Skip the Blaster: 1912 Harry Davis T207
Blaster boxes are those delectable boxes of modern cards that collectors like to target at retailers. Usually $10, $20, or $30, collectors love these sorts of fixed-price buys when in the mood for a cheap rip. I’ve got nothing against modern cards but, well, there are better ways to spend your money if you’re into vintage stuff. What I want to do is point out some great pre-war buys in these articles that can be purchased for the price of a blaster box.
1912 Harry Davis T207
So last month, I debuted this column with a look at Lefty O’Doul’s 1933 Goudey cards. In low-grade condition, you can get them for about the price of a modern blaster. Now, this is nothing against you fine folks that collect modern baseball cards. But I wanted to continue with this to try to spotlight other pre-war cards that are solid buys and nice substitutes for modern box hunting.
If you know me at all, one set that I’m particularly fond of is the 1912 T207 set. Often called the “Brown Background” set, it’s one of my favorites even though many collectors can’t stand it. And while there are plenty of cards that one could target in it for the price of a blaster, one that I’m going to talk a little about is the card of Harry Davis.
Davis is not in the Hall of Fame and he was never a major league all-star. But that is a product of the times as All-Star games did not come around until 1933 after his career was over. Davis certainly could have been an all-star if that honor was around when he played in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Davis was one of the best sluggers of his generation and when home runs were not as popular as they would later become, astonishingly, he led the league in long balls four times in a row from 1904 through 1907. Twice, he led all of the major leagues. But Davis was more than a home run hitter. He led the league in all sorts of offensive categories, including triples once (with an incredible 28 in 1897), doubles three times, RBI twice, and runs once. Davis also batted .300 four times and finished in the top ten in numerous offensive categories repeatedly. In short, he was one of the best offensive players that most collectors have not heard of in the early 1900s.
On top of all that, he won two World Series titles in 1910 and 1911 with the Philadelphia Athletics. He was a key player in 1910, especially, hitting a blistering .353 in the series and recording an OPS of over 1.000.
Davis has many cards so why his T207? Well, while his T206 cards are probably more popular, his T207 card is much rarer and really won’t cost you much more (if any more at all). But I love the T207 card as my pick here because of its rarity.
T206 cards are abundantly hot right now and low-grade copies in decent shape will cost you about $25-$30. That’s about the same price as a Davis T207, despite the fact that the latter is much rarer. You can find them even cheaper on occasion and, in fact, even cheaper than his T206 cards. An authentic graded SGC Davis T207 card, for example, recently sold on eBay for a borderline criminal total of $14. And that’s despite the T207 card being much tougher to find.
PSA, for example, has graded about 1,000 total 1909-11 T206 Davis cards, averaging about 500 per card if you do a simple split (one of the two is actually slightly rarer but that isn’t too relevant here). Conversely, PSA has graded only about 50 Davis T207 cards. Roughly, that tells us they are about ten times rarer. And if you can get a card of the same player that close in dates, I’d take the much rarer card in a heartbeat most of the time.
Another reason I like the Davis T207 over his T206 options? Davis spent the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Athletics. But sandwiched in between 17-year run with the Athletics, he spent one year in Cleveland, managing the team while playing in a total of only two games. That year was 1912, the year this set was released. It turned out to be Davis’ first and only year as a manager — thus, it’s a Davis managerial rookie card, too. It’s one of his few cards showing him as a member of Cleveland. And without researching it, I don’t know how many other cards he might even have with Cleveland — certainly not many.
At the current $25-$30 price for a low-grade card, the Davis T207 card is a relative bargain and a nice alternative to a modern box.