of the ‘Southern Leaguers,’ as I wrote in a recent article for Sports Collectors Daily.

These cards featured players from several leagues in the south, including the Southern Association, Virginia League, South Atlantic League, and Texas League. Now, most of the players in the grouping didn’t amount to much. But the cards are valuable because they were seemingly printed in fewer quantities from the rest of the set. Many (if not most) of the commons in the set have been graded more than 400 times by PSA. However, most of the Southern Leaguers, (despite being more valuable and actually more prone to being graded) have been graded fewer than 300 times.

While all of the Southern Leaguer cards are valued by collectors, one stands above the rest — a card for Shag Shaughnessy.

Shaughnessy is not a name player, so to speak. Meaning, most collectors aside from the ones pursuing T206 cards, have never even heard of him. His actual major league baseball career didn’t do anything to merit much attention. In all, he played only a total of nine major league games. While he had some success (accumulating nine hits for a .281 average), that was the limit to his major league career, splitting time with the Philadelphia Athletics and Washington Senators.

Shaughnessy Shag T206

That was hardly the extent of his baseball career. In all, Shaughnessy toiled in the minor and independent leagues for two decades, playing for numerous teams. While his minor league career is incomplete, Baseball Reference tells us he had some success, hitting .300 in 465 games at the Class C level and .293 in 628 games in Class B. Still, in the vast landscape of baseball history, he barely registers a blip.

On eBay, his card is seen far less than others in the set. As I write this post, there is a single, solitary Shaughnessy card available there, and the ask is nearly $700 for a mid-grade version. That, if you are unfamiliar with T206 auctions on eBay, is quite uncommon to see. Most other T206 cards (aside from the rare Big 4) have plenty for collectors to choose from on eBay.

Now, the card is not impossible to find, of course. We’ve been over the population reports for the T206 set and, compared to other pre-war tobacco issues, it is one of the most common. Still, finding the card and finding it at a reasonable price are not the same thing.

Why?

Funny thing is that many collectors just assume fewer of the card was printed than others Southern Leaguers. However, that doesn’t appear to be true.

We get an idea of that, again, from PSA’s population report for the card. To date, a total of about 275 Shaughnessy cards have been graded and that is in line with many other Southern Leaguers in the set. So if the card is not any rarer, why is it so hard to find? Two theories are often the most suggested.

First, it is possible, even likely, that the card is being hoarded by one or more collectors. Hoarding is essentially collecting as many of a particular card as possible. Sometimes there’s no real motivation in doing that other than simply wanting to own as many of a given card as possible. But other times it’s done to create a financial gain. The idea is that by scooping up as many of a particular card as you can, you can lower the supply available, thus driving up the price for it, making your cards more valuable.

Is Shaughnessy’s card being hoarded? It’s more than possible. Hoarding of other T206 cards, after all, has occurred. Take, for example, the famous Barney Pelty horizontal card, which was hoarded. In 2016, REA auctioned off more than 100, which were owned by one collector. That seemed to drastically limit the number out there and, as a result, Pelty’s card became easily the most desirable of the six horizontal cards in the set. The John Titus card is another one that is believed to have been hoarded over time, creating higher than usual prices for a card of a common player.

As in the case of the Pelty, perhaps a hoarder is enamored with the picture of Shaughnessy. Or, possibly the cards have been collected by a family member/descendant. Heck, maybe someone threw a dart on a wall full of T206 cards and Shaughnessy was the player struck. But the idea that the card is being or has been hoarded is a real possibility, obviously. Some would even say it is likely.

Another interesting idea is that perhaps Shaughnessy’s card has appealed to a wider audience, thus making it harder to find.

See, in addition to being a major league baseball player, Shaughnessy was also a captain for Notre Dame’s football team in college. He would then go on to have one of the most diverse careers in sports. Shaughnessy’s impressive career included:

  • More than 1,100 wins as a minor league manager
  • Serving as a general manager for the Montreal Royals baseball team
  • Serving as a coach for the Detroit Tigers
  • Longtime president of the International League
  • Football and/or baseball coach at several schools, including Yale, Cornell, and Clemson
  • Manager of the original Ottawa Senators hockey team
  • Coach of the Ottawa Rough Riders football team
  • Coach of the McGill University men’s and women’s hockey teams
  • Member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Canadian Football Hall of Fame

In other words, he did it all.

What are my personal thoughts? Well, one way to test the second theory is if Shaughnessy had other cards in other sets. After all, if those cards were in higher demand, that might lend more credence to the idea that Shaughnessy himself was just a popular fellow. Unfortunately, Shag appears on few other cards (the A.W.H. Caramels and 1936 World Wide Gum) are the only pre-war ones that come to mind and that makes it impossible to determine just from those cards alone as both are pretty tough sets.

I generally buy the first theory of hoarding a lot more than the second. Shaughnessy no doubt had a storied career and, are some Notre Dame enthusiasts buying his T206 cards? Sure, maybe a few. But despite his many accomplishments, I don’t know how many collectors are buying his cards for those reasons — especially to the amount that would be needed to cause the card to be so difficult to find.

Either way, though, Shaughnessy’s card is one that has proven difficult to find for T206 collectors.

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