The T216 baseball card set is one of the most overlooked and perhaps unknown sets among vintage baseball card collectors. These cards rarely come up for sale, when they do they are almost always in lower grades, and the prices realized have finally started to catch up to relative values against other tobacco cards. That said, the set may still have a long way to go in prices and in respect.
The January 26, 2023 Heritage Auctions event included multiple T216 card sales. Some of these prices were record breaking.
Many of the cards that were produced by the failed Peoples Tobacco Co. Ltd. from 1911 to 1916 have disappeared over time. This was a New Orleans regional tobacco card issue with a limited distribution. Poor paper quality and the ravages of storms have ensured that the surviving population of cards is incredibly scarce. The artwork used for poses and stances was identical or similar to the E106 American Caramels and D303 General Baking sets, as well as many from the E90-1 and E90-2 card sets. The backs include the Kotton Tobacco brand, or they will have the Mino or Virginia Extra brands on the back. There are two paper stocks which proved to not be on time’s side with cardboard stock or heavy paper, with the paper stock being more difficult to find in better grades. There is even more info on the T216 set here.
The T216 set also features players from the Federal League. And as the T206 Honus Wagner card has become immortalized, the T216 set has four variations of Honus Wagner. That makes this “the other Honus Wagner Tobacco card” for collectors to chase. Honus Wagner cards from the T216 set are actually more scarce than his prized T206 cards with only 43 known graded examples from SGC and PSA (none from BVG) versus 50 to 60-ish known examples for the T206 Wagner. And unlike the $1 million-plus prices for the prized T206 Wagner, these T216 Honus Wagner cards, nor any other cards from the T216 set, have ever broken out above the $100,000 mark. Not yet.
As for the January 26, 2023 Heritage results, the prices were quite strong with some records set for the scarcity and demand. The biggest sale of the 9 cards was one of the very few Tris Speaker cards that have survived (image below by Heritage Auctions). Its grade was SGC 30 Good 2 under the old SGC grading scale and the auction fetched $6,300.00 after 49 bids. Heritage noted that this was just 1 of only 9 total graded T216 Speaker cards graded by SGC, and it was the only one graded “Good” and only 4 examples have higher grades.
Below are the remaining 8 auction results of the 9 cards from Heritage’s T216 cards sold (All images below from Heritage Auctions):
1911-16 T216 Kotton Cigarettes Chief Bender (Baltimore, Striped Hat) SGC 35 Good+ 2.5 sold for $1,110.00
1911-16 T216 Kotton Cigarettes Chief Bender (Philadelphia-White Hat, Thin Paper) SGC 30 Good 2 sold for $1,440.00
1911-16 T216 Kotton Cigarettes Roger Bresnahan SGC 40 VG 3 sold for $930.00
1911-16 T216 Kotton Cigarettes Hal Chase (Fielding-Buffalo) SGC 30 Good 2 sold for $900.00
1911-16 T216 Kotton Cigarettes Eddie Collins (Phila. Am., Thin Paper) SGC 10 Poor 1 sold for $1,749.60
1911-16 T216 Kotton Cigarettes Napoleon Lajoie (Portrait) SGC A “Authentic” sold for $2,520.00
1911-16 T216 Mino Cigarettes Rube Marquard SGC 10 Poor 1 sold for $1,080.00
1911-16 T216 Virginia Extra Bob Bescher (Cincinnati-Thin Paper) SGC Authentic (the only SGC graded one) sold for $3,600.00
If you compare any of these prices to similar grades of T206 cards with traditional Piedmont or Sweet Caporal back, the prices are significantly higher for these lower population T216 cards. But if you compare the prices to other scarce tobacco cards and if you compare them to 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack cards, these prices may still seem quite low considering the relative scarcity.
While there was no Honus Wagner that sold in this auction, a rival auction from Mile High Card Company fetched a record $79,483.20 after 28 bids. This was the highest known price for a single T216 card of any player. The image below is from Mile High Card Co.
You can remember these words in the years ahead — “Even in 2022, you could have still purchased a Honus Wagner tobacco card for under $100,000.00.” And if you are looking to own one of these great scarce T216 Honus Wagner cards, one of mine may be coming up for auction soon as well.
For a reference, there is only one of the known T206 Honus Wagner cards that recently sold for under a $1 million unless you prorate what’s missing of the card. Oh, and did I ever tell you about the day I introduced Honus Wagner to Wade Boggs?