Lot # 5: 1909-11 T206 Complete Set w/Complete Polar Bear & Complete Old Mill SL Subsets (520)

Category: Featured Items

Starting Bid: $15,000.00

Bids: 37 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Fall, 2022 - 10th Anniversary Auction",
which ran from 11/6/2022 12:00 PM to
11/26/2022 9:00 PM

While the prewar hobby offers a vast array of card types and issues for collectors, few sets carry the mystique - and popularity - of T206. Books have been written about it.  Websites are devoted to it.  It dominates not only message board discussions among vintage hobbyists, but dealer tables at shows and auction catalogs alike.  The issue is so popular that PSA has nearly 80 different types of registry sets devoted to various subsets of T206, including teams, Hall of Famers, artwork format and, of course, back advertisements.

Collecting individual T206 cards is easy.  Completing a set, however, is a different story - 70 Hall of Famers add considerable expense, while multiple player poses and variations, tough Southern Leaguers, and difficult-to-locate scarcities within the set create collecting challenges that eventually frustrate all but the most patient and passionate collectors to the point of abandonment.  Certainly the number of collectors who have completed a T206 set is just a fraction of the number who have a started - there are currently more than 130 sets registered on the PSA registry - but only 12 are complete.

For most collectors, obtaining the set's 520 cards necessary to be considered "complete" is enough (T206 is one of the few sets with cards that are challenging/expensive enough that most collectors consider it complete without them).  Adding extra layers of difficulty is a challenge that lies beyond the patience of most collectors.  Yet that is exactly what highlights this set: within the set's 520 cards lies a complete run of 250 cards with Polar Bear backs (representing every known card offered with that back), and a complete run of 48 Southern Leaguers with Old Mill backs.  An incredible exercise in patience and diligence, the set also includes 11 cards with Sovereign 350 backs, plus one Sovereign 150 and one EPDG.  111 of the cards have been graded.

We would definitely describe the set as collector-grade, with a condition breakdown as follows: VG: 2%, GOOD 20%, FAIR 24%, POOR 54% with a few visibly trimmed and a few additional light trims.  Hall of Famers fare somewhat better, breaking down as follows: VG 3%, GOOD 30%, FAIR 31%, POOR 34% with one trimmed.  Southern Leaguers are all graded by PSA or SGC, with 10% grading VG, 58% grading GOOD, 22% grading FAIR and 10% grading POOR.  Clearly the collector who assembled this group built the set with budget in mind, but still obtained the key cards in the highest possible quality within that budget.

The graded cards break down as follows: PSA VG 3: four cards; SGC VG 3: three cards; SGC GOOD+ 2.5: two cards, PSA GOOD 2: 44 cards, SGC GOOD 2: 10 cards, BVG GOOD 2: 1 card, PSA GOOD 2 MK: 1 card, PSA FAIR 1.5: 8 cards, SGC FAIR 1.5: 17 cards, PSA POOR 1: 18 cards, SGC POOR 1: 7 cards.  Among the set's many key cards, the grades are was follows: Cobb (Green - PSA 1), Cobb (Red - PSA 1.5), Cobb (Bat Off - SGC 1.5), Cobb (Bat On - PSA 1), Johnson (Pitching - SGC 1.5), Johnson (Portrait - PSA 1), Lajoie (Portrait - PSA 1.5), Lajoie (Throwing - SGC 3), Lajoie (Batting - SGC 2), Mathewson (Dark Cap - SGC 1), Mathewson (Portrait - PSA 1), Mathewson (White Cap - PSA 1), Speaker (SGC 1.5), Young (With Glove - SGC 2), Young (Bare Hand - PSA 2), Young (Portrait - SGC 2).

Assuming that one considers a T206 Set complete at 520 cards, this is the fourth complete set we have offered since 2021 - the most of any auction house.  Of the four, this is the most interesting and certainly the most difficult to complete, with 250 Polar Bear and 48 Old Mill backs.  A collector-grade set, this is an extremely tough example of one of the most important and popular of all prewar baseball card sets, with the added challenge of a complete run of Polar Bear backs and a complete run of Old Mill Southern League cards dramatically increasing the degree of difficulty here.  The most widely collected prewar baseball card set but still among the most challenging, we have once again tamed the monster for you, while adding challenging Polar Bear and Old Mill subsets.  520 cards total.

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