Finding An Autographed T206 Card (Sort Of)
Pre-War baseball player Paddy Livingston and his very interesting autographed T206 cards
When placing my latest COMC order, I stumbled upon a pretty interesting card. And ‘stumbled‘ is an accurate way of putting it.
Often when I browse COMC, I’m just eyeballing. I usually don’t have anything in mind and am just sort of looking around. Ordinarily, that might make it seem like I’m one of those guys that walks into a card shop, window shops around for an hour, but doesn’t buy anything. To the contrary. I always find pre-war stuff to buy on COMC and even if that means reaching on some cards, it at least helps justify the time spent there.
One of the ways I browse (and one of the great things I love about COMC) is that you can search by year. Pick a sport, pick a decade and just … look. Now while that’s pretty great, one of the annoying parts is that modern autographs get shoved into some areas since they’re classified as being like 1900s to the present or some odd thing like that. So, in the midst of all this great looking pre-war stuff, I’m dealing with like autographs of Shaq and Tim Wallach. Woof.
Now, I typically brush through those pages quite hastily. I’ve got nothing against autographs, mind you. They’re just not really for me these days. I’ve got a handful scattered here and there but, as mostly a pre-war collector, you can imagine those aren’t too common, aside from things like 1933 Goudeys, which actually were signed quite a bit.
Still, somehow I found myself lingering and I’m kind of glad I did. Because when I did, I found this beauty.
Now, this looks like a Paddy Livingston T206 card. Same image and definitely the same T206 layout. Even the back is the standard Piedmont Cigarettes back. It’s easy to tell that this is a T206 style of card. But it’s not an authentic T206 from the 1909-11 years they were printed.
So, what this card was, exactly, I couldn’t tell. The PSA labeling of ‘trading card’ didn’t help matters. It couldn’t be a scrap — not for that price (under $50). And I’ve seen enough legitimate T206s that, well, I knew this was no legitimate T206. But with the PSA/DNA certification, I also knew that it was a hand-signed autograph and not a print of one. But with those three things confirmed, what was it, exactly?
Thing is, I thought I’d actually come across one of these before and a quick Google search confirmed that. I found other cards like this one and also a second type with the same image but with jumbo sized borders, almost like a photo card. They are not exactly plentiful but this certainly is not the only one and you can find them with enough digging and a bit of luck.
I had two thoughts. First, I wondered if these were created for a card show or something where Livingston might be making an appearance. But Livingston died in 1977 (he was actually the next to last T206 subject to pass away) and while there were card shows at that time, it was nothing like today where athletes would regularly be there signing. My other thought was that these were cards Livingston had printed himself for autograph seekers and that seems like it is a common speculation. Frankly, it’s the only thing that makes sense because there are multiples of these cards out there and it is hard to imagine so many being printed and signed for any other reason.
So, in short, what we’ve got is a copy of a T206 card that was autographed by a real T206 player. Not bad and I prefer this to something like a signed index card or piece of paper. This? I can sort of get behind this. Plus, assuming that second theory is correct, it was something that the player himself had printed and distributed. That’s just kind of cool.
Another thing I love about this card is the age. Livingston died in 1977 so that means this card is at least over 40 years old. It might not be a true T206 era printed in the early 1900s but it’s still a vintage card dating back to at least the 1970s.
While I’m not an autograph guy, I wouldn’t mind owning a real T206 autographed card. And the four figure price tag for a common isn’t even what necessarily scares me the most — it’s the fact that several of those cards have been discovered to be fakes and, well, who wants to drop a couple grand on something that isn’t even a sure thing?
Nah, for now, this will do. And for the price of under $50, it was basically impossible to beat.