The most popular pre-war tobacco card set is the 1909-1911 T206 'White Borders' set.
Known as 'The Monster' for its large size (a complete set is 524 cards), collectors remain drawn to the beauty and mystique of the set.
The popularity has never wavered, even in times of stress in the sports card market, as we are experiencing at the moment.
The low existing supplies and the high demand from collectors have kept prices on a steady upswing over the years.
Those with existing investments in T206 cards are more than happy to see prices rise.
Yet, for those looking to enter the T206 game, the high costs of many of the key HOF cards can leave many budget-minded collectors out of the loop.
Today, we estimate the cost to build a near complete 520 card T206 White Borders set to be $65K.
Note that these estimates are for a T206 set consisting of 520 cards. This leaves out the big four (Wagner, Plank, 'Magie', and Doyle NY), which are scarce and cost prohibitive.
We've broken down cost estimates into a few logical buckets which helps organize overall budget considerations.
We are also estimating pricing based on ungraded cards, with common backs, in poor to good condition.
You might get lucky with some purchases but you can use the following estimates as a base guideline on estimated costs of an ungraded set.
Top Tier T206 HOFers (16) $35K
T206 Ty Cobb Cards (4) - Estimated Costs $19K
There are four Cobb cards in the set, two portrait cards (Red and Green backgrounds) and two non portrait cards (Bat Off Shoulder and Bat On Shoulder).
The T206 Cobbs will account for a significant part of your T206 set budget, thus some collectors like to get this one out of the way first.
The 'Green Portrait' Cobb has about half of the existing PSA population versus the Red Portrait Cobb and sells at a significant premium to the other Cobbs in the set.
Estimated Costs Of T206 Cobb Cards:
Cobb Red Portrait $4000
Cobb Green Portrait $7000
Cobb "Bat Off Shoulder" $4000
Cobb "Bat On Shoulder" $4000
T206 Cy Young (3) - Estimated Costs $5.2K
Cy Young has three cards in the set and as expected his T206 portait card dwarfs the value of his other two (bare hands and glove shows) cards.
And understandably so, it's a beautiful card with a striking green background.
Estimated Costs Of T206 Young Cards:
Young Portrait $3000
Young Glove Shows $1600
Young Bare Hands $1600
T206 Christy Mathewson Cards (3) - Estimated Costs $4K
Christy Mathewson's three cards are also among the most valuable cards in the T206 set, although well below the value of the four Cobb cards. Matty's portrait card is the most valuable of the three, although his White Cap variation has the lowest graded population.
Estimated Costs Of T206 Mathewson Cards
Mathewson Portrait $2000
Mathewson White Cap $1100
Mathewson Black Cap $900
T206 Walter Johnson Cards (2) Estimated Costs $3.5K
HOF pitcher Walter Johnson has two cards in the T206 set, a portrait card and a 'Hands On Chest' card. Like the others, the portrait card is more valuable.
Estimated Costs Of T206 Wajo Cards
Wajo Portrait $2000
Wajo Hands on Chest $1500
T206 Nap Lajoie Cards (3) Estimated Costs $2.6K
Lajoie has a portrait card and two other cards (batting and throwing).
Estimated Costs Of T206 Lajoie Cards
Lajoie Portrait $1000
Lajoie Batting $800
Lajoie Throwing $800
T206 Tris Speaker Estimated Cost $800
Surprisingly, Tris Speaker has only one card in the set. Copies are available typically at under $1000.
Demmitt (St Louis) /O'Hara (2) $4K
There are two cards in the T206 520 set of common players that will set you back quite a few bucks.
First is the Ray Demmitt variation, with St Louis on the front of his uniform. The second is a Bill O'Hara St Louis variation.
Both players were traded from New York to St Louis late in the production of the White Borders set which was issued from 1909 through 1911.
Both players also have another New York variation in the set which is much more common compared to their St Louis variation.
The killer is that due to an increase in the number of 520 set builders, both cards are averaging over $2000 each in lower grades at auction.
Some collectors opt out of acquiring each of these cards (going for a 518 set) due to the lack of appeal and the exorbitant costs.
Lower To Middle Tier HOFers (58) $8K
It used to be that most non top-tier HOF cards could be snatched up for $100 or less. Unfortunately it's not quite the case any longer.
Some of the lesser known HOF cards can be found for around $100 in lower grades. However, prices for some of the more popular players have started to creep up with some selling now for over $200.
In addition, like all cards in the set, the Portrait cards for each player sell for a premium. Even the lesser known HOF portraits can sell for over $150
I've highlighted in black some of the higher priced HOF cards. These 25 could average over $200. The others can be found for around $125 to $150. I use the higher number as an estimate but just realize that with enough hunting lower prices are possible.
Home Run Baker
Jake Beckley (Portrait)
Chief Bender Pitching Trees in Back
Chief Bender Pitching No Trees
Chief Bender Portrait
Roger Bresnahan Portrait
Roger Bresnahan Bat
Mordecai Brown Chicago Shirt
Mordecai Brown Cubs Shirt
Mordecai Brown Portrait
Frank Chance Batting
Frank Chance Portrait Red
Frank Chance Portrait Yellow
Fred Clarke Pitt Bat
Fred Clarke Portrait
Sam Crawford Throwing
Sam Crawford Bat
Johnny Evers Portrait
Johnny Evers Bat Chicago Shirt
Johnny Evers Bat Cubs Shirt
Clark Griffith Batting
Clark Griffith Portrait
Miller Huggins Hand Mouth
Miller Huggins Portrait
Hughie Jennings One Hand
Hughie Jennings Both Hands
Hughie Jennings Portrait
Addie Joss Pitching
Addie Joss Portrait
Willie Keeler Portrait
Willie Keeler Batting
Rube Marquard Hands Thighs
Rube Marquard Pitching Follow Through
Rube Marquard Portrait
Iron Man McGinnity
John McGraw Finger In Air
John McGraw Glove At Hip
John McGraw Portrait No Cap
John McGraw Portrait Cap
Joe Tinker Bat Off
Joe Tinker Bat On
Joe Tinker Hands on Knees
Joe Tinker Portrait
Rube Waddell Portrait
Rube Waddell Throwing
Vic Willis Pitt
Vic Willis Throwing
Vic Willis Bat
T206 Southern Leaguers (48) $3.8K
Southern League cards have crept up in price in recent years. On average, however, low grade SL T206 cards can be found for $80 each with some minor exceptions. T206Insider has a good checklist with scarcity.
T206 Commons (396) $13.8K
Common prices most certainly will depend on condition and advertising back. If buying common back (Piedmont, Sweet Cap) low grade cards, most T206 commons can be found for around $35 a piece. That equates to an estimated T206 commons budget of ~$13,860.