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The T206 Harris Collection

Written by Laguna Niguel (SportsCardsPlus - July 13, 2000)

Legendary T206 White Bordered Baseball Card Set to be Auctioned off

When speaking of the finest sets ever produced there are several that come to mind; the 1915 Cracker Jack's, the 1933 Goudey's, and the 1952 Topps. However, there is one set that stands just a little bit higher, rests just a little closer to true collectors' hearts, and has that simply legendary awe inspiring status. That set is the T206 White Bordered set produced by various brands of the American Tobacco Trust from 1909 to 1911.

That set is simply amazing and the one completed by collector Kirk Harris is of the finest quality ever assembled. The T206 set was a landmark, being the first set of its size (over 500 cards) that was produced in color. It was also the first in the 20th century to contain nearly all the players of most of the major league teams of the era. The artwork on these cards is simply beautiful. Add the fact that the cards are almost 100 years old and you have two of the biggest reasons for this issues' unmatched popularity. Included in the set are over 70 Hall of Famers with names like Cobb, Johnson, Lajoie, Mathewson, Plank, Speaker, and Young.

The announcement of the collection going up for auction by SportsCards Plus from Laguna Niguel, California will have the hobby all a buzz. Never before has a collection of this size and magnitude been sold all at once in an auction format. The bidding on these cards is definitely going to be the most competitive the hobby has ever witnessed as the stature and rarity of these cards are sure to bring never before seen price tags. Harris, who is in the business of manufacturing and classic car parts, made the difficult decision to put the cards up for auction. "It was clear to me that after talking to David (Kohler) here at SportsCards Plus, the timing was right," explained Harris. "It was a tough decision, but I have enjoyed this set for years. Now it's time to let others enjoy the cards that have brought me so much joy. Very few people have seen them so Iím sure they will get a lot of attention."

Harris started the collection many years ago with the purchase of his first T206 card. It was of Miller Huggins and only in VG-EX condition. The interesting design and the story behind the card are what got Harris' attention. Harris explained, "Huggins would end up managing Babe Ruth years later in New York. No one can forget the story of Ruth picking up and holding Huggins off the end of a train after an argument between the two. Huggins would end up fining Ruth $5,000 which was a huge amount of money for that time period."

It was stories such as these that fueled Harris's desire to collect the legendary set. While most collect the T206 according to their fronts and some more adventurous types try to collect them according to their backs Harris collected his set based on the pure quality of the cards. "I wasn't concerned with the player at the time, I just wanted the highest quality I could find," explained Harris. And find them he did.

All the cards in this set are graded by Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA), the industry leader in the grading of sports cards. PSA uses a ten point scale. and while cards in a "6" (EX-MT) or "7" (NRMT) holder are very nice cards, especially from such an old set like the T206's, Harris wanted more. "Even if I had a particular example already, I would always upgrade because I wanted the best.I went to shows, talked to all the key dealers and told them to call me when they got in any PSA 8's or 9's. After the legendary T206 "Southern Find," where several hundred high grade T206 cards were found together, it was SportsCards Plus that came through for me and helped me build this set."

SportsCards Plus helped out Harris by being able to purchase the famous Copeland or McNall/Gretzky set that was auctioned through Butterfield and Butterfield. This allowed Harris to be able to sort through the set and find the cards he needed to complete and upgrade his collection. The set Harris was able to put together is the finest collection of T206 cards ever assembled. The average grade for the Harris collection is an astonishing PSA 8 (NM-MT) with only a few cards being lower than a PSA 7. Some of these are in the set because they have the extremely rare Hindu tobacco backs. To give you a feel of the magnitude and quality of this collection you need only look at the numbers. 75% of the cards in the set are the highest known graded. 42% of all the graded PSA 9's are in the collection while 22% of all the PSA 8's reside here. The first T206 to be graded a perfect, Gem Mint 10 also belongs to this set. 32 Hall of Famers rate Mint 9's including such stars as Cobb (bat on shoulder), Mathewson (portrait), Mathewson (white cap), and Johnson (portrait).

What are Harris' favorite cards from this amazing pre-war collection? When asked, Harris had difficulty narrowing it down to just a few. "With almost 100 graded Mint "9"s and nearly 350 graded "8" it is nearly impossible to have an exact favorite. However, three of the Cobb cards do stand out in my mind," said Harris. "The bat off shoulder Cobb, in a Mint PSA "9" is outstanding. The designers must have really liked Cobb because the colors on this card are amazing. Then there is the green background portrait of Cobb. That one, a PSA "8" (NM-MT) is razor sharp with a very deep green color. Finally, the bat on-shoulder Cobb is just a razor. It is graded "8" but it's extremely high-end, it looks mint!"

There were many other Harris was extremely fond of but none more so that the Christy Mathewson portrait. "He was a real gentleman and his life ended so tragically," explained Harris. Mathewson, after serving in World War I and ingesting mustard gas in a training maneuver, died a few years later. The card of Mathewson is amazing and is graded Mint "9" by PSA. You almost can't believe your eyes when you see it. Another one that deserves a lot of attention is the Eddie Plank rarity. That one is graded "7" (NM) by PSA but, let me tell you, it has the eye appeal of a "10". The picture really jumps out at you and is only one of three examples to reach that grade."

This set is held in such high regard that for the first time ever PSA has pedigreed an entire collection. Each card that is to be auctioned off will have "T206 Harris Collection" on the top of the card holder. This sports card industry first will give collectors a little piece on the history of where their cards came from.

The collection will be auctioned off by SportsCards Plus this summer over a two day period on August 9 and 10. All we can do now is give Kirk a few more months to enjoy his collection and wait for the dog days of summer to roll in before we witness one of the most colossal auctions ever in the sports cards industry!

Periodicals - Harris Collection

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