There are some big-name baseball cards currently on the auction block, but perhaps none is more rare than the example that will be sold Aug. 18 in Seattle.
MBA Seattle Auction House will offer a T206 White Border Joe Doyle error card, of which there are only a handful known to exist. This example is graded PSA 2.
What makes the T206 white-border Joe Doyle card rare and valuable is not the player’s pitching record – he won only 21 games over five seasons – it’s the erroneous caption on the front of the card that makes it special. Below the image of Doyle, the I.D. states that he played for New York of the National League, but in actuality the right-hander pitched for New York of the American League.
“Once the error was discovered they pulled the (printing) plate, chipped off the ‘National’ part, put the plate back on and continued making what experts believe was 99.9 percent of the run,” said Grant Zahajko of MBA Seattle Auction House.
“The card wasn’t even known to the hobby until the 1990s after a collector named Larry Fritsch discovered it, and then he didn’t tell anybody about the discovery for a while. I think he got his hands on three or four of them before it became public that there was an error-card variation,” said Zahajko, an auctioneer who has been cataloging sports collectibles auctions at MBA Seattle for 15 years.
This is the first T206 Joe Doyle error card Zahajko has ever handled.
“An elderly gentleman from the Midwest, who heard me talking about T206 cards on a podcast, called and mentioned that he had a whole album of antique baseball cards he wanted me to evaluate,” said Zahajko.
The caller said that his paternal grandfather had assembled the scrapbook in November 1910. The present owner had inherited the scrapbook many years ago upon the death of his father.
Following the conversation, the man shipped the album to the Seattle auction house. There, Zahajko leafed through its pages and marveled over the rare sports cards that had been pasted onto its pages.
“There was a Ty Cobb, a Walter Johnson, a lot of big names,” said Zahajko, who had recently reviewed “population reports” from grading services that track the number of rare cards in existence.
“Then I saw the Doyle error card, right in front of me,” said Zahajko. “I couldn’t believe it.”
The Joe Doyle error card is perhaps the scarcest of any from the white-border T206 baseball card series, which was produced from 1909 through 1911 for the American Tobacco Trust, manufacturers of Piedmont Cigarettes. Zahajko has placed a “conservative” estimate of $100,000 to $200,000 on the card.
“For the most part, the rare Honus Wagner and rare Ty Cobbs are going to vary in condition between 2 and 3 if they’ve been handled or in albums,” said Zahajko, adding that the Doyle error card suffers only from a minor bit of paper loss on the back, having been pasted into the scrapbook.
Fortunately for the owner, the card was attached using a water-soluble paste, which dissolved without causing any further damage, said Zahajko.
The top recorded price for such an error card, officially known as the “T206 Piedmont Joe Doyle N.Y. Nat’l Hands Up,” is $414,750. That particular card, which sold at a New Jersey auction house in 2012, was graded PSA 3.
“It’s really hard to know what a card like this will bring. It could have all the rarity in the world but the player is not a big name. We just don’t know what’s more important to collectors who are at that level,” said Zahajko. “Coin collectors tend to lean toward rarity – the number of coins known to exist – but baseball cards can be driven sometimes by the (players’) names.”
In any event, the Joe Doyle, N.Y. Nat’l card is considered king of the error cards.
“To the advanced collectors, if they’re going to have a complete set including all error cards, this is the toughest one of them all to find,” said Zahajko.
MBA Seattle Auction House’s Aug. 18 sale will also include the balance of the Ohio baseball card collection consisting of mostly T205 and T206 issues.
Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.com. For additional information, contact MBA/Seattle Auction House via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 425-235-6345 or 425-277-7915. Visit the company online at www.mbaauction.com.