December 31, 2010

T206 Addiction

Amar Shah has a problem. He is addicted to tobacco cards, specifically the infamous T206 set issued by the American Tobacco Company from 1909 and 1911. The T206 set is where the famous Honus Wagner card comes from.

Several decades ago, my friend Ray and I went to a card collector's house in our Vermont hometown and this guy ended up giving me a handful of T206s. They were in average shape at best, as though someone had carried them around in his back pocket for a weekend or two. I picked up a few more along the way and ended up with 36 of them (including the Three-Finger Brown pictured here).

Why we went to this card guy's house, I do not recall. He worked at IBM and lived out by the middle school we were likely still attending. When I went to Vermont two months ago, I asked Ray about it, hoping he might remember some details (this was when I thought I might include some of my own card history in my review of Cardboard Gods). But Ray started asking me the same questions I wanted answers to. He thought we were in the eighth grade or so, which would have been the fall of 1976. I guess we were there to maybe fill some gaps in our burgeoning collections (but how we found out about this guy or how we arranged to go over there, I have no idea). It was a Sunday, there was football on the television, and stacks of cards everywhere.

Ray was interested in the 1971 Topps series, with the black border.
I was drawn to the cards from 1973. That year seemed to have a lot of action shots and landscape layouts. I also loved the design of the little position circles and the font used for the players' names.
Because I had started buying cards in 1974, everything before that seemed much further away, from another time. Cards from 1972, say, seemed as old and mysterious as ones from 1952.

I ended up selling my cards in 1983. This was right before the card business took off like a rocket, so that was some fine fucking timing on my part. But I had not been buying cards for a couple of years and I desperately needed some money. I have a vague idea of what I got for the cards and the whole episode annoys me to this day. Not because of what I could have sold them for had I waited a few years, but because the money was gone in a relative eye-blink and I wish I still had a lot of the cards.

I'm very happy I hung onto my tobacco cards.


SoSock said...

I love that 73 set myself, mainly because it's so similar to my favorite - the 63. Just a big fan of the insert profile, espcially when set over an action shot

laura k (aka L-girl) said...

I love your tobacco cards, too.

I also wish you still had your cards, but I rationalize that if you hadn't sold them then, you would have sold them later - albeit for more money, but that money would have disappeared just as quickly.

accudart said...

I'm pretty sure the tobacco cards were the ones to keep. I did like the 71' cards a lot. My favorite has to be 74' which was my first full year collecting. I loved card #1, Hank Arron All Time HR King. It was also done in landscape style. It's crazy now, you can still buy late 80's and early 90's cards for $10- a box. They must have over produced to the tenth.

allan said...

I also loved that Aaron card. You can see it here.

Someone produced a replica set of the T206 years ago. I saw it somewhere for $50.!!!

allan said...

Five of the cards I thought were T206 are not. The backs of these are not a tobacco company ad, but a list of the 25 cards in the set made by the Philadelphia Caramel Co. in Camden, NJ, and issued with candy.

Honus Wagner is card #1, but it's not the same card as the rare one. I have Morgan (#4), Krause (#6), Devlin (#7), Crawford (#11), and Leach (#15). Some searching tells me it is the E95 set, issued in 1909.