Can’t Afford The Monster? Here Are 11 Ways To Collect T206 Cards

There's no right or wrong way to collect the infamous T206 set, but here we provide some ideas for anyone looking to get into the game.

Updated Sep 30, 2023

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Most vintage collectors, at one time or another, have had their eye on the T206 White Borders set.

For set builders, the complete 524 card set is nearly impossible, unless your pockets are lined with gold

The reason?

The elusive holy grail card of Honus Wagner will cost at a minimum in the many millions.

Not to mention a very cost-prohibitive and rare Eddie Plank card.

And two very, very hard-to-find (and expensive) error cards of Sherry "Magie" and Joe Doyle (N.Y. Nat'l variation).  

Thus, some collectors land at a target of 520 for the T206 set, skipping the impossible four of Wagner, Plank, Magie, and Doyle.


Yet in today's hot vintage card market, any new collector to the T206 520 club is finding this to be a significant challenge.

The cards are available (absent a few more challenging finds) so it's not an issue of scarcity.

Its run-away prices on some of the big HOF cards of Cobb, Mathewson, Wajo, and others that make piecing together a 520 T206 set a costly endeavor


Most collectors of a 520 T206 are opting out of ownership of a Honus Wagner card.

By some estimates, a T206 520 set in poor condition could run a collector over $50K. 

For those without deep pockets, there are different ways to collect subsets that still make for an exciting challenge.

Here are eleven ways to collect the T206 White Borders set. 

Collect T206 Cards By Team

If you have a favorite team, you could attempt building a T206 team set. While many of the teams found in the set are no longer around, many still are.

For example, fans of the Detroit Tigers could go after a Detroit T206 team set, however, this is going to be one of the pricier teams to build. The Tigers cards contain four different Ty Cobb cards - the priciest HOF cards in the set (absent Plank and Wagner). 


Some like collecting cards of their local town, even if it so happens to be of a defunct early 1900's minor league team.  

One example? The Jersey City Skeeters, a minor league team at the time is represented by three cards in the set. A very attainable goal for anyone from the Jersey City area. 


George Merritt T206 card, of the Jersey City Skeeters

In total, all 16 major league teams at the time were represented, along with 14 minor league teams in the American Association and Eastern League.  In addition, there are cards from 26 minor league teams from four different Southern leagues.

Collect The T206 Hall Of Famers

The most popular T206 subset for non-520 set builders is the T206 Hall Of Fame subset. In total, there are 76 cards of hall of fame baseball players in the T206 set.

These are the most expensive in the set, however, having a smaller number of cards to focus on makes this an easier task at least from a time perspective. 


One of the T206 HOF cards, a portrait card of Nap Lajoie

Not exactly from a cost perspective. The one stumbling block - both Wagner and Plank are Hall Of Famers, so in reality, the more attainable HOF subset is 74 cards. 

Read more about collecting a T206 HOF set here

Collect The T206 Southern League Cards

There are 48 cards of Souther League baseball players in the T206 set. 

While collecting only 48 cards might seem like an easy challenge, the problem arises in that many of the Southern League cards are tough to find. And ultimately more expensive than any commons in the set, especially if they have a rarer back. 

Scot Reader's excellent T206Insider site notes that many of the Southern Leaguers are indeed scarce. The scarcest according to Reader is the card of Ed Reagan, which is more than 5x scarcer than any card with regular distribution. 


The rarest Southern League T206 card of Ed Reagan

Still, the rarer Southern League cards don't come close to the price points of any of the big cards in the set. Thus, a 48 card Southern League subset is attainable for any determined collector. 

Collect The T206 Minor League Cards

In addition to the 48 Southern League cards there are an additional 86 minor league cards in the T206 set. 

T206 Resource provides a handy checklist for anyone tackling either of these subsets.

Collect T206 With One Of Each Back Advertisement

Some collectors like to collect a specific player with a variety of advertising backs. The cost of this endeavor will certainly depend on the player in question and the number of backs found for each card. 

Excluding some significant scarcities (Ty Cobb back) and other minor variations, there are an accepted 15 advertising backs. Reader's great T206 piece goes into the different backs available for each player if you are so inclined.

Some collectors with a lighter budget attempt to put together a full run of the different ad backs with no regard for the player in question - an easier task.


Drum advertising backs are among the rarest backs in the T206 set.

Note that some backs are much tougher to find, including Drum, Broad Leaf (factory 460) and Lenox (brown print). 

Collect The Horizontal Cards In The T206 Set

Of the 524 cards in the T206 set, only six were printed with a horizontal landscape.

None of the six cards are big time players and all are somewhat affordable.


The full list is:

Harry Pattee
Jack Powell
Danny Murphy (shown above)
Barney Pelty
Joe Birmingham
George Mullin

The horizontal cards do tend to sell for a slight premium over other common vertically oriented cards in the set. 

Collect The T206 Portrait Cards

Collectors love the look of the T206 portrait cards with the bold colorful backgrounds. Indeed, the portrait cards of players with many cards in the set also sell for a premium versus their non-portrait issues.


A Cy Young T206 Portrait card

The love of T206 portrait cards has led to a movement by some to assemble portrait only T206 subsets.  

An all-portrait T206 subset is 182 cards, including Wagner, Magie, and Plank. Thus, the more manageable portrait number is more like 179.

Without the big three, this feat is possible, although there are 29 HOFers to tackle along with some tougher Southern Leaguers. 

Collect The T206 Action Cards

If portrait cards aren't your thing, you could just go for the non-portrait, 'action' cards in the T206 set. Notably, many of the so-called 'action' cards are just players standing around in a non-portrait pose, but you get the idea. 


A Snodgrass T206 card which is a non-portrait, in-action card.

This would equate to 342 cards and thankfully avoids the biggies such as Wagner, Plank, Magie and all the expensive HOF portrait cards. 

Unfortunately, there are two non-portrait Cobbs to contend with, along with a host of tough SLers and other non-portrait HOF cards. 

Collect T206 Cards With Back Stamps

Some vintage collectors go crazy for T206 cards with a 'back stamp'.  A back stamp is a stamp that was placed on the card back by the owner. The stamp usually contains the person's name, initials or even location. 


The allure comes down to the fact that the stamp provides some connection with the card and a collector from the early 1900's. This website provides a collection of some of the more widely discovered stamps

Technically a stamp on the back of the card lessens the overall grade of the card. In PSA terms, the stamp would equate to an 'MK' qualifier.  Some collectors that collect stamps are more than happy to accept a lower grade if it means finding a stamped card for an affordable price.

Collect T206 Cards With Sunsets In Background

One of the biggest appeals of the T206 set is the beautiful lithography and colorful nature of the artistry. This includes many cards that feature beautiful backgrounds.


T206 Del Howard, one of the best sunset cards in the set

The artist was quite fond of using sunsets to complement the player pose. Some collectors have taken to build sunset based T206 subsets. One user over at the Net54 forum provides a 50 card list of sunset background cards.

Bresnahan batting
Burch batting
Bily Campbell
Cobb bat on
Evers Chicago shirt
Hart (Montgomery)
Hinchman (Cleve)
Del Howard
Jennings-one hand
Jones-Chicago hands hips
Joss pitching
Killian pitching
Lajoie bat
Overall-hands at face
Schaefer (detroit)
Schulte front
Frank Smith-Chicago
Frank Smith (Chi & Boston)
Ira Thomas
Tinker knees
Foley White
Owen Wilson

Collect A T206 Rookie Card Set 

Some collectors also have built a subset of T206 first year cards. This list contains players that made their major league debut in 1909. Think of this as a 'Rated Rookies' set for the Monster.


This is a fairly affordable subset.  Only one HOFer (Wheat), a few SLers, and you can opt for the cheaper Demmit and O'Hara variations.

Fred Beck
Ray Demmit
Tom Downey
Ted Easterly
Roy Ellam
Clyde Engle
Russ Ford
Art Fletcher
Harry Gaspar
Dolly Gray
Bob Groom
George Hunter
Pryor McElveen
Chief Meyers
Dots Miller
Bill O'Hara
Rebel Oakes
Jack Quinn
Jim Scott
Dolly Stark
Zack Wheat
Lucky Wright

All Vintage Cards

About the author

Chris Rogers, is the founder of All Vintage Cards. Launched in 2018, All Vintage Cards is the hobby's leading resource for vintage sports cards. Chris is also the author of 'The Complete Guide To Selling Your Sports Cards'. Chris remains an avid collector and can be reached at chris@allvintagecards.com.

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