Historic 1909 Letter to N.Y. Highlanders Shortstop Neal Ball - Soliciting His Approval for Inclusion in the
T206 Set sold for $18,000
Legendary Live Auctions (July 31, 2009)
In terms of vintage sports cards, very rarely is insight made available to indicate the circumstances under which
the various pre-war issues originated, or how they were marketed and distributed. This fascinating and noteworthy
correspondence piece, however, dispels at least a portion of the shroud centering about one of the hobby's classics:
the T206 White Border tobacco cards.
On a 7-1/4" x 8-1/2" piece of the American League's "The Greater New York Base Ball Club" letterhead – here
offered – Evening World sportswriter Benjamin Bulger makes a plea to New York Highlanders shortstop Neal Ball.
Bulger describes "a series of nicely colored pictures," to be inserted in cigarette packages. (He even refers to other
cigarette issues, featuring actors and actresses, issued a couple of decades prior, as a precedent for his request.)
Bulger's exact role in the conception of T206 is unclear – it looks like he was freelancing for the American
Lithograph Company to prepare insert-card product for that concern to sell to the American Tobacco Company – but
his hope to obtain the consent of Ball (who authored the sport's first unassisted triple play later in this same year)
is backed by determination: "I am sending a slip which I want you to sign so I can go on and finish up the pictures."
Ultimately, of course, Ball (having presumably acceded to Bulger's entreaty) stood among the nearly 400 different
players featured in T206, and this unique letter thus constitutes a collateral item without which the 20th Century's
mainstay card set would have been specifically diminished. The letter's original mailing envelope and a copy of Ball's
"finished," as-issued T206 tobacco insert card ("Sweet Caporal" back, graded VG-EX 4 by PSA) accompany.
This special element of cartophilic history is dated January, '09 from New York. It features typewritten text, and
a fountain pen signature, with affiliation, scripted by Bulger. The piece shows two compacting folds for mailing,
and an overall EX appearance. The ultimate collectible for a T206 enthusiast!
The letter reads, in full, "Dear Neil (sic): I am setting up a scheme with the American Lithograhp (sic) Company
to get out a series of nicely colored pictures of 'The star ballplayers of America' which will be put in cigarette
boxes like they used to print the pictures of actors and actresses. I have all the photographs but, under a new law
they have here, I will have to get your permission to use them. I am sending a slip which I want you to sign so I can
go on and finish up the pictures. It would be a great favor to me if you would send this back as soon as you can.
Several of the boys have already sent theirs. With best wishes, I am, Your Friend, (signed) Benjamin Bulger – Evening
Final Bid with Buyer's Premium: $18,000
Periodical - T206 inclusion letter to Neal Ball