The beloved T206 baseball card set issued by the American Tobacco Company is now more than 100 years old. The set boasts many Hall of Fame players, and most card collectors know they will never get to own (and perhaps even see) a T206 Honus Wagner. Ty Cobb was already becoming one of baseball’s greats by the time 1909 rolled around, and over the entire set there were four issuances of Ty Cobb face cards without considering the large number of back variations. The Ty Cobb “Bat Off Shoulder” variation is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and visually stunning cards in the entire T206 set. The vibrant colors at sunset pop, and unlike many players’ cards in the set this card is rather obvious that the image is that of the great Ty Cobb.
PWCC Marketplace has a PSA 8 example of the “Bat Off Shoulder” T206 Ty Cobb with a Piedmont back ending in the June (2022) Monthly Premier Auction on June 16, 2022. The bid was last seen at $70,000.00 with a day to go and the prior PSA 8 sales have been for significantly higher prices in auctions over the last 12 months. In fact, some of these sales have been exponentially higher.
The image below takes away any need to imagine how pristine how a PSA 8 example of this great card must look. PWCC’s image (see below) shows this off quite clearly. Perhaps the one card that can compete on a visually stunning basis would be the T3 Turkey Red card of Cobb in a batting pose. Then again, it’s also exponentially larger in size.
Of the more than 246,000 T206 cards that have been graded by PSA alone, only 13 examples command the pristine PSA 10 Gem Mint grade. Not a single one of them is of Ty Cobb. The “bat off shoulder variation’s population is about 1,150 cards in total if you include the “+” and “Q” graded examples, but only 944 of these “bat off shoulder” have the grades without qualifiers or half-scores. Only 3 PSA 9 examples are known to exist, and there are just 14 base grades at the PSA 9 (with just 2 at the PSA 8.5 grade).
PWCC points out that Cobb’s most impressive statistic during his career is hitting over .300 for 23 consecutive seasons. The website Baseball Reference shows that Cobb was already batting above the .300 from 1906 on, and that his only sub-.300 season was his first year’s play in 1905 with just 41 games under his cap. While American Tobacco knew Cobb was already on his way to greatness in 1909, 1910, and 1911, what it likely had no idea of was that Cobb would go on to play deep into the 1920s even as a player-manager. It was also in 1911 that Cobb posted a stellar .419 batting average with an MLB-leading 248 hits.
PWCC is also in reverence of the great T206 card and its incredible presentation up for auction. The description says:
The T206 Bat Off Shoulder Piedmont litho issue shows the Georgia Peach in a classic hitting pose in front of a striking pastel background. This absolutely stunning PSA 8 example will give you plenty of bragging rights. Its clean surface, sharp corners, and vibrant colors give it museum appeal. As more investors enter the industry in search of diversifying their assets, they are searching for top tier blue chip cards that can help them realize gains and sleep at night. This T206 classic fits the bill in spades. We expect the website traffic this issue generates to test the bandwidth of PWCC’s servers. The most popular set in the trading card industry. The best hitter in MLB history—no player has a higher lifetime batting average. Only three of this example in existence and two graded higher in a PSA 9 case. These opportunities do not come along often. In industry parlance, this card is a scorcher. We expect the heaviest hitters to make a run at it. The winner will be legend.
One consideration about the grading on this card is that its certification number of 7009355 is among the older grades now. The card have very few flaws and the centering is rather impressive considering that companies producing tobacco and candy cards in the many decades past could have cared less if their cards were centered well or not.
As far as what to expect from this PSA 8 sale, we wanted to look over past sales:
- Heritage Auctions once sold one of the few PSA 9 examples of the “Bat Off Shoulder” with a Sweet Caporal bac for a whopping $324,000.00 in February 2020.
- A more recent comparable sale was a PSA 8 “Bat Off Shoulder” with a Piedmont back that commanded $264,000.00 as recently as April 2022.
- In November of 2021, Heritage also sold a PSA 8 “Bat Off Shoulder” example with a more rare Old Mill back for $210,000 after selling a nearly identical PSA 8 Old Mill back for $138,000 in July 2021.
One more consideration about the famed T206 baseball card set goes above and beyond that Ty Cobb was also given a very rare “Ty Cobb back.” Those are only in the red portrait and they are frankly far more rare than the T206 Honus Wagner cards. The same images from the T206 set were also used for the T213 Coupon cigarette series that was issued in three sub-sets on and off for a decade after the start of the T206 set. Those cards have been mistakenly referred to as T206 variations as well over time, but the one up for grabs in this auction is the real T206 McCoy (or Cobb!).