Topsy Hartsel and T206 Print Defect Foreshadowing

A strange print defect on a T206 card seems to hint at the future of the Athletics

Since completing a 520-card T206 set a few years back, I’ve been working to upgrade a bunch of the lower-grade cards. It’s still a low-grade set, mind you. But my goal right now is to get rid of the real beaters in the set and the really low-grade cards.

I’ve upgraded probably 150 such cards in the past couple of years. One that came in the mail didn’t stick out to me until someone pointed it out on Twitter.

A card I upgraded earlier this year was one of Philadelphia Athletics. A somewhat underrated player, Hartsel was a key member of the Athletics and helped the team to two World Series appearances.

He made an immediate impact with the club after joining them in 1902. While Hartsel’s .283 batting average was down about 50 points from his .335 average in 1901 with the Chicago Cubs, he led the league in runs (109), stolen bases (47), and walks (87) in 1902 with the Athletics. The following season, he pushed his average back up to .311 and would go on to lead the league in walks in three consecutive seasons (1905 through 1907), and also on base percentage in 1905 and 1907.

The Athletics colors at the time were blue and white. But as we know, the team would ultimately become the Oakland Athletics in 1968 after a relatively brief stint in Kansas City. The Athletics colors in Oakland are primarily green and yellow.

Hartsel’s T206 card already has a decidedly ‘Oakland’ theme with a green background that covers up much of the space on the card. But the card I acquired has a slight color shift with the blue ink used in its creation being pushed slightly up and to the right from where it was intended.

Blue and yellow, of course, form to make the green ink used on the card. But the lack of blue around the head and right shoulder area of Hartsel meant that part of the green background was instead only yellow. That created a cool yellow outline around part of Hartsel’s body (and along the left edge of the card), really helping to give the card an ‘Oakland’ Athletics feel with the green and yellow team colors they would adopt later. Twitter user billyk was the one that pointed it out to me initially.

Another interesting part of the slight misprint is that the yellow ink is itself out of bounds, too, being printed just a bit too far to the left. That meant that part of the green background intended along the left side of Hartsel is instead only blue. Thus, we get the original Philadelphia Athletics blue and white colors featured on the left part of Hartsel and the Oakland yellow and green colors on his right shoulder. Pretty cool, right?

Minor print ink errors such as this are not terribly rare on T206 cards. But this one was a nice find, given that it does a great job of foreshadowing the team’s later color scheme, even if by accident.

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