1912 T207 Brown Background Set: A Forgotten Tobacco Gem

June 7, 2022

t207
The T207 baseball card issue from the American Tobacco Company is a curious issue.  The set followed a successful and historic three year run (T205 and T206) of tobacco card sets issued from 1909 thru 1911. 

Known through the hobby as the 'Brown Background' set, the T207 issue took a step back in terms of the beautiful colors offered in the previous two issues. 

Instead, ATC produced a rather dark and somber 200 card set that left out some of baseball biggest stars of the time.

Cards are prone to cracking due to a glossed card front and backs offer different advertising variations, some (Red Cross) are nearly impossible to find. 

Still, collectors of prewar tobacco cards view the 1912 T207 cards as an exciting challenge due to some of the tougher to find cards and back variations.

More...

Our 1912 T207 Baseball Card Picks

Here are some of our top picks in the set. The Best Overall Investment is awarded to 'Big Train' Walter Johnson, as one of the bigger stars in the set.

 Note the runner up for best investment would be Tris Speaker.  

Eddie Cicotte, our choice for Best Value in the T207 set, was a fantastic pitcher, yet failed to make the HOF due to his Black Sox involvement.

Smoky Joe Wood, our choice for Most Underrated Card, posted a 34 win season in the year of this set's release, however, he never lived up to his potential due to arm problems.

The Jack Barry card, is in my opinion, the Best Overall Design in the T207 set

t207-walter-johnson

Best Investment

Walter Johnson

cicotte-t207

Best
Value

Eddie
Cicotte

wood-t207

Most Underrated

Smoky Joe Wood

jack-barry-t207

Best
Design

Jack
Barry 

The American Tobacco Company

We provided a brief background of The American Tobacco Company in our article on the T206 White Borders set. In addition, there is more commentary in our piece discussing The History Of Baseball Cards.

Of course, the highlight tobacco issue for the American Tobacco Company is the legendary White Borders T206 set.

Most aren't quite familiar with the background of 'ATC' at the time and the stranglehold they had on the tobacco market.

In 1890 a merger of several large tobacco companies of the time led to the formation of what was known as the 'Tobacco Trust'.  

This included a few cigarette brands that produced some of the most historic cards in the hobby, including Goodwin & Co and Allen & Ginter

n28-allen-ginter-album

In 1911, the American Tobacco Company was forced to dissolve based on allegations of monopolistic practices.  Thus, some speculate that ATC could have been a bit distracted due to the dissolution of the company with its 1912 T207 release. 

Regardless, the span of tobacco sets issued from 1909 thru 1912 is considered a golden era by collectors.  Certainly. the American Tobacco Company issue known as the 1909-1911 White Border (T206) set is the most popular. 

t206-white-cap-matty

Other popular issues released by ATC include the T3 Turkey Reds, T205 Gold Borders, the underrated T201 Mecca Double Folders and T202 Hassan Triple Folders set.  

cobb-jennings-t202

A T202 Ty Cobb and Hughie Jennings card.

And of course the 1912 Brown Background T207 Tobacco set which we profile below.

A Closer Look At The T207 Set

The T207 'Brown Background' set was a follow-up to the successful T205 (Gold Border) and T206 (White Border) sets. It would mark the last official set issued by the American Tobacco company.  It to this day has never garnered the same sort of demand as the previous issues. 

The cards were distributed inside the packs of two cigarette makers (Broadleaf, Cycle), two cigar products (Recruit, Napoleon) and one tobacco product (Red Cross).

recruit-little-cigars-pack

A Recruit Litle Cigars pack

Appearance-wise, the T207 cards lack the same sort of design appeal as the T205 and T206 sets. Gone are the striking colored lithographs, in favor of a monotone color set with many hues of brown and black (and some hints of red and blue).  

konetchy-t207

A T207 Ed Konetchy card

I'll admit, some of the cards are downright ugly.  This Ed Konetchy card from the set is one example - it looks like the artists gave Ed a streak of black lipstick. Although some might argue that there are a few strip card sets that look a heck of a lot worse.

And then there are cards like this Jack Barry card which are much more attractive. 

jack-barry-t207

A T207 Jack Barry card

There are 200 cards in the T207 set, well short of the 520 cards issued in the T206, but more on par with the 208 cards issued in the T205 Gold Border set.  

Depite all the pitfalls which exist in this set for the card collecting hobbyist and despite the frustrating levels of scarcity and huge percentage of 'scarce' cards in the set (coupled with low percentage of hall of famers), this, is in my mind, the most intriguing and addictive vintage card set ever released. 

- Bob MARQUETTE, "The T-207 Set What WHERE THEY THINKINg?" - VCBC Feb, 2004

T207 card backs include a short biography for the player such as with this Tris (or Tristam) Speaker card. 

speaker-t207-back

There's a decent amount of star power in the T207 set, yet some glaring omissions. The most notable exclusions include the likes of Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Cy Young, and Christy Mathewson or even 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson.  

It is uncertain why this happened, yet many missing stars are found in the T3, T201 or T202 sets, issued at around the same time as the 'Brown Background' cards

t202-mathewson

A 1912 T202 HassanTriple Folder card issued by the American Tobacco Company

Despite the lack of big-time players of the day, the set does include a few other interesting subjects. Some include Eddie Cicotte, banned from baseball for his participation in the 'Black Sox' scandal) and Rafael Almeda, a Cuban baseball star

All in all, there are thirteen Hall Of Famers in the set. 

T207 Advertising Back Variations

There are eight different advertising back variations in the T207 (source Old Cardboard) as shown below.  The backs are shown in order of overall scarcity (starting higher population first).  

The Red Cross backs are so scarce, that less than twenty are known to exist.  A Red Cross Lewis Lowdermilk sold for over $13K at an REA auction back in 2014

This is a great resource that discusses the Red Cross backs in more detail.

T207 Recruit Factory 240

recruit-606

T207 Recruit Factory 606

t207-broadleaf

T207 Broadleaf

t207-anon-3

T207 Anonymous Factory 3

t207-cycle

T207 Cycle

t207-napoleon

T207 Napoleon

t207-anonymous

T207 Anonymous Factory 25

red-cross-t207

T207 Red Cross

Outside of the Red Cross backs, the Anonymous, Napoleon, Cycle and Broadleaf backs sell for a premium. The Recruit backs are the easiest to find, with the Factory 606 (Maryland) Recruit's a bit of a tougher find than the Factory 240's (Pennsylvania).

It should be noted that 50 cards in the set were only issued with Broadleaf, Cycle, or Anonymous Factory 25 backs and some Red Cross backs.  The other 150 cards in the set were issued with Recruit or Napoleon backs.  See OldCardboard for more info on back groupings.

Source: The T207 Set What Where They Thinking and No Population Explosion by Tim Newcomb VCBC).

Relative Scarcity Of The T207 Set

Based on population data from PSA, to date, roughly 9800 cards have been graded in the T207 set, equating to an average of 49 graded cards per player.  

The T205 set has an average of 205 cards graded for each player in the set.

The T206 set has the highest average between the three sets, with an average of 495 cards per player.

Set Name

Avg PSA Graded Cards Per Player

T205 Gold Border

205

T206 White Border

495

T207 Brown Background

49

Thus, based on PSA data, we can comfortably state that T207 cards are much scarcer than their T205 and T206 counterparts.  

T207 cards have about 1/10 the existing graded population in comparison to the ever popular T206 White Borders set.

Rarest Cards In The T207 Set?

Over the years, collectors have speculated on the T207 cards which felt like impossible finds, and many are indeed scarcer than others.  

Read old forums and the likes of Louis Lowermilk, Charles Bauman and Red Donlin are some of the most oft noted tougher finds. 

However, today, thankfully we have the PSA and SGC population reports to help detail overall scarcity.

The Irving Lewis variation with 'No Emblem On Sleeve' is the scarcest card in the set with only 13 total graded copies.

lewis-no-emblem

T207 Irving Lewis no Emblem on sleeve variation, the lowest graded card in the set.

The Paddy Livingston variation (small C on the shirt) is the second rarest with only 18 copies graded. 

Tied for third are Red Kuhn and Clyde Engle with only 24 graded copies each. 

Please find the full detailed list of overall population below. 

Source: SGC Pop Report and PSA Pop Report

PlayerPSA Graded TotalSGC Graded TotalTotal Graded Pop
Irving Lewis
(No Emblem on Sleeve)
11213
Paddy Livingston
(Small "C" On Shirt)
18018
Red Kuhn17724
Clyde Engle23124
Geo. Mogridge18725
Ray Fisher
(White Cap)
25025
John Adams161026
Ted Easterly24226
George Tyler171027
Ben Houser18927
William Sullivan25227
George Stovall26127
Paddy Livingston
("A" On Shirt)
27027
Charles Bauman151328
Mike Donlin181028
Don Carlos Ragan25429
Wilbur Schardt27229
Elmer Knetzer28129
Fred Blanding21930
John Kling27330
William Steele28230
C.D. Thomas29130
Jim Scott29130
J.F. Bushelman191231
Irving Lewis
(Emblem on Sleeve)
22931
Eugene Woodburn26531
William Carrigan29231
George Mullin
("D" On Cap)
30131
Napoleon Rucker30131
Doc White211132
Jacques Fournier221032
Rollie Zeider28432
Robert Higgins31132
Ray Morgan32032
Joe Birmingham211233
F.H. (Bill) Lange231033
J.B. Ryan231033
Mike Mitchell
(Cincinnati)
31233
James Austin
(No Insignia on Shirt)
33033
Ward Miller221234
William Cunningham29534
George Graham30434
Ivey Wingo33134
Frank E. Smith34034
William Sweeney231235
Morris Rath241135
O.C. Peters251035
John Henry31435
Herbert Perdue33235
George Ellis34135
Henry Butcher201636
Edward Donnelly231336
Jimmy Block30636
Paddy Livingston
(Large "C" On Shirt)
36036
Barney Pelty221537
Ralph Works251237
Alexander McCarthy271037
Harry Lee Spratt37037
Ray Fisher
(Blue Cap)
37037
William McKechnie37037
Lefty George35338
James Austin
(Insignia on Shirt)
38038
Thomas W. Leach38038
Hamilton Hyatt261339
Owen Wilson271239
Heinie Wagner36339
Robert Wallace36339
Grover Hartley241640
Roy Miller261440
Chester Hoff281240
Casey Hageman37340
George Mullin
(No "D" On Cap)
40040
Herbert Northen40040
Arthur Rasmussen281341
Arthur Phelan301141
Russell Blackburne311041
Albert Leifield37441
Arthur Fromme38341
Bert Tooley39241
Matthew McIntyre39241
Frank Schulte41041
Victor Saier271542
Joseph Kutina281442
Earl Moore35742
Ping Bodie40242
Edward Ainsmith42042
William Kelly301343
John Collins40343
Edward McDonald42143
Jack Lapp42143
Oscar Stanage42143
Armando Marsans43043
R.E. Erwin43043
Vean Gregg291544
Red Nelson321244
George Moriarty35944
Harry Hooper38644
E.S. Hallinan42244
Edgar Lennox42244
Earl Hamilton43144
Stanley Yerkes44044
Jay Kirke311445
Joe Wood41445
Charlie Hall44145
Joseph Benz321446
Louis Lowdermilk361046
Edward Cicotte42446
Harry Lord45146
Leonard Cole46046
Tom Downey272047
Otto Miller311647
Leslie Nunamaker44347
John Daubert48048
Fred Snodgrass47249
Jack Quinn48149
Thomas Needham48149
Eros Barger49049
Rebel Oakes49049
Robert Bescher49049
Rafael Almeida351550
Del Drake49150
John B. Miller
(Pittsburg)
50050
John Warhop50050
Leeford Tannehill50050
William Hogan45651
Duffy Lewis50151
George Kaler51051
J.G. Graney51051
Neal Ball51051
Cy Morgan51152
Wallace Smith51152
Dave Danforth52052
Rube Oldring52153
Edward Stack53053
Harry Davis53053
Henry Severoid
(Severeid)
53053
Louis Evans53053
Harry Gowdy49554
George Paskart
(Paskert)
52254
Mike Mitchell
(Cleveland, Picture Is Willie Mitchell)
52254
Terence Turner
(Terrence)
54054
Charles Herzog352055
Amos Strunk54155
Briscoe Lord54155
Buck O'Brien55055
Arthur Wilson55156
Bert Daniels55257
Howard Camnitz55257
John James Callahan57057
Tris Speaker56258
Harry Steinfeldt58058
Hugh Bradley58058
Tom Clarke58058
George Weaver401959
Jim Vaughn57259
Harry Krause58159
Ivan Olson59059
William Scanlon59160
Robert Coulson60060
Roy Golden61061
Jack Barry61162
Claude Derrick62264
Patrick J. Moran65065
Bob Williams64266
Clyde Milan66066
John Ferry64468
Edward Konetchy70070
Olaf Henriksen70070
Frank Chance71071
Robert M. Byrne71071
George Chalmers72072
Max Carey72173
Germany Schaefer73073
Del Gainor75075
Mike Simon75075
Joe Tinker76076
Chief Bender78078
William L. Gardner78078
Zach Wheat78078
Gabby Street75479
Edward Reulbach79079
Larry McLean79079
Beals Becker77380
Jack Lively78381
Martin J. O'Toole79281
Ed (Dixie) Walker81081
Lawrence Doyle81081
Arthur Devlin82082
George McBride82082
Robert Harmon82082
Jim Delehanty
(Delahanty)
82183
Harry McIntire83083
W. Arlington Latham83083
Joshua Devore85085
Ernest Wilie86086
Otto Knabe85287
Charles Dooin86288
Arthur Fletcher86389
Otis Crandall86389
Harry Wolverton90090
Tex Covington90494
George Wiltse95095
Roger Bresnaham
(Bresnahan)
1162118
John J. McGraw1232125
Richard Marquard1330133
Walter Johnson1720172


T207 Set Variations

While there are 200 players in the T207 set, a number of variations exist.

Irving Lewis - Emblem On Sleeve and No Emblem On Sleeve

lewis-no-emblem

T207 Irving Lewis no Emblem on sleeve variation, the lowest graded card in the set.

lewis-emblem

T207 Irving Lewis w emblem on sleeve

Paddy Livingston - Large "C" on Shirt, Small "C" on Shirt and "A" on Shirt

livingston-big-c

T207 Paddy Livingston Big C on shirt

livingston-small-c

T207 Paddy Livingston Small C on shirt, the toughet to find of all three cards

livingston-a

T207 Paddy Livingston A on shirt

George Mullin - "D" on Cap and no "D" on Cap

mullin-d-on-cap

T207 George Mullin variation with D on cap, the tougher of the two to find

mullin-no-d

T207 George Mullin variation with no D on his cap

James Austin - Insignia and No Insignia on Shirt

austin-insignia

T207 James Austin w insignia on his jersey

austin-no-insignia

T207 James Austin variation, no insignia on shirt, slightly more challenging to find than the version with the insignia

Ray Fisher - Blue Cap and White Cap

fisher-blue-cap

T207 Ray Fisher with Blue Cap

fisher-white-cap

T207 Ray Fisher with White Cap, the scarcer of the two variations

Most Valuable Cards In The T207 Set

Assessing the most valuable cards in the T207 set is a bit of a challenge. There are so many no-name players that have super hard to find cards.  

The most recognized player in the set, Walter Johnson is the easiest (although still fairly scarce) to find, yet it's quite possible that a very nice condition Irving Lewis (no emblem variation) could eclipse a T207 Wajo at auction.

So, I resorted to PSA's SMR price guide (using PSA 5 values) to provide some intel on the most valuable cards in the set. Not a perfect measure by any means, but it should provide collectors with a good overview of some of the prized cards in the set. 

1912 T207 Irving Lewis (no emblem on sleeve)

lewis-no-emblem

T207 Irving Lewis no Emblem on sleeve variation, the lowest graded card in the set.

Based on PSA's guide, the Lewis (no emblem) card is the most valuable card in the set. And as noted previously, it is also the rarest card in the T207 set. Surprisingly enough, PSA also has the Lewis variation card (with emblem on sleeve) as the second most valuable card in the set.  Even though as shown in the scarcity report above, there are many other cards in the set with a lower graded population.

1912 T207 Lewis Lowdermilk

lowdermilk-t207

The T207 Lewis Lowdermilk card has built a reputation over the years in collecting circles. The mystique of the card derives from the relative challenge in trying to locate the card.

Lowdermilk had barely a blink of an eye in the major leagues, yet collectors continue to bid up his T207 card. The amazing fact, however, is that based on graded population reports alone, the Lowdermilk is in the middle of the pack for scarcity.

Over half of the cards in the set have a lower graded population than Lowdermilk.

So, is the value of the card justified? It's hard to say. Like anything that gains in popularity, collectors will rush to get a card graded that has more value. This could be the case with the Lowdermilk card. Hardcore T207 collectors will still tell you of the challenges in locating one, but I don't think the value is worth it

1912 T207 Tris Speaker

t207-speaker

The T207 Tris Speaker is one of the 'easier' to locate cards in the T207 set, yet with only 58 total graded copies, this is still a tough card to find, especially in good condition.

Compare this to over 850 PSA Tris Speaker graded copies from the T206 set and you get a better idea of the relative scarcity.  For a vintage card investor, the T207 speaker should be near the top of your list for long term potential.

1912 T207 Buck Weaver (Black Sox)

buck-weaver-t207

Buck Weaver was a member of the infamous Black Sox team and was banned from baseball due to his involvement in the 1919 World Series fix. 

Weaver was known as a steady hitter at the plate, yet seemed to improve as time went on, batting .331 in his final season in major league baseball in 1920

The Weaver rookie card is certainly tough to find (only 59 total graded copies), yet is mostly in the middle of the pack in terms of overall set scarcity.

1912 T207 Smoky Joe Wood

wood-t207

The Red Sox fireballer, unfortunately, had his career cut short due to arm troubles, but when he was on his game, no one threw harder than Smoky Joe. He's not in the Hall, but Smoky Joe Wood's cards remain highly sought after by vintage collectors.  

1912 T207 Mike Donlin

donlin-t207

Many collectors are unfamiliar with "Turkey Mike" Donlin, but during his playing days, he was recognized as one of the better hitters in the league. Donlin played for seven teams over twelve seasons, batting .333 over his career. Donlin left baseball in 1915 to pursue an acting career and appeared in over 50 films.

His T207 card is one of the tougher cards to find in the set, with only 28 graded copies between PSA and SGC. Ask any collector of this set, and they'll tell you how tough the Donlin is. 

1912 T207 Ward Miller

wardmillert207

Miller has long been considered (mostly before POP reports) as one of the rarest cards in the set, yet population reports show that there are quite a few others in front of him in terms of scarcity. His card is hard to find (34 graded copies thus far), yet only ranks 40th in terms of overall card scarcity. 

1912 T207 Walter Johnson

t207-walter-johnson

Walter Johnson along with Tris Speaker are the two big HOF names in the set. Wajo's card is the easiest to find in terms of graded population; over 170 cards have been graded to date.   

Investment Potential Of The T207 Set

Overall Investment Rating: 9 out of 10

It's not glamorous by any means and there are a lot of big-time HOF player omissions, but the T207 set is one that should be a focus for vintage card investors

The relative scarcity versus the other big ATC sets makes the Brown Background cards a great investment

Paying a few thousand dollars for some of the rarer commons is questionable. But the stars such as Walter Johnson and Tris Speaker should be a great long-term investment. 

Also, some of the Black Sox cards (Weaver and Cicotte for example) and the legendary Smoky Joe Wood should remain popular. Not to add some of the Cuban HOF players which help make for a diverse and fascinating set.

Set builders should be aware that piecing together the full set (plus variations) could take years to complete. Also, the cards won't come cheap, especially some of the scarcer cards.

T207 Cards on eBay

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