If the collecting world had a Mount Rushmore, the T206 Ty Cobb might well be on it. The question is...which one?
Cobb was one of Major League Baseball's first true superstars and the tobacco card set was issued in his prime. For kids and the few adults who saved those cards that came out of cigarette packs from 1909-1911, getting a Cobb was like finding a signed Stephen Strasburg rookie card feels to fans of modern era cards.
He was one of the few players of the era who were known outside the walls of baseball; familiar for his daring, dashing, sometimes combative style. Not everyone liked him but virtually everyone was in awe of his talent.
There are four main T206 Ty Cobb cards in the set, testimony to his popularity. American Tobacco knew everyone would want a Cobb card and they made sure to make them somewhat accessible. Two are portrait cards, showing a head and shoulders picture while the other two show him with his familiar weapon--the bat. It's the T206 version of the action picture. One shows the bat on his shoulder while the other shows it just off his shoulder.
The two portrait cards have variations--one with a red background and another with a green background. The green background Cobb is far more scarce, selling for roughly double the cost of a red. Each of the 'bat off shoulder' variations is worth about the same.
There are 15 different back variations, with each advertising a different type of tobacco issued by the American Tobacco Company.
There's a fifth Cobb card in the set, this one a red background portrait. This card was only available in special tins of Ty Cobb tobacco, one of his first endorsements. The back of the 'T206 Cobb with Cobb back' card proclaims Cobb's brand to be "King of the Smoking Tobacco World". Only a handful are believed to exist and they sell for tens of thousands of dollars even in off-grade.
The set is considered complete without that card.
Prices for these vintage Ty Cobb baseball cards always run at least several hundred dollars for lower grade examples. The best value is probably the red portrait background. A card in 'very good' condition can usually be found for around $600.
T206 Ty Cobb cards are always in demand by collectors and those who are simply fans of baseball and want one of the earliest superstar cards on the market.