The Craziest T206 Error/Variation Card Yet (It’s Not Even Honus Wagner or Anyone Else You Know!)

Purchasing the so-called “error cards” is nothing new in baseball cards. Ditto for the short run and limited edition cards. in fact, the Honus Wagner card from American Tobacco’s set later named the T206 is the most valuable card in the world because of such a short printing after the tobacco giant pulled it from production. Some of the other T206 cards with variations and errors have become quite popular for T206 collectors, and their value has skyrocketed.

One such rare variation from the 1909-11 T206 set is the Piedmont 350/25 Joe Doyle N.Y. “National” Hands Up card. This card is up for auction now at Mile High Card Co. and the price is absolutely breath-taking. Eddie Plank’s card rivals Honus Wagner to a certain extent, and the Sherry Magee variation has seen its price skyrocket as well.

The discovery of a “Joe Doyle N.Y. Nat’l Hands Up” variation has actually proven to be the rarest of all the variation and error cards in the T206 set. PLEASE NOTE: This has been updated to reflect higher auction prices below. More background data has also been added to learn about Jow Doyle.

Mile High’s description said that “Slow Joe” Doyle was a pitcher for only five seasons in the major leagues. While he was with the New York Highlanders (Yankees) and after a brief stop in Cincinnati, he would otherwise have gone down in baseball history without any cares beyond a lifetime 2.85 earned run average. According to the Mile High literature, Doyle never won more than 11 games in any season, he never pitched in a playoff game, and his stats were never close to leading the league in any pitching category. The auction house even refers to his career record of 22 wins and 21 losses as “thoroughly pedestrian.”

A Joe Doyle card from he T206 set should be about as common as it gets. That’s where the mediocre nature of baseball card collecting goes into overdrive. This particular version of the T206 Doyle card is now considered by the hobby as to be the rarest mainstream card known to exist. In fact, PSA has graded only 10 examples, and only 4 of those have the Piedmont 350 reverse.

Errors were quite common in the early 1900s cards. Tobacco companies and candy companies printing baseball cards didn’t really care about spelling issues, whether a player was in the right league or designated to the right team or not. They would still make corrections if they were easy to make, but they weren’t about to go out with recalls or try to issue big apologies or fork over cash as a result. When they did make corrections, this created the difference in variations — and this is where the variation and error collectors have come to make their claims in the hobby.

Mile High Card Company just debuted its Spring 2022 auction. The “Charlie Sheen T206 Honus Wagner” is the star of the auction, but the “T206 Piedmont 350/25 Joe Doyle N.Y. Nat’l Hands Up” variation already has a stunning price. The minimum bid was set at $150,000 — and on the first day of bidding there were already 12 bids and the current bid had already reached $228,373.00 for only a PSA 2 graded example.

UPDATE #1: The price on the second morning was $258,373.00 after 15 bids.

According to the PSA pricing data, a PSA 2 would be close to $225,000 and a PSA graded example would be closer to $550,000. The current PSA population report has this variation with only 9 graded examples at PSA. Joe Doyle’s proper variation had 424 PSA graded examples as of this time. The big discrepancy is that there were two different New York players named Doyle — Joe and Larry.

UPDATE: Going outside of the auction house to learn about a player is sometimes much more fruitful because they are not limited to as much coverage… The Baseball Almanac confirms his name as “Slow Joe Doyle” and the showed that he was born in 1881 in the thriving greater metropolitan area of Clay Center, Kansas. They also noted that Doyle was 24 years old when he entered the big leagues in 1906 with the New York Highlanders. The almanac also quoted the Sporting Life from 9/8/1906 saying that “(Clark) Griffith has landed one of the greatest finds that major league ever secured…” They also noted that Doyle was a recruit from Wheeling, W. Va. (Class B Minor League Team, The Wheeling Stogies). Their view for the “Slow Joe” was that his deliberate delivery worried batters, with “a drop ball and a raise ball and above all, he is as cool and deliberate as Old Fox Griffith himself.”

And if you really want to get to know Slow Joe and more about his error/variation, the Society for American Baseball Research has prepared just about everything except the size of his left shoe.

Here is the issue with the printing that caused the scarcity (image below by Mile High Card Co.):

Early in the printing process, it was discovered that Joe Doyle was erroneously identified as a member of New York’s National League team, the Giants. But the Giants player was actually Larry Doyle, a second baseman whose middle name coincidentally was Joe. Realizing that Joe Doyle actually played for New York’s American League team, the card was modified, creating one of the most elusive variations known within the hobby. It appears that the printer merely removed the “Nat’l” from the printing plate, probably within the first few minutes of production since the “Doyle N. Y.” is oddly in the same position, heavily shifted to the left and not recentered or corrected by an “Amer.” print plate. It was the quickest way to get the presses back up and rolling, and since adding an “Amer.” to the card would have created yet another variation, they decided to leave it as is.

Joe Doyle T206 Error Card

Mile High further outlined the issue within other error and variation cards:

Though similar to the correction of the “Magie” (Magee) error card, as stated earlier another member of the iconic collection’s “Big Four”, the number of known examples indicates that the Doyle error was discovered far earlier in the production process than the Magee faux pas. It wasn’t until some point in the 1990s that the Doyle error was discovered since there are so few examples out there. The featured card, graded PSA 2, shows a considerably centering shift to the right edge with consistent but slightly above-grade rounding at the endpoints. The surface appears free from any major liabilities save for some age discoloration on the reverse and the image of Doyle is clean and bright, but in a case like this, how much of that really matters? Trying to tame “The Monster” by completing a T206 set is a daunting task that can last a lifetime, and that’s taking into consideration that most collectors consider “The Big Four” (Wagner, Plank, Magie, and Doyle) to be too scarce to be part of the collection. But for those advanced collectors that want it all, here’s undisputably the most difficult card of the fearsome quartet! It could be years, even decades, before you get another chance to land this white whale for your world-class collection. Good luck!

It may seem odd that the T206 Joe Doyle could be worth over $200,000 considering that no one in the hobby could tell you very much, if anything, about the player on the card. Then again, that’s the hobby for you. It seems that the PSA projection of $225,000 is already way out of date considering the bidding has already surpassed that figure on just the first day.