The Rebuilt T206 Howe McCormick Collection Part 2: Q & A with Ed McCollum

Howe McCormick on the right holding trombone

I want to thank Ed McCollum again for sharing the story of his collection.  If you haven’t read his article, The Rebuilt T206 Howe McCormick Collectionwhich I published last weekend, you can read it here.  After reading his article, I had a few additional questions I wanted to ask him.  Here they are, along with Ed’s answers:

Do you have any speculation as to how Howe’s cards came to market?

My current guess is that the collection came to the market sometime around 1969 – seven years before his death. I’ve recently purchased a group of nine cards from a collector that had Howe’s stamp on them. He remembers buying them from Wirt Gammon of Florida in 1969. I’m told Wirt was one of the hobby giants in those days and I would speculate that he is the one who bought Howe’s collection. Previously, I had purchased a few cards from collectors who had complete or near complete T206 collections, and both of those gentlemen told me they had started their collections in the mid-70s. That sort of made sence, since Howe died in 76, but finding out about the cards purchased in 1969 makes me wonder exactly when Howe decided to part with the cards.

Has this stamp only appeared on T206’s?

No, I have heard from two collectors who have E96 cards with the same stamp. But from these two individuals, I only know of a total of six of those cards. The first gentleman wanted to sell me his four, so I could have “the complete Howe McCormick collection,” then about three years later the second gentleman told me he had E96s with the stamp on his cards, and wondered if I had ever run across any more. He and I still exchange emails about our cards and he is quick to let me know when he spots a T206 with the stamp.

Did it appear that Howe had a collection strategy?

It would appear his only collecting strategy was getting as many cards as he possibly could, no matter what. Of the 311 I have, there are 238 that I have one card of the player/pose, 59 I have two copies of the player in that pose, 12 cards that I have three of in the same player/pose, and two cards I have four copies of the same player/pose. Duplicate cards didn’t seem to bother him.

Something of an oddity is that I have three copies of Lundgren/Chicago, which is considered a tougher card to find, and while I only own two of them, there is a third copy of Ed Foster with a Hindu back that has traded hands several times in the last several years (I don’t know the current owner of that card). There are many more common cards I haven’t seen, one example being Cobb/red portrait. Yet there are two green portraits and an absolutely beautiful Cobb bat off shoulder with the stamp. I don’t own any of those, but do know the owners of two out of the three.

Vaughn Monroe’s Moonmaids – Betty is second from the left

Were you able to find anything out about Howe’s children?

Yes, he and his wife Thelma had a daughter, named Betty McCormick. From what I’ve heard from Howe’s cousin, and what I’ve found online, she had a beautiful singing voice, and made her career in show business. She was a member of singer Vaughn Monroe’s Moonmaids, a big band era group. (Vaughn Monroe is singing “Let it Snow” during the closing credits of one of my favorite Christmas movies, Die Hard.) Sometime after leaving the Moonmaids, she added an “e” to her name, becoming Bettye McCormick, and went on to sing with others including Burt Bacharach, whom she appeared on Broadway with in a short-lived musical. After the late 70s, she sort of disappears, until an obituary in 2005 that lists her cause of death as dementia.

Does Howe’s store/home still exist?

Sadly, no. Net54 board member David Polakoff, who is from the Gainesville area, did a lot of research on my behalf when he heard about the collection, and was able to trace/correct the original address of 300 W. Main Street to 300 W. Main Street S. (I had once called the mayor’s office in Gainesville asking about the address and had been told that Main Street ran North/South, not East/West. I kind of gave up after that.) David’s research pinpointed the location to what is now a parking lot for several city/state buildings. However, the store/home was located just a block away from a McCormick Street, which we are guessing was named after Howe’s grandfather, who started a church in the early days of Gainesville.

Have you made trades with other collectors to get Howe-stamped cards from their collections?

I have, although that is not as easy as it sounds. With the exception of seven cards from my first run at a T206 collection (given to me by the wife for a first anniversary, a 10th anniversary and several cards my son picked out for me when his mom would take him to a card shop), the only cards I have are Howe-stamped cards. So it doesn’t make much sense to trade a Howe-stamped card for a Howe-stamped card, when honestly, I’d want them both. So trades have taken up to six months to pull off, when looking for a certain card with a back in at least as good condition, but that doesn’t have a stamp on the back. But it has always been worth it.

 

Are there any that you weren’t able to obtain initially, but then years later were able to find?

Back in 2009, Mastro Auctions had a near complete T206 set (520 cards) at auction, with many of the cards listed as MK. I contacted them, just out of curiosity, and 50 of the 520 cards had Howe’s stamp. Trust me, one, it was a shock, and two, there is no way I would ever be able to afford to bid on a near complete set of cards. So Mastro was nice enough to pass along a message to the winner of the lot, where I explained I was trying to rebuild Howe’s collection, and ask them to work with me of at least several of the cards. Over the next year-and-a-half, as the winner broke up the lot and sold it on eBay, I was able to win 39 of those auctions. In the five years following that, I was able to acquire six more of those cards as they continued to change hands at other auctions (I always download the images of cards as they come up on eBay, so in case I don’t win the lot, I have a record of what it looked like, exactly where the stamp is located on the card, any other card damage, etc.). Four of the five cards still missing are Southern League players, all with a Hindu back on the card. Over time, those four cards all ended up in the hands of the same collector, who just last year, auctioned off his entire Southern-Leaguer-with-Hindu-back collection. I believe the lot had 48 cards, if memory serves correctly. Again, I wouldn’t be able to afford a lot of rare backs like that, and unfortunately, although REA was kind enough to pass a message on the to the winner, they have never reached out.

It seems that you value each card in the collection the same as any other.  Would you say that’s accurate? 

There are some cards that I would say are more favorite than others, but that would be because of the story behind them (who told me about it, what trade I had to make to pull this off, the three Saturday Evening Post cards that use the different stamp). Honestly, it is not about the player on the front, or the tobacco brand on the back, its more the thrill of finding the card, and doing what I can to reunite it with the others. Sadly, I’ve never run across a card in “real life,” meaning I’m at a show and see one and start the process of buying. Every card so far has been found through the online auctions and websites. There is enough of an “Oh my gosh, there’s one!” moment when I find them online, don’t know what would happen if I just happened to be sorting through a stack at a show and found one.

Just a final thought

Probably the greatest thing to come from this project or quest or whatever you would call it has been meeting all the collectors who have been so willing to help with a collection that isn’t even theirs. Any given week, I hear from between 10 and 20 people who have seen one of these cards on an auction site, were looking through their or a friend’s collection and found one, even people who hear about it and just want to know more about why in the world am I doing it. More than likely, I’ll never meet most of these people, even though I consider them friends (sort of like Facebook, but on a whole different level). One of these years, I hope to be able to attend the National again (I’ve only been once, back in 1994 while working on my first collection) and be able to put a face to, and give a handshake to all the friend I’ve made through this collection.

Saturday Evening Post stamps
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A Tale of Two T206 Rule-breakers: Crawford Throwing and Jennings Portrait

Two cards that play by their own rules are Sam Crawford’s throwing pose and Hughie Jennings’ portrait.  Each were late additions to the 150-350 Series.  Neither was printed with Hindu or Sovereign 150 backs.  However, they were included in Piedmont and Sweet Caporal 150 Series print runs and most of the other 150-350 series backs.  Here is the complete checklist of backs that Crawford throwing and Jennings portrait were printed with:

Piedmont 150
Sweet Caporal 150 factory 30*
Old Mill
Piedmont 350
Sovereign 350
Sweet Caporal 350 factory 25
Sweet Caporal 350 factory 30

When I first learned that these two poses were added to late additions, the following theory came to mind:  Since Honus Wagner and Eddie Plank were also not printed with Hindu or Sovereign 150 backs, perhaps Crawford Throwing and Jennings Portrait were added to the set in order to replace those two.  It makes sense that the American Tobacco Company would have wanted to replace Wagner and Plank, two huge stars, with players who had achieved a similar level of stardom.

This theory sounds pretty good until you realize that Plank was printed (albeit very briefly) with a Sweet Caporal 350 factory 30 back.  At that point the theory kind of falls apart.  It’s still a possible explanation for why Jennings and Crawford were added in the middle of the 150 Series, but it requires a bit of mental gymnastics.

Whatever the reason for their delayed inclusion in the set, these two poses are notable in that they don’t follow the same rules as other 150-350 subjects.  When I first started to collect T206, it took me awhile to learn this.  I even found a Hindu checklist online that listed Crawford throwing.  For a couple weeks (until I asked a friend about it) I really wanted to find a Crawford throwing with Hindu back.  Sadly, no such card exists, so don’t waste any time looking for one.

*Crawford has been confirmed with SC 150 factory 25 on t206resource.com but Jennings is listed as a “no-print”, meaning they do not believe it was part of the SC 150/25 print run.

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The Rebuilt T206 Howe McCormick Collection

 

I am thrilled to present a new guest-article, written by Ed McCollum.  I have been wanting to tell this story since back before I started this website.  I brainstormed a list of 50 or so ideas for articles and this was right at the top of the list.  Ed’s rebuilt Howe McCormick Collection is my favorite T206 project.  It’s an incredibly unique labor of love.  Initially, I figured I would write the story, but after chatting with Ed about the project, I thought it would be really cool if Ed wrote the story himself, assuming he was willing.  Luckily for us, he was.  Enjoy!  – Luke

My first card with a Howe McCormick stamp on it came as quite a disappointment.

It was 1991, and I was in the process of building a complete set of T206s, while along the way trying to find as many of the different tobacco brand backs as I could afford. When a Hindu-backed George Davis, listed in VG-EX condition showed up in the classifieds of Sports Collectors Digest, and at a very reasonable price, I jumped on it. Three weeks later, when the card finally arrived, it had this huge, ugly stamp across the back with someone’s name and address. A call to the dealer convinced me that you couldn’t get an otherwise VG-E condition rare-backed card at that price, unless it had some flaw. So in the binder it went with all the others.

Jump to 2007. I was still working on that complete set, but the realization that I would never finish it had set in. Still, every night I’d look online for cards I didn’t have that might fit my budget.  A George Hunter card with a Piedmont back and what looked like the same stamp caught my attention. I hadn’t thought about that stamped card in years, but pulled out the binder, and yes, it was the same. So why not bid on this one, and have two cards with the same stamp? I bid and won.

Within a matter of days, a post appeared on the net54baseball.com website asking people to show their cards that had either unusual marks or stamps on them. I posted my two, telling of the gap in years between finding them, and soon had several emails from other members, stating they had one too, and would I want to trade or purchase from them? After all, why not find out how many we could find? And that started my project in earnest.

By the 100-year anniversary of the issue of the T206 set in 2009, I had 132 cards with Howe’s stamp on the back. I’d sold my original set of almost 200 cards and used the funds from their sale to fund my new set. And since the mark on the back was a qualifier for a lower grade from any grading company, the new cards I was acquiring came at a lower cost than many I would have needed to complete a real set of T206s.

Curiosity had also gotten the better of me, as I tried to figure out exactly who was Howe McCormick? Through the years, and with the help of other collectors, I’ve been able to piece together that Howe was born on July 31, 1895 in Gainesville, Florida to parents who owned a market. The market, which was both the family business and home, did a booming business in tobacco. Hopefully that explains how a 14-year old would have so many cards. Draft records show he enlisted in the Army in 1919, was discharged two years later to the same address, but by the 1930 census, he was a married father of one, and he had a different home address.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I finally found a photo of Howe online. Listed as a sophomore, he was shown in the Alachuan year book for 1913 (Gainesville High School), both in the class photo and as part of the school band. Finally, photographic proof of the man whose cards I was still continuing to find with great regularity.

In 2015, I was finally able to make contact with a second cousin of Howe’s who still lives in Florida. Howe’s grandfather was a rather important minister in the early days of Gainesville, and the family and the church he founded have stayed in close contact. With the help of a net54baseball.com board member, I was able to contact the church, who connected me with the cousin. He was able to verify some of my information, such as Howe’s death in 1976, his wife’s death four years later and the identity of their child, who had changed the spelling of her name during a show business career. I later found that she died just two years before I started to collect nothing but her father’s cards.

The cousin was also kind enough to share the only three photos his family had of Howe, including a photo of the store interior, showing the uncle that Howe was named after, and lots of tobacco products seen sitting on the shelves.

Through the years, I’ve also discovered Howe had two different stamps he used to mark his cards. Found on almost all the cards is a two-line stamp, with his name in all capital letters, followed by the address of the store/home. But on three of the cards, a stamp appears using his first name (Ulrich), H as his middle initial, his last name, followed by the word Agent. The second line reads Saturday Evening Post, and the third line gives the home address. Apparently, Howe was an entrepreneur, selling magazines while a youth. Perhaps one evening he used the rubber stamp from his business on the back of the cards, instead of his personal stamp. Interestingly enough, those three are all in green, while all the others are in some shade of faded black.


As of now, early March 2017, I have 311 cards in my rebuilt collect collection of Howe’s cards. 273 are Piedmont, 16 are Hindu, and 22 are Old Mill. There are another 30 that I know exist, either in the collections of others the cards have significant meaning to, or that have been lost in auctions where I couldn’t manage the high bid. And about once a month, a new one surfaces, meaning I still need to check the Internet and auction sites daily.

If you happen to have any cards with Howe’s stamp on the back, I’d really like to hear from you, whether you are interested in selling or just letting me know so I can add your card to my data. Please contact Luke on this site.

Written by Ed McCollum

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Why I Prefer My T206 in Graded Holders

Among T206 collectors, grading can be a polarizing topic.  There are some who would never buy an ungraded card, and others who can’t wait to crack out their newly acquired graded cards and put them into their binders.  Then of course there is a large group of people who fall somewhere in the middle.

The reason that some prefer graded cards is the security of knowing both that the card is authentic, and a general price range for the card.  Less experienced collectors wisely gravitate towards graded cards for the security and peace of mind they provide.  I know a number of more experienced collectors who prefer their cards ungraded, either in a binder or card savers/top loaders.

I’ve seen many long-time collectors state that they choose to keep their cards raw because that is the way they kept their cards when they first collected cards as a kid.  The way I collected cards as a kid I believe contributes to my fondness for graded cards.  When I was a kid, I placed a lot of importance on the presentation of my cards.  I routinely paid $2 a pop for those thick lucite screw-downs to house my favorite cards.

I liked the way they looked in the thick holders and I liked the protection the holder provided.  The last reason is a little silly, but I’ll confess it here, among friends.  I felt like my best cards deserved to be displayed in a grandiose way, and by putting them in a thick lucite holder, I was showing them the respect they deserved.

As ridiculous as that sounds when I say it out loud (or write it), 34 year-old me still treats my cards the same way 14 year-old me did.  If I could have created my own custom card holders back then, they very well might have looked like PSA holders do now.  Putting my cards into a graded holder that provides protection and notes the player’s name and back advertisement is definitely something I would have done as a kid if I had collected T206s instead of 1991 Score.

An additional reason I prefer my cards to be graded is that, as a back collector, I enjoy being able to look at the front of a graded card and see the back written on the label.  It’s nice when thumbing through my own cards, but it also saves me a ton of time when scrolling through sale listings online.  Another thing that graded cards have going for them is ease of sale.  I have a small card budget, so when I buy a new card, I almost always need to sell something to offset the cost.  Having the majority of my collection graded already graded makes it easy to list a few cards for sale and sell them quickly.

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Is the George Davis Sovereign 350 a Hoax?

For awhile now, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a George Davis Sovereign 350.  It’s a front/back combo that has been thought to exist, but to have printed in very limited quantities.  The SGC Pop Report lists one Sovereign 350 back for Davis (an SGC 80) and PSA’s Pop Report shows zero copies.  In addition, a collector has been actively searching for this card via the Buy/Sell/Trade on net54baseball.com for a few years, with no success.

This recent post by Jon Weil on the net54 forum brought up an interesting question:

I looked through the population reports and found eight cards from the T206 Resource list that both PSA and SGC show no record of having graded. We previously had mentioned the Fred Clarke, Frank Chance red portrait, and Jack Chesbro. Here’s the list of the eight “pop zero” Print Group 1 Sov 350 (forest green) cards that T206 Resource classifies as “confirmed.”

Frank Chance Red Portrait Chi Cubs
Jack Chesbro Portrait NY Highlanders
Fred Clarke Portrait Pittsburgh
Tim Jordan Portrait Brooklyn
Ed Killian Pitching Detroit
Ed Konetchy Glove High StL Cardinals
Tommy Leach Portrait Pittsburgh
Jim Pastorius Ready to Throw Brooklyn

Can anyone out there confirm independently that any of these eight cards exists?

On a related note, SGC’s pop report shows a single graded copy of George Davis, while PSA shows no graded copies. I’m wondering if SGC might have made an error. Has anyone else ever seen a George Davis with a Sov 350 back?

He brings up a lot of good questions here.  The theory that the Davis Sovereign 350 could just be a data entry error makes a lot of sense.  As a general rule, poses from Print Group 1 that were printed with both Sovereign 150 and Sovereign 350 backs are much more plentiful with the Sovereign 350 back.  This has made the Davis somewhat of a curiosity.  If it does exist, it’s the only Sovereign 350 back that is a true rarity.  Yesterday, Jon was able to ask a representative for SGC if there is any way to double-check their records to make sure the SGC 80 Davis Sovereign 350 was indeed a 350 back.  He was told that unfortunately, they do not scan cards they grade and they have no way of going back and looking at the card.

The other cards listed above are also very questionable inclusions in the Sovereign 350 checklist.  Since we know that Sovereign 350 tends to be more plentiful than Sovereign 150 for Print Group 1 poses, all of those poses above should be relatively easy to find with a Sovereign 350 back.  That is, if they exist at all.  So far, no one has come forward in the net54 thread with proof of the existence of any of the above cards with Sovereign 350 backs.  We know that T206resource.com has these cards listed as confirmed, with the exception of Fred Clarke portrait.  They have Clarke portrait listed as a “Probable No Print” in the Sovereign 350 checklist, but in the T206 Master Checklist, it is confirmed to exist.  Hopefully, a deeper look into all nine of these subjects will help us get to the bottom of this.  T206resource.com is an invaluable tool for back collectors, and I’m not trying to nit-pick their work.  Their checklists are extremely reliable, and they allow collectors to have conversations like this using a common rubric.  However, in this case I think it’s fair to wonder if these Sovereign 350s with zero Pops might be data entry errors on their part.  The SGC Pop Report below for Art Devlin shows a typical distribution of Sov150 v.s. Sov350:

Personally, I’d be surprised if Davis or the other 8 poses listed above exist with Sovereign 350 backs.  I am about 99% sure I’ve not seen any of them, but to be fair I’ve only been actively looking for a few years.  If evidence that any of these cards do exist surfaces, I will be sure to write an article with an update.  I hope they do show up, so that we have some more scarce cards to hunt after.

If you own any of these cards, or have scans of any, please send me an email at luke@thatt206life.com

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Did T206 Artists Cut Some Corners in the 350 Series?

T206 350 series solid backgrounds
350 Series (Print Group 2) Solid Backgrounds

Many collectors organize their T206s alphabetically by the player’s last name.  Others group them by teams.  I tend to think about the set and organize my cards according to print group.  When you look at the set in this way, some patterns emerge.  Throughout the set, the portraits have varying degrees of background shading.  The 150-350 series has the highest percentage of portraits with shading in the background, but there are still plenty that have a single color background.  Most of the portraits in the 350 series utilize only a single, solid color, but there are some with a more nuanced, shaded background.  Because each Print Group includes multiple examples of portrait cards with solid backgrounds, I will not focus on portrait for this article.

In the 150-350 series (Print Group 1), every color imaginable was used.  The action shots all have some variety to the backgrounds, and are often quite stunning.  There is a feeling of cohesiveness throughout.  Print Group 1 clearly exhibits more attention to detail than than the 350 series (Print Group 2).  Print Groups 1, 3, and 4 are quite similar in style and appearance.  Many cards in Print Group 2 have a single, solid color as the background.  Print Group 1 only has a single card like that (Donlin seated).  The Conroy below comes close, but the artist took a little extra time to add texture so you know he is fielding a ball on the grass.  The solid backgrounds of the 350 series always made me feel like they rushed the artistic process, and maybe they did.  The solid backgrounds still make for some beautiful cards, but I prefer a little more detail.

T206 150 series action shots
Print Group 1 Action Shots

My theory is the American Tobacco Company was surprised by the success of their baseball card promotion (they weren’t referred to as T206 back then).  I think they decided to keep it going, and needed a large number of cards, quickly.  The 350 series consists of 208 cards, more than any other series.  It stands to reason that the artwork was put together in a short period of time.  Whereas the 150-350 series has one card with a solid color background, there are dozens in the 350 series.  These cards still look great, but it’s also clear that they took less time to create than a similar card with a more nuanced background.  Although many cards in the 350 series have plain backgrounds, there are also some of the most beautiful cards in the set in this series.  Donovan, Campbell, and Dinneen all come to mind as some of the most visually appealing cards in the set.  It’s possible some cards didn’t make the 150-350 series cut but were ready to be included when ATC decided to expand the set.  It’s also possible certain artists just used the same style and attention to detail in all their work, and others may have cut some corners to churn out the pieces needed for the 350 series.

The 350-460 series (Print Group 3), which consists of only 63 cards, was a return to the attention to detail of Print Group 1.  There are four cards in the series that have a solid color background:  Joe Doyle, Kleinow catching, Wagner bat on right shoulder, and White pitching.  However, the first three have blue backgrounds which look like the sky.  White, which has a yellow background, is the only card in the 350-460 series that resembles the solid backgrounds of the 350 series.

The 460 series (Print Group 4) was smaller still than Print Group 3, clocking in at just 46 cards.  The artwork has a similar look and feel to Print Groups 1 and 3.  Howell hand at waist is the only non-portrait with a solid color background.

460 Series (Print Group 4) Action Poses

 

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T206 and the Dreaded PSA (MC) Qualifier

Although individual tastes vary, T206 collectors as a whole tend to dislike graded cards with qualifiers.  PSA is the only grading company that uses qualifiers in their grades, however SGC takes the same card attributes into consideration for the most part.  The different qualifiers that PSA may assign to a card are MC, OC, MK and ST.  For the purposes of this article, I am just going to talk about the (MC) qualifier.  (MC) stands for “mis-cut” and is given to any card that has some portion of printed area that is either cut off or right up against the edge of the card.  The Schmidt portrait above received the qualifier not because the front is slightly off-center, but because a tiny portion of the ornate scroll on the adjacent card is showing on the left edge of the back of Schmidt.

Looking at prices realized, it’s often pretty clear that collectors look down their nose at cards with the MC qualifier.  The general rule of thumb I’ve heard is that a qualifier knocks the card’s value down two full grades.  So, if you have a card in a PSA 4 (MC) holder, you might expect it to sell for a the price of a PSA 2, or at least in the vicinity.

A recent post on net54baseball.com got me thinking about this topic.  There were some vehement anti-qualifier posts that I thought were interesting.  Among them:

“Honestly severely off centered/miscut cards bug me the most…I avoid those like the plague!”

“I avoid cards with qualifiers…currently have none in my collection.”

“You could not pay me to take a card with qualifier on it, if I can find any other card that doesn’t have a qualifier…”

I have to admit I was a little surprised by the passionate disdain evident in these comments.  I’ve never felt too strongly one way or another about the (MC) qualifier, but it is clear that many do.  One reason someone might feel this way is that cards with qualifiers sell for quite a bit less than a similar card of the same grade without the qualifier.  I can understand people not wanting to spend money on a card that they will lose money on, but in this case I don’t really understand passing up a card with a qualifier for monetary reasons.  Since they sell for less, that means you can buy them for less as well.  There’s no need to lose money on resale if you paid a fair price to begin with.

I would assume there is also a bit of herd mentality going on here as well.  If the majority of collectors avoid cards with qualifiers, maybe it’s less fun to show them off to friends who don’t appreciate them, they’re tougher to sell, etc.

The third reason is that the cards themselves turn people off.  This is of course the main reason, evidenced by lower prices of qualified cards across the board.  The thing is: all qualifiers are not created equal.  The Schmidt and Lobert cards above are not nearly as off-center as the Graham below.

In my opinion, if people focused more on the card than the flip*, you would see more love for cards with qualifiers.  In many cases, the reason for the qualifier does not affect eye appeal much at all, but many collectors will still shy away from those cards.  Of course, many cards with qualifiers have substantial “flaws” or attributes that negatively affect their eye appeal.  For collectors who only enjoy a perfectly centered card, the (MC) qualifier is useful, because it tells them they will probably not like the card.  Although they are not the topic of this post, I can also understand collectors who don’t like writing or marks on their cards (cards like this would receive the MK qualifier.  If you collect low or mid-grade T206s with common backs, there are plenty of well-centered cards out there, so there’s no reason to buy a card with centering issues.  However, if you collect some tougher backs, you don’t usually have the same options.  I was thrilled to add the Schmidt and Graham to my collection at great prices.  I’m glad the qualifier doesn’t bother me, because I could be waiting years before I find a nicer copy of either front/back combo.

Although the negativity towards cards with the (MC) qualifier mystifies me a bit, I’m happy to keep buying the ones I like at great prices.

*flip is a slang term used by collectors to refer to the PSA label

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T206 Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 649 Overprint – An Interesting Subset

I’m excited to bring you another guest article from fellow T206 aficionado Scott Gross!

T206 Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 649 Overprints are a small (only 34 total cards) back printing sub-set. They were produced in the first printing of T206s in 1909 and are part of Print Group 1 (all Print Groups are based on the fantastic web site t206resource.com). Originally, they were produced as Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 30. The Factory 30 can be seen on some cards where the Red Stripe Over Print was misaligned. In fact, sometimes this back is called “Sweet Caporal Red Stripes.”

 Due to Federal Tobacco laws, these cards were shipped from Factory 30 (2nd District NY) to Factory 649 (1st District NY). Although there are only 34 cards, there is a nice variety, which includes 7 future Hall of Famers. There are also a few commons that have interesting printing anomalies.

The following table is based on the PSA Population report, which shows the backs that were printed for each player. There are two exceptions: First, PSA has not graded a Bates with a SC 350 / 25 back. It is theorized this card “should” exist, and the other day, a knowledgeable T206 friend of mine said he has seen one. Secondly, whereas PSA has no graded Gilbert listed, he is confirmed on T206resource.com.

EPDG Hindu Old Mill Pied.150 Pied.350 Sov.150 Sov.350 SC 150/25 SC 150/30 SC 150/649 SC 350/25 SC350/30
Alperman x x x x x x x x x x
Bates x x x x x x x x x y x
Bransfield x x x x x x x x x x
Bresnahan, portait x x x x x x x x x x x x
Clarke, J.J. x x x x x x x x x x x
Davis, George x x x x x x x x x x x x
Davis, H. x x x x x x x x x x
Delehanty, Wash. x x x x x x x x x x x
Ewing x x x x x x x x
Gilbert x x x x x x x x x z x
Goode x x x x x x x x x x x
Griffith, Portrait x x x x x x x x x x x x
Johnson, Portrait x x x x x x x x x x x x
Jones, St. Louis x x x x x x x x
Killian, Pitching x x x x x x x x x x x x
Lajoie, Throwing x x x x x x x x x x x
Lake, New York x x x x x x x x x x
Liebhardt, Glenn x x x x x x x x x x x
Manning, Batting x x x x x x x x x x x
Marquard, Hands Thighs x x x x x x x x x x x
Mathewson, White x x x x x x x x x x
McIntire, Brooklyn x x x x x x x x x x
McQuillan, ball in hand x x x x x x x x x x x
O’Leary, Portrait x x x x x x x x x x x x
Owen x x x x x x x x x x x
Pastorius x x x x x x x x x x x
Powers x x x x x x
Ritchey x x x x x x x x x x x
Schlei, Catching x x x x x x x x x x x
Schmidt, Pitching x x x x x x x x x x
Sheckard, no glove x x x x x x x x x x x
Spencer x x x x x x x x
Wagner, Bat Left x x x x x x x x x x x
Wilhelm, Pitch x x x x x x x x x x x

 Let’s look at what these cards have in common. Actually they ALL have a lot in common. ALL can be found with Hindu backs. That would make sense, as Hindus were also produced at Factory 649. They also can ALL be found with the following backs:  Piedmont 150, Sovereign 150, Sweet Caporal 150 / 25, and Sweet Caporal 150 / 30.

Cards produced with El Principe De Gales backs are kind of hit-or-miss. The majority of them, 22, have EPDG backs. I can only assume the 12 that do not have EPDG backs just “didn’t make the cut” for this back run.

All but one player (Powers, which will be discussed later) were produced with Piedmont 350 backs. However, only ten have a Sovereign 350 back. Once again, kind of hit-or-miss who made the this cut. On one hand you have very talented and popular (future HOFs) cards like Roger Bresnahan, George Davis, Clarke Griffith, and Walter Johnson, but not Napoleon Lajoie, Rube Marquard, or Christy Mathewson. Commons-wise, Glenn Liebhardt (who was printed with Sovereign 350 back) was a very good minor league pitcher, but nothing to brag about in the majors.

OK, now let’s look at the few anomalies:

First, we have Mike “Doc” Powers. Powers was a medical physician, thus the nickname, and was mainly a back-up catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics. He has no EPDG (as suspected, just didn’t make the printing). More importantly, he has NO 350 series backs. The reason for this: He was one of the very first cards pulled from T206 production. He also has no Old Mill back (which probably was pulled early, also). This is sadly understandable in that he died on April 26, 1909, just after the production began. The romantic version of his death is he died running into the stands after a foul ball on opening day. Partly true; he actually died from complications following surgery resulting from injuries sustained on that day. His full catcher’s-gear image is a favorite of many collectors, including myself.

Three other “odd” cards are Bob Ewing, Tom Jones of St. Louis, and Tubby Spencer. Like Powers, they neither have Old Mill backs, nor do they have Sweet Caporal 350 backs. The explanation is that they were pulled from production early. Not as early as Powers, but right about the beginning of 350 Series production. This timeline is not only based on the absence of Old Mill or Sweet Caporal 350 cards (or Sovereign) but also the fact that they are very short-printed, and extremely tough to find with Piedmont 350 backs. They both fall into the category known as The Elite 11*, which all have the same back distribution.

By the way, I have collected all 34 cards. It took about a year. I can’t say any one is anymore difficult to come by than any other. That includes HOFers, commons, and anomalies. It’s a FUN and doable sub-set, give it a try!!!!!

Written by Scott Gross
* the term Elite 11 was first introduced by collector Ted Zanidakis over on net54baseball.com
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Five Easy Ways to Spot Reprint and Counterfeit T206 cards

If I could only teach one thing to a new T206 collector, it would be how to spot fakes.  Learning this skill is absolutely crucial for a couple reasons.  The main reason is pretty obvious:  You don’t want to be spending good money on a reprint or counterfeit card.  The second reason deals more with your overall approach to collecting the set.  While it is possible to only buy graded cards, you will miss out on a lot of good deals (and great cards) if you don’t feel comfortable buying an ungraded card or group of cards.

As with most things, repetition is the best way to get comfortable with spotting fakes.  I recommend buying a few lower grade, ungraded T206s from a reputable dealer when you first start out.  Handling a few authentic cards is a great way to get used to what they are supposed to look and feel like.  However, I think I learned more from scrolling through ebay than from handling cards.  Looking through hundreds or thousands of authentic T206s on ebay every week really trained my eyes to spot anything out of the ordinary.  Once you have looked at thousands of scans, you will just notice when something doesn’t look right and know immediately that you are looking at a reprint or counterfeit.  To help you get to that point, here are five things to look for to help you spot fakes:

Surface Cracks

Not all reprints/fakes have these little surface cracks like the Cobb above, but the ones that do are easy to spot.  If you ever see a card with these cracks, it’s fake.  You will never see an authentic card that looks like that.

The Caption is Written in Black Ink

Like the Mathewson above, many fakes have the name and city caption written in black ink.  Authentic T206 cards have the caption printed in brown ink.  If you see a card that you are not sure about, and the caption looks too dark, trust your instincts and stay away.

Occasionally you will see a scan of an authentic T206 that appears to have a black caption.  If scan settings are a little off, that can cause brown ink to look black.  You won’t come across this too often, but I’ve seen it a few times.

The Ink is Too Dark

The Matty above is an example of this.  There is a subtlety to the colors on an authentic T206.  Often, a fake will have a harsh, heavy-handed look to the colors.  It’s hard to define in writing, but easy to spot.

Suspiciously Even Corner Wear and Rounding

The Wagner below shows extreme corner rounding, and whoever did it made sure to grind down each corner an even amount.  You will certainly see some authentic T206s with extreme and even corner wear from time to time, but typically the wear will not be so uniform.

The Font Used for the Caption Does Not Match an Authentic T206

The Wagner below is a good example.  Some reprints were printed with a different font than the originals, and they are easy to spot.

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Why Don’t T206 Collectors Care About Hand-Cut Cards?

Ever since I started collecting T206s, I’ve always been intrigued by cards that are clearly hand-cut.  Oftentimes such cards also have blank backs or are missing colors, but sometimes they look pretty normal.  This Stovall above is a good example of a card that clearly was cut from a sheet by hand (the bottom border is much wider than any factory-cut cards), but looks just like any other Stovall portrait otherwise.

I’ve always been drawn to these cards and I don’t really understand why collectors don’t seem to care for them.  Though the market has been down recently, collectors still clearly covet Blank Backs and cards that are missing multiple colors passes.  It makes sense that the most unique examples of Printer’s Scrap would be the most valuable.  However, there is a ton of demand for other semi-scarce T206s, so the lack of demand for cards like my Stovall seems odd.  For example, a PSA 3 Snodgrass with Tolstoi back just sold for $106 via ebay auction.  Between PSA and SGC there are 14 copies of this front/back combo graded.  A PSA 3 with Piedmont back would probably sell for about $40, so the Tolstoi back was worth for a 2.5x premium.  This Stovall might be the only copy that was hand-cut, and I’d probably struggle to sell it for $30.

I can hypothesize a few reasons for the lack of demand.  Maybe the fact that you can’t really “prove” these cards were hand-cut plays a role in the tepid response from collectors.  Perhaps people find the wavy borders distracting.  And maybe there just isn’t enough variation visually between a factory-cut copy and my Stovall for people to take notice.  I do find it odd that T206 collectors hunt scarcity and perceived scarcity in many different ways, but will show little or no interest in certain scarce cards or variations.  I believe that a lack of interest in a certain T206 niche will often breed more disinterest.  It’s fun to show off your new cards and share new pickups with friends.  When you’re the only person collecting a certain thing, it can feel pretty lonely after awhile.

What do you think about hand-cut cards?  Do you like them?  Would you pay a premium for them?  Would you rather have the Leifield above, or a normal looking Leifield batting with a semi-tough back like Old Mill?  Please leave a comment and join in the conversation.

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