A T205, T206, and T207 Set Run is Finally Complete
After nearly six years, a long collecting journey comes to an end
In March 2015, I bought my first T206 baseball card. When I initially bought the card, it was a mere standalone purchase driven more by curiosity than anything else. Little did I know, it would take me on a fantastic collecting journey.
I wrote about my pursuit of more T206 cards here. One card turned into dozens and then hundreds before I ultimately gave in and built a 520-card set by the fall of that year.
The biggest thing I take away from that experience is that I’m glad to have built the set when I did. In reality, building a T206 set these days is significantly more expensive than it was six years ago.
Soon after, I turned my attention to T205. While that set was ultimately much easier to complete, like T206, I didn’t have much intention to build that set, either. But quickly scooping up some of those soon changed my tune and by the end of 2016, I’d built that 208-card set. As I’ve covered before, there are another 20 error cards or so in that set. But those aren’t true variations intended to be different cards — they’re mistakes. I will pick those up from time to time but they aren’t really needed for set completion.
T207 was the final building block in this trio of tobacco releases and I accepted that challenge a lot easier, desperate to complete the hat trick of popular American Tobacco Company sets.
Why T205, T206, and T207?
At some point in the collecting of T205 cards, I started wondering if an entire T205, T206, and T207 run could be built. The main motivator is that the three sets were all issued by the American Tobacco Company. Some collectors wonder if T207 is really an American Tobacco Company set but for the most part, those three are recognized as their releases. Despite the limited appeal of T207 to many mainstream collectors, the triumvirate of sets still arguably make up the three most popular tobacco card releases ever issued.
With 200 cards in the T207 set, I felt pretty confident upon completing the T205 set. But while I knew T207s were the toughest of all three, I really went into the pursuit of that set with a great deal of naivete.
Still, as I started to believe, finishing any one set without the others wasn’t something I was all that interested in. Sure, it began that way but as I learned more about the T205 and T207 cards, I really fell in love with them.
The three sets are all wonderfully unique in their own right with their own distinguishing characteristics. And I was quickly all in on this crazy goal that hardly anyone would dare to pursue.
Climbing the T207 Mountain
The T207 set turned out to be a stiffer challenge than I anticipated and I’d guess others working on the set would say the same. I’d plowed through T205 and T206 relatively easily because, save for the extreme rarities, most of those cards are readily available at any time on eBay. T207s are a different animal. I had hoped initially to complete the T207 set in a year’s time but would ultimately need about five years to reach the finish line.
Technically, there are 207 recognized T207 cards. However, similar to T205, some of those cards are basically errors not intended to be true variations with missing emblems on uniforms, etc. Cards for Paddy Livingston are an exception, as he has three different cards with a small/large C for Cleveland (his 1912 team) and a card for Philadelphia (his 1911 team). A card for Ray Fisher could be seen as a true variant, too, given one of his cards has a white hat and another, a dark blue hat. But 200 is the most acceptable number for a ‘standard’ T207 set.
I had little trouble with the first, say 100 cards. Most of those were commons or minor stars and with a limited number of Hall of Famers in the set, it seems like a fairly easy build looking in. But the real challenge, of course, is in hunting down all of the Broadleaf/Cycle cards.
The T207 set is really broken out into two sets — one includes cards with back advertisements of Recruit or Napoleon and the other includes cards with advertisements of Broadleaf or Cycle. The unique thing is, those two groups don’t really intermix. A card with a Recruit back, for example, will not be found with a Cycle or a Broadleaf back. It’s really one or the other.
While Napoleon cards are notoriously rare, the Recruit cards are the easiest ones to track down. So while there are some in that group that are a little tougher, cards in the Recruit/Napoleon ‘set’ are easiest to find. The cards with Broadleaf or Cycle advertisements are much more difficult. Collectors can catch a slight break as some of those cards are found with anonymous backs (those have the same player biography but simply do not have a Broadleaf or Cycle marking) — and the anonymous-backed cards are a little easier to track down and generally less expensive. However, make no mistake — the Broadleaf/Cycle cards are very difficult to find.
A few of those seem to be slightly easier to find but none are really all that common. And unfortunately, the Broadleaf/Cycle cards are quite numerous, making up about 1/4 of the entire 200-card set. And it became very clear to me just how difficult some of those cards would be.
I started picking my way through those around the same time I began working on some of the tougher Recruit cards. But after those initial 100 cards, it was kind of a slow burn. I’d picked up cards on rare occasions a few at a time. But once I got to about 150, that mostly ended and pickups became harder to find.
I began going weeks in between new pickups and it really seemed like this project could stall significantly. I never contemplated giving up, really. The cards, after all, are rare but not impossible. But as time went on, I realized this was going to take at least a few years to complete.
One thing that helped was making friends along the way. I bonded a bit with other T207 collectors and was able to buy some very difficult duplicates from a few guys.
Other times, I was just in the right place at the right time. Specifically, I remember finding a group of six Broadleaf/Cycle T207s in a single eBay auction that ended around 6 a.m. on a weekday and went under the radar at a very low price. That group included the card of Charles Bauman — a notoriously tough one.
Wrapping Things Up
The Big Three, as I’ve written before, may not actually be the rarest cards in the set. However, they are all undeniably tough and are really recognized by most as the hardest ones to locate. So unironically, those three cards were the ones I needed last.
In May of 2020, I managed to pick up the Ward Miller card. I don’t even recall where I got it but I know he didn’t come cheap. Still, I was anxious to finish the set and that was the beginning of wrapping things up.
Unfortunately, while that gave me a bit of hope, it would take more than a year later until I added another card.
That wasn’t for lack of looking. I’d looked and looked for the remaining two cards, Irving Lewis and Louis Lowdermilk. But aside from a couple of very pricey Lewis cards I’d seen, I couldn’t find one.
Down to two cards, I was getting desperate. How desperate? How about 2/3 of a card desperate?
A cheap Irving Lewis arrived on eBay earlier this year. The word ‘card’ is a bit deceptive as it’s really about 2/3 of a complete card with much of the bottom chopped off for no apparent reason, other than to likely shed its tobacco advertisement on the back — a common practice, particularly, in 19th century tobacco cards.
For a while I avoided this card. And as I look to upgrade cards in my sets, this will be the one I most want to replace. But when you are searching for a card for, quite literally, years, you’ll settle for almost anything.
But one cool thing about the card is that it’s sort of symbolic of how I’ve built these three sets. I approached these three sets taking virtually any card in any condition if I needed it. There are 928 cards across my three sets and I’ve probably upgraded 1/2 of them over time. Lewis will eventually be upgraded but for the time being, I’m not sweating it. Filling a binder hole is still filling a binder hole — even if said hole is only partially occupied. For now, it works just fine.
That left a single card — Lowdermilk.
That Lowdermilk was the last one I needed is somewhat ironic. Early on, I had a few chances to buy one. But with asking prices over a grand, I was never in any hurry. And the card had been available on eBay a few times earlier, so I never really worried much about it.
But one that had been available on eBay for about a year with an asking price around $1,500 was finally bought and I’d not seen a single one for sale in lower grade for quite a while.
I arrived at the National show this past weekend in hopes of buying one. Thursday afternoon, I flew into town and planned to take it easy, go out for some food and drink, then show up at the National on Friday. But I got a text from a collector friend knowing I was in hot pursuit of Lowdermilk and he directed me to one.
I couldn’t wait and raced down to the event hoping to catch it. It was still there and after verifying it was legit and doing a bit of haggling, hastily pulled out the cash to buy it. The card has somewhat of a lesser appearance with some sort of film that has dulled the front. But the back is completely clean and it fits nicely in my lower-grade set. Game over.
Since I’ve completed the run, a few people have asked the obvious question — ‘what’s next?’
Well, that’s not really an applicable question here, only because I’ve been working on all kinds of other sets while I’ve been doing this one. With 113 of the 121 cards, the E90-1 American Caramel set is the next big one I’d like to complete. However, I’ve literally got about 20 other sets I’m working on, so for me, it’s going to mostly just plugging away on those. Really, it’s going to be business as usual and not much is going to change from my end.
For now, though, very pleased to reach the finish line on this one. It’s an ambitious run and something I never dreamed about doing at its origins. But it’s been a long journey and a heck of a ride that was well worth it.
As an aside, I’d love to know how many complete T205, T206, and T207 runs even exist. Currently, the Net54 site shows 43 collectors having achieved a complete T206 set. However, that number is a bit deceiving because some collectors have certainly broken up their sets since then and, more importantly, there are probably a good number of sets in existence that have not been documented there.
But how many collectors in possession of both a T205 and T206 set would be significantly fewer. And the number that have bothered with T207 would be much fewer than that. I don’t even know how many T207 sets exist — let alone ones held by collectors that have finished T205 and T206, too.
Many collectors pursue one of the three sets but I would expect the number with all of them to be quite low. Personally, I’ve heard of one other collector that has all three and while I know the number is higher than that, I am curious to know how many others have not only made the commitment to all three but still have them intact. If you’ve managed to build all three and still have them all together, I’d love to hear about it.
Whatever that number is, I’m thrilled to be in the club.