The names in the T206 set are now just text on a page of baseball history.
The players represented in this amazing tobacco card set no longer walk among us, but their lives and careers live on through simple, yet colorful images printed on perhaps the most popular vintage baseball card set of all-time.
The cards weren’t called T206 when they were issued. That designation was assigned to the set decades ago when the first baseball card collectors began cataloging cards they possessed or knew about. In reality, they are American Tobacco cards, produced by that company from 1909-1911 as a premium in packages of its cigarette brands. A bonus, if you will, to those who chose American Tobacco products.
The T206 baseball card set officially consists of 524 cards including major and minor league players of the day. Many consider the set complete at 520 cards since the four others are exceedingly rare and valuable, including the famous Honus Wagner card, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars even in lower grade. Less than 100 Wagner cards are believed to exist—perhaps less than 75.
Several popular players are featured with different poses. Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and others are shown in action and portrait poses. The backs of the cards don’t contain statistics, but rather ads for the tobacco product in which they were placed. Piedmont and Sweet Caporal are the two popular brands one often sees on the backs of T206 cards.
100 years ago, the most loyal customers may not have been doing their health a favor by smoking pack after pack of American Tobacco products, but their appetite resulted in a large quantity of the cards being produced. They were unique and popular enough that many adults saved them or gave them to their children, who kept them for generations. Today, while cigarette baseball cards are valuable—especially the few surviving near mint or mint copies of Hall of Fame players—lower grade examples are still very affordable. It’s one reason why many people try to collect as many as they can. Where else can you buy a century-old piece of history so cheaply?
Check out the list of T206 cards available on eBay now.