Putting the notion of series to work in organizing

This is the fourth installment in the T206 Archives Series by noted collector Scot Reader.

02SD042806.jpgIn a departure from conventional thinking, it is my view that T206 is best understood as consisting of eight series, plus a handful of rule-breaking subjects that defy classification. A “series,” as I contemplate it, consists of a group of subjects which, according to patterns witnessed in my survey, should appear with a common group of backs. The eight hypothesized series are summarized in the following table (which uses “subjects/factory” format for back identification).

150-Only Series: The 150-only series includes at least nine subjects that appear at most with the Brown Hindu, El Principe de Gales, Old Mill, Piedmont 150, Sovereign 150, Sweet Caporal 150/25, Sweet Caporal 150/30 and Sweet Caporal 150/649 backs.

It is not clear why these nine subjects were not continued into the 350 Series, when an estimated 144 of their brethren that first appear in the 150 Series were extended. A partial explanation may reside in a Chicago Cubs uniform change. On-field shots of Chicago players with the “CUBS” moniker across their shirts are well represented in the in the 150-Only Series, comprising three of the nine subjects, namely: Brown (Cubs on Shirt); Evers (Blue Background); and Reulbach (Glove Shows).

Perhaps ATC sought to keep the set current by dropping these on-field shots when the Cubs abandoned these uniforms in favor of new ones bearing a Cubs logo and the letters “CHICAGO” down the shirt. Other reasons for early termination of the print run suggest themselves for individual 150-Only subjects. George Browne was traded to the Washington Senators in May of 1909 and reemerged in the T206 set as a 350-only Series subject styled Brown (Washington).

03SD042806.jpgThis may explain why his G. Brown (Chicago) 150-only series card was not continued into the 350 Series. Another 150-Only Series subject, Mike “Doc” Powers, died shortly after a freak accident on opening day in the 1909 season that occurred while he was chasing a foul ball. His untimely death may explain his subject’s early exit from the set. Mike Donlin left baseball for a try at vaudeville after the 1908 season and did not return until 1911, which may explain why the print run of Donlin (Fielding) was not extended into the 350 Series. Finally, Harry Pattee’s last season in the Majors was 1908, which could explain why Pattee is a 150-Only subject.

All 150-Only Series subjects are more difficult than average. Powers is one of the more common among them, and is the only subject in the 150-Only Series that has been seen by this author with the Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 649 back. Whether the other eight 150-Only subjects appear with this back is an open question.

Notably, the two HOF subjects in the 150-Only series, Brown (Cubs on Shirt) and Evers (Blue Background), rank among the more difficult Hall of Famers in the set. The difficulty of these legendary Cubs is consistent with the overall slight difficulty of the 150-Only Series relative to other series (except for the two Southern League series, which are more difficult).

While all T206 subjects except the “Big Six” ultra-rarities are by convention thought to appear with either the Old Mill or Old Mill Southern back, I have not been able to confirm any of the nine 150-Only series subjects with an Old Mill back. It is not clear whether this is due to scarcity or impossibility. It seems possible, at least, that the Old Mill back (like the Old Mill Southern back) was introduced with the 350 Series, such that the 150 Series subjects that were extended into the 350 Series are available with it but the 150-Only Series subjects aren’t.

04SD042806.jpgAside from the as-yet-unseen Old Mill back, 150-Only Series subjects are most difficult with the El Principe de Gales, Brown Hindu and Sovereign 150 back types, in that order.

In addition to the nine confirmed 150-Only subjects, there are six subjects historically assigned to the 150/350 Series that I have not been able to confirm with any 350 Series back. These subjects are Ames (Hands at Chest), Doyle (Throwing), Ewing, Jones (St. Louis), Lindaman and Lundgren (Chicago). It is possible that at least some of these subjects are 150-Only subjects. At the very least, these subjects are more difficult to find with a 350 Series back than their 150/350 Series brethren. It bears noting that Lundgren (Chicago) fits the profile of Cub subjects in on-field poses that are well represented in the 150-Only series and that Carl Lundgren and Vive Lindaman both played their last major league games in 1909.

150/350 Series: The 150/350 Series includes at most 144 subjects that appear at most with the Brown Hindu, El Principe de Gales, Old Mill, Piedmont 150, Sovereign 150, Sweet Caporal 150/25, Sweet Caporal 150/30, Sweet Caporal 150/649, Piedmont 350, Sovereign 350, Sweet Caporal 350/25 and Sweet Caporal 350/30 backs.

On average, it is about 21/2 times easier to find a 150/350 Series subject with a 150 Series back than a 350 Series back. Indeed, as mentioned earlier, seven subjects that have traditionally been considered part of the 150/350 Series have not been confirmed by this author with any 350 Series back.

Additionally, two subjects in the 150/350 Series have not been confirmed with any Sweet Caporal 150 back. These are Jennings (Portrait) and Lundgren (Chicago). It is not certain whether my inability to confirm these front/back combinations is attributable to scarcity or impossibility.

08SD042806.jpgThe 150/350 Series distribution pattern strongly suggests that only a subset of subjects in this series are available with the Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 649 back. I have seen 32-34 of the estimated 144 subjects in the 150/350 Series with this back in multiple instances, while I have not witnessed the remaining 110-112 subjects in this series with this back at all. A distribution pattern exhibiting such concentration among a few subjects provides compelling evidence that only a small fraction of the estimated 144 fronts in the 150/350 Series – perhaps fewer than 35-40 – are possible with the Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 649 back.

While none of the subjects in the 150/350 Series are rare, among the more difficult cards are Lundgren (Chicago), Schulte (Front View), Ganley, Ames (Hands at Chest), Cobb (Green Portrait), Konetchy (Glove High), Conroy (Fielding), Schaefer (Detroit), Shaw (St. Louis) and Dahlen (Boston). As mentioned earlier, Lundgren (Chicago) and Schulte (Front View) may in fact be available exclusively in the 150 Series, which if true would contribute to the difficulty of these subjects.

While 150/350 Series subjects cannot be regarded as rare with any of the back types with which they appear, they are somewhat tougher to find with the Brown Hindu, El Principe de Gales and Old Mill back types than the others. 150/350 Series subjects are not exceedingly difficult with the Sovereign 150 or Sovereign 350 back. Nor are they difficult with any Piedmont or Sweet Caporal 150 or 350 Series back (subject to the above comment about Sweet Caporal 150 Factory 649). Among the five Sweet Caporal back varieties with which 150/350 Series subjects are available, 150/350 Series subjects appear toughest to find with the Series 350 Factory 25 back, although even with this back they are hardly scarce.

350-Only Series: The 350-only Series includes an estimated 208 subjects that, with one known exception, appear at most with the American Beauty 350 with Fram e, Broad Leaf 350, Carolina Brights, Cycle 350, Drum, El Principe de Gales, Old Mill, Piedmont 350, Polar Bear, Sovereign 350, Sweet Caporal 350/25, Sweet Caporal 350/30 and Tolstoi backs.

06SD042806.jpgIt has long been known that 350-Only Series fronts are more common with the framed version of the American Beauty 350 back than with the unframed version. This is an understatement. Seemingly, the sole 350-Only subject who appears without the frame is Nichols.

There are four subjects that have traditionally been assigned to the 350/460 Series that require reassignment to the 350-Only series. Three of them are Bender (With Trees), Fiene (Portrait) and Fiene (Throwing). Reassignment of these subjects to the 350-Only Series is warranted since these subjects have been seen with at least one of the American Beauty 350 with Frame or Cycle 350 backs, which are characteristic of 350-Only Series subjects, and have not been seen with any 460 Series back. I have a strong suspicion that Dahlen (Brooklyn) also requires reassignment to the 350-Only Series and have done so, even though I have not confirmed this subject with any of these characteristic 350-Only backs.

Among the more difficult 350-Only Series subjects are: Elberfeld (Washington), Dahlen (Brooklyn), J. Doyle (N.Y.), Brown (Washington), O’Neil, Adkins, Lundgren (Kansas City), Rhoades (Right Arm Out), Smith (Chicago White Cap) and Nichols. Advanced T206ers will recognize that minor leaguers are well represented in this group. Indeed, although there are numerous individual exceptions, 350-Only Series minor leaguers appear slightly more difficult on average than 350-Only Series major leaguers.

Savvy T206 collectors have recently begun to pay a substantial premium for J. Doyle (N.Y.) specimens. This premium is due in large measure to a seeming paucity of examples of this subject, especially in high grade. The J. Doyle (N.Y.) shortage appears to be real and may be traceable to the hoarding of this subject by a well-known dealer more than a decade ago – and the aftermath of this effort.

Reportedly, one morning in 1981 while filling an order for a T206 New York Giants team set, Wisconsin dealer Larry Fritsch came across a card of Doyle, hands over head, with a caption reading “N.Y. Nat’l.” This was the first discovery of J. Doyle (N.Y. Nat’l). Fritsch proceeded to place several ads in hobby publications, offering twice the going rate for any T206 Doyle card. The blind purchase campaign yielded hundreds of T206 Joe Doyle specimens; however, none were the J. Doyle (N.Y. Nat’l) variation.
Fritsch later sold all of the J. Doyle (N.Y.) specimens as a block to a man hailing from Flint, Mich.

Unbeknown to Fritsch, the man allegedly hatched a scheme to convert them into J. Doyle (N.Y. Nat’l) cards through doctoring. The man was reportedly arrested, and the fate of the hoard of J. Doyle (N.Y.) cards is unknown. It seems possible they were destroyed, either in a botched attempt at alteration or by government authorities after being confiscated. In any event, there is little doubt that J. Doyle (N.Y.) is now among the more difficult subjects in the set.

Another interesting 350-Only trend relates to Pittsburg Pirates subjects in the series. Four of the five 350-Only Series Pirates (Wilson being the lone exception) are unusually plentiful with the Piedmont 350 back, making them among the easiest to obtain T206 commons. A hypothesis explaining why Abstein, Maddox, Miller (Pittsburg) and Phillippe are so ubiquitous readily presents itself: The Bucs won the 1909 World Series and ATC likely sought to capitalize on the popularity of the team through an extended print in 1910, when the 350-Only Series was released.

Notably, this author has never seen either Demmitt (New York) or O’Hara (New York) with the Polar Bear back. This is interesting since the rare variations of these subjects, Demmitt (St. Louis) and O’Hara (St. Louis), can only be found with the Polar Bear back. While not absolutely certain, it may be the case that the more common variations of Demmitt and O’Hara never made it to print with Polar Bear.

350-Only Series subjects are most difficult with the Drum back, followed by Broad Leaf 350 and Carolina Brights. A sizable gap separates these backs from the next tier of scarcity, which includes El Principe de Gales, Tolstoi, American Beauty 350 with Frame, Old Mill and Cycle 350. 350-Only Series subjects are not that difficult with Sovereign 350 or Polar Bear. Nor are they difficult with the Piedmont 350 back or the Sweet Caporal 350 Factory 25 or Factory 30 back, although Sweet Caporal 350 Factory 25 is tougher than Factory 30.

05SD042806.jpg350/460 “Super Print”: Probably the most groundbreaking and controversial idea presented in this work is that T206 includes a small group of “super printed” subjects that first appear in the 350 Series and were extended into the 460 Series that form a separate and distinct series from the other 350/460 subjects. What separates these “super prints” from the “regular prints” is that the former appear, at least in theory, with all 350 and 460 Series backs except American Beauty 350 Without Frame, whereas the latter appear at most with a subset of 350 and 460 Series backs that includes American Beauty 350 Without Frame but does not include American Beauty 350 With Frame, Broad Leaf 350, Carolina Brights, Cycle 350, Sovereign 460 or Sweet Caporal 460 Factory 30.

There are six 350/460 “Super Prints” in all. They are: Chance (Yellow Background), Chase (Blue Background), Chase (Dark Cap), Cobb (Red Portrait), Evers (Yellow Background) and Mathewson (Dark Cap). A tie that binds is the legendary status of these players:  four Hall of Famers and a fifth who would have been enshrined save for his off-the-field antics. An obvious rationale why these subjects were singled out for an extended print run presents itself: ATC probably wanted to capitalize on the mass appeal of these players. After all, increasing a consumer’s chances of pulling Cobb or Matty out of a pack – instead of a Clymer or Moeller – was probably very good for business. Most likely, these six “Super Prints” were first released with the 350-Only Series and fully printed with that series, after which ATC made a decision to continue them (but not the 350-Only Series subjects) for an additional print run with the 460 Series. This would explain why these six subjects are, like the 350-Only subjects and unlike the 350/460 RP subjects, available with the American Beauty 350 With Frame back.
As would be expected of “Super Prints,” the six subjects in this series are among the most plentiful subjects in T206. Most veteran T206 collectors realize the relative ease with which each and every one of these subjects can be found.

This author has not yet seen any of the six 350/460 SP subjects with Broad Leaf 350, Drum, American Beauty 460, Red Hindu, Black Lenox, Brown Lenox or Uzit. However, inability to confirm any 350/460 SP subjects with these backs likely reflects scarcity rather than impossibility. It is expected that at least some of the 350/460 SP subjects are possible with these backs and would be revealed given a sufficiently large T206 sample.

Aside from these as-yet-unseen backs, 350/460 SP subjects are most difficult with Carolina Brights, followed by Cycle 460, Cycle 350 and Piedmont 460 Factory 42. These subjects are moderately difficult with El Principe de Gales, American Beauty 350 with Frame and Tolstoi, and less difficult with Old Mill and Polar Bear. They are plentiful with the Piedmont and Sweet Caporal backs with which they are possible, except for Piedmont 460 Factory 42. The toughest of the Sweet Caporal backs to find with a 350/460 “super print” subject is Series 46 0 Factory 42 without the overstrike.

350/460 Series “Regular Prints”: The 350/460 RP series consists of an estimated 55 fronts that are available with at most the American Beauty 350 without Frame, Drum, El Principe de Gales, Old Mill, Piedmont 350, Polar Bear, Sovereign 350, Sweet Caporal 350/25, Sweet Caporal 350/30, Tolstoi, American Beauty 460, Broad Leaf 460, Cycle 460, Black Lenox, Brown Lenox, Piedmont 460/25, Piedmont 460/42, Red Hindu, Sweet Caporal 460/25, Sweet Caporal 460/42, Sweet Caporal 460/42 Overstrike and Uzit backs. Notably, and contrary to conventional wisdom, these subjects are seemingly not possible with any of the American Beauty 350 with Frame, Broad Leaf 350, Carolina Brights, Cycle 350, Sovereign 460 or Sweet Caporal 460 Factory 30 back types.

There are nine subjects that have traditionally been assigned to the 350/460 Series that require reassignment to the 460-Only Series. These are: Abbaticchio (Blue Sleeves), Kleinow (Boston), Latham, Meyers, Overall (Hands at Waist), Schaefer (Washington), Smith (Chicago and Boston), Tannehill (Chicago No “L.” on Front) and Tinker (Bat On). Reassignment of these subjects to the 460-Only Series is justified since these subjects have been seen in the survey with at least one of the Cycle 460, Sovereign 460 or Sweet Caporal 460 Factory 30 backs, which are characteristic of 460-Only Series subjects, and have not been seen with any 350 Series back.

None of the subjects in the 350/460 RP Series are terribly difficult. One of the more challenging subjects in this series is Leifield (Batting), although it is not clear why.

01SD042806.jpgJoss (Pitching) is the most common of the 350/460 RP subjects, rivaling the six 350/460 “Super Printed” subjects in availability. It is possible, although far from certain, that ATC liberally printed this subject at the tail-end of T206 production in response to the well-publicized illness of the great Cleveland hurler that led to his premature death on April 14, 1911.

350/460 RP subjects are somewhat more likely to be found with a “350 Subjects” back than a “460 Subjects” back; however, they are not difficult with “460 Subjects” backs.

An interesting trend arises for two of the more difficult backs that appear in both the 350/460 RP Series and the 460-Only Series. Particularly, the Black Lenox back is seen far less often with 350/460 RP subjects than with 460-Only subjects. The opposite is true for the Piedmont 460 Factory 42 back; that rarest of Piedmont backs is considerably more difficult to find with 460-only subjects than 350/460 RP subjects.

Like Black Lenox (and unlike Piedmont 460 Factory 42), American Beauty 460 is decidedly tougher in the 350/460 RP Series than in the 460-only Series.

Among the backs confirmed with 350/460 RP subjects, Broad Leaf 460 and Brown Lenox are the rarest, followed by Red Hindu and Black Lenox. After that come Drum and Uzit and American Beauty 460. These are followed by American Beauty 350 Without Frame and Piedmont 460 Factory 42. Compared with these, 350/460 RP subjects are less difficult to find with Tolstoi, Old Mill, Sovereign 350 and are much easier to encounter with Polar Bear. They are not at all difficult with the Piedmont and Sweet Caporal backs with which they are possible except Piedmont 460 Factory 42. The toughest of the Sweet Caporal backs to find with a 350/460 RP subject is Series 460 Factory 42 without the overstrike.

460-Only Series: The 460-Only Series consists of an estimated 48 subjects that appear at most with the El Principe de Gales, Old Mill, Polar Bear, Tolstoi, American Beauty 460, Broadleaf 460, Cycle 460, Black Lenox, Brown Lenox, Piedmont 460/25, Piedmont 460/42, Red Hindu, Sovereign 460, Sweet Caporal 460/25, Sweet Caporal 460/30, Sweet Caporal 460/42, Sweet Caporal 460/42 Overstrike and Uzit back types.

Among the more difficult subjects in this series are Smith (Chicago and Boston), Kleinow (Boston), Latham, Needham and Ball (Cleveland).
None of the 460-Only Series subjects have been confirmed by this author with the Broad Leaf 460 or Uzit back. The inability to confirm a 460-Only Series subject with these rare backs is quite likely a result of an inadequate sample.

The difficult Black Lenox and Piedmont 460 Factory 42 backs reverse roles in the 460-Only Series. 460-Only Series subjects are easier to find with the Black Lenox back but tougher to find with the Piedmont 460 Factory 42 back as compared with the 350/460 RP Series. 460-Only subjects are also considerably easier to find with the American Beauty 460 back than 350/460 RP subjects are to find with this back.

Aside from the unconfirmed backs (namely, Broad Leaf 460 and Uzit), 460-Only Series subjects are toughest with Brown Lenox followed closely by Piedmont 460 Factory 42. After that come Red Hindu and El Principe de Gales. At the next tier of difficult are Cycle 460 and Black Lenox, followed by American Beauty 460 and Old Mill. 460-Only subjects are less difficult with Tolstoi, Polar Bear and Sovereign 460. The toughest of the Sweet Caporal backs to find with a 460-Only Series front is Series 460 Factory 25.

South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League Series: The 42 South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League Series subjects generally appear with the Black Old Mill Southern, Brown Hindu and Piedmont 350 backs and no others. These subjects form one of the two Southern Leaguer series in the T206 set. The other series comprises the six Texas Leaguers.

In a departure from the general rule outlined above, Hart (Little Rock), Hart (Montgomery), King, Lentz, Orth and Westlake may not be possible with the Brown Hindu back. Moreover, Foster, Hart (Little Rock), Greminger and Lipe have been confirmed with at least one of the ultra-rare Old Mill Southern Overstrike back types, while Paige, Revelle and Thornton have been seen with the very tough Brown Old Mill Southern back type. A larger survey might reveal other subjects with one or more of these extremely rare backs.

The reason for partitioning T206’s 48 Southern Leaguers into two series is two-fold. First, at least most of the 42 South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League subjects are available with the Brown Hindu back, whereas none of the six Texas League subjects are available with that back. And second, the Texas League subjects are more common than the South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League subjects with the Piedmont 350 back.

Indeed, the two above-stated reasons for Southern Leaguer bifurcation appear related and the result of an earlier commencement and termination of the South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League subjects’ print run.

It is known that the Brown Hindu back was issued very early in the T206 campaign whereas the Piedmont 350 back was issued later. Production of at least most of the South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League subjects appears to have started when the Brown Hindu back was being issued and ended shortly after the Piedmont 350 back was introduced. This accounts for the appearance of at least most of these subjects with the Brown Hindu back and their relative scarcity with the Piedmont 350 back. Meanwhile, production of the six Texas League subjects seems to have started after the Brown Hindu back was taken off-line and continued longer after the Piedmont 350 back was brought on-line. This accounts for the non-availability of the six Texas League subjects with the Brown Hindu back and their relative abundance with the Piedmont 350 back. Since Piedmont 350 production quantities dwarfed Brown Hindu production quantities, the Texas League subjects are generally more common than the South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League subjects despite their general appearance with one fewer back type.

Forty-one of the 42 subjects in the South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League seri es are very difficult. Westlake of the Danville club is notably easier than the rest. It is not known why.

Aside from the exceedingly difficult Brown Old Mill Southern and nearly impossible Old Mill Southern Factory 649 Overstrike back types, Brown Hindu is by far the toughest back to find with the subjects in this series. The Piedmont 350 and Old Mill Southern Black backs are much less difficult, with latter being just slightly more common.

Texas League Series: The six Texas League series subjects are believed to appear at most with the Black Old Mill Southern and Piedmont 350 backs. The author has not been able to confirm any of these subjects with the Brown Old Mill Southern or any of the Old Mill Southern Overstrike backs, although the reason for this may be an insufficient survey sample.

The six subjects in this series are generally less difficult than the 42 subjects in the South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia League series, but are still quite tough. Smith (Shreveport) and Stark seem to be the most difficult Texas leaguers.

It is about twice as easy to find a Texas League subject with the Piedmont 350 back than the Black Old Mill Southern back. This distribution attests to a longer Texas League series print with the Piedmont 350 back relative to the South Atlantic, Southern and Virginia league series, possibly reflective of a later production run for the Texas Leaguers. 

The T206 Archives Series resumes in the Sept. 1 issue of Sports Collectors Digest, with the next installment highlighting the famous cards and rarities that have contributed so much to the mystique of the issue.

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