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Five Cobb backs have been discovered

Written by Dennis Purdy (VCBC - March/April 1997)

You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: Someone, somewhere has a new "find" to report. So just what is a "find" anyway? For the purposes of the baseball card hobby a "find" is a discovery of a card or cards of substantial importance to or impact on the hobby that finally makes its way into the hobby. Just such a "find" recently occurred in Georgia.

An incredible find of five T206 Ty Cobbs with Ty Cobb backs have been discovered. Previous to this only six examples of this legendary rarity were known to exist. These five newly discovered cards were found by a non-collector who happened to come across them in a book while going through his great-grandfather's old papers and effects.

All five cards have been consigned to Robert Edward Auctions' June 1997 auction. Each card will be offered individually. The T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb Back is universally recognized as one of the most legendary of all baseball card rarities. These five cards represent one of the most incredible and exciting finds in the history of card collecting.

It's interesting to note how the cards were found and what led to their appearance on the hobby scene. The following letter was written by the discoverer of the cards to Robert Lifson, owner of Robert Edward Auctions:

Dear Mr. Lifson:

Enclosed are copies of the old book in which the Ty Cobb cards were preserved. I tried to place the remaining cards back as they were when I got them so you could see how they spent the last 70 or so years.

As I told you over the phone, my great-grandfather, John W. Hudson, operated a mercantile store in Reynolds, Georgia from around the turn of the century until 1917, when he moved the family to Talhotton, Georgia. A lot of their old stuff was packed up and stored in various places, as they moved frequently in the early 1920's. My father and I acquired several boxes of the old books years ago, all water damaged, and almost stopped off at the dump with them on the way home.

I still have Grandpa's cast iron bank in the shape of a baseball player holding a bat. My mother has his pocket watch and 11 Confederate five hundred dollar bills. I also have a Reach Baseball Guide for 1909 with front cover missing.

Although Grandpa was the one who smoked the Piedmonts and, eventually, the Ty Cobb Tobacco, it was my mother's brother John Hudson who wore the cards outplaying with them. He would have been the one who pasted and preserved them between the pages of this volume. Miraculously, these cards were glued in place with only a paste mixture of flour and water, so they simply flaked out as I turned the pages.

Ty Cobb was very much revered here as one of, if not the first, national hero to emerge from Georgia during a period of time when the souls of southern folk were still hurting from losses suffered in the war of 1861-65. This more than likely accounts for his popularity here, aside from his playing record. It would he interesting to know what areas of the country the other known Cobb brand backs originated from.

Although there is a degree of sentiment attached to these things, we agree that they're doing no good stuck in a drawer somewhere.

Although the discoverer found the cards about 10 years ago inside a thin, hardbound book of House and Senate Memorial Speeches given in honor of recently deceased Georgia Congressman Rufus Lestcr, it was not until this past year when he bought a price guide that he became aware of their great rarity and value, another factor in bringing cards out of the closet and into the hobby. After initially discovering the cards, they were offered to several local collectors, but the $10 to $200 offers were not enough to pry them loose from the great-grandson.

So now the five Cobb-back Cobb cards (considerably more rare than even the famous Honus Wagner card) are back in the hands of the hobby. And these five cards will he part of a spectacular offering by Robert Edward Auctions this summer. Each card has a minimum bid of $5,000.

In September of 1994, a Fair-Good example sold in a Robert Edward Auction for $20,123, Over the years there have been only three other sales of Ty Cobb cards with Ty Cobb backs at public auction. One sold for $17,000, the other two each sold for slightly more than $60,000 and all of these examples had significant condition problems.

Some might question the wisdom of putting all five cards up for auction at the same time. According to Rob Lifson, offering five cards at once is the fairest to all, in that he is able to avoid potentially creating a situation where the buyer of the first card (and subsequent buyers) would feel disappointed as example after example came to the marketplace. At the same time, offering all five cards at once allows Robert Edward Auctions to create the excitement and "circus atmosphere" this find deserves, and to present a collecting event which will long be remembered as one of the most exciting and special buying opportunities in the history of card collecting.

T206 Ty Cobb advertisement can only be found with Ty Cobb red background front.

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