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T206 Ty Cobb Back PSA 4.5 - The Highest Graded Example - sold for $894,250

Mile High Card Company (Sept 3, 2020)

It's been said that Ty Cobb was as great a businessman off the field as he was a baseball legend on it. That's high praise considering that his record 12 American League batting titles isn't about to fall in the foreseeable future. As a real estate magnate who owned an expansive portfolio of stocks and bonds along with a considerable share of the Coca-Cola company, "The Georgia Peach" was able to maintain an income far greater than the $50,000 a year he earned from his most lucrative baseball contract. But like all businessmen, not every transaction sees a successful payoff in the end. One such venture was the Ty Cobb band of granulated cut plug tobacco, offered regionally in the Georgia area. It wasn't a strong seller and the product was quickly discontinued, with the original tobacco tin (one of which is offered in this auction) now considered one of the rarest and most coveted items dedicated to Cobb. But there's one item even more iconic, almost mythical; the T206 Ty Cobb Red Portrait card with a Ty Cobb tobacco reverse. As the only such issue to feature a Ty Cobb tobacco reverse, there's a debate over whether the "Cobb/Cobb" should even be considered part of the T206 series or a special premium with its own designation. Other than a slightly glossy coating and the unique reverse, it's identical to the red Cobb in the T206 series and is listed in the standard catalog as a T206, though it does get a special section under "1909-11 Ty Cobb Tobacco (T206)." Like every other baseball card of supreme scarcity, the Cobb card has a murky backstory as to its origins so here it goes ... what we know is that there exists a very small number of these Ty Cobb Red Background cards with a reverse that says "Ty Cobb - King of the Smoking Tobacco World." The glossy surface that is absent on all other T206 cards suggests that they were likely inserted inside the Ty Cobb tobacco tin and the coating was to prevent staining from direct contact with the tobacco. Only about 10 examples were known to exist until five more were discovered in the possession of a man in Georgia in 1997. Then one day in February of 2016, a family in the deep south was going through their great-grandfather's possessions and stumbled across some old postcards, tobacco tins, and a torn paper bag. Inside the bag were seven Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb back cards, immediately increasing the number of known specimens by almost 50%. Although known throughout baseball card circles as "The Lucky 7 Find," the moniker proved to be inaccurate when the family discovered an eighth Cobb/Cobb sandwiched between two books years later. The current population of the Cobb/Cobb now stands at or about 23, still nearly three times more scarce than the T206 Wagner. How does over half of the known Cobb/Cobb cards end up in the possession of just two parties? Again, no one knows. The featured example is not only the finest of the "The Lucky 7" specimens but stands alone as the highest graded of all Cobb/Cobb cards known. And while it might seem cliche and self-serving to say the card presents even better than the grade suggests, it does! The primary reason why no other example can match this PSA 4.5 masterpiece is due to the glossy surface. While not nearly as prominent as the shiny coating that is the hallmark of the T207 brown background series, the surface is still subject to the same blemishes and micro-cracking, almost impossible to see with the naked eye but observable enough under magnification to affect the overall technical grade. From an observer’s standpoint, the card presents at least a half-grade to a full grade higher, with the gloss serving to intensify the contrast of the deep red backdrop with the nearly bone-white borders, positioned as to display virtually perfect centering. Each corner exhibits slight rounding and enamel loss under the loupe but offers a sharper than the grade appearance all the way around the perimeter. Each of the edges has extremely light wear commensurate with a slightly higher grade, showing little more than the mild cracking that comes from the light layer of gloss. The reverse proudly proclaims, in alluring green ink, the solitary phase attributed to the Ty Cobb tobacco brand with "Factory No. 33 - 4, Dist. of N. C." below on a gently toned surface that exhibits some light but expected age spotting, in no way curbing the overwhelming majesty of the card, a true ambassador to the 150+ year history of baseball card manufacturing. Quite simply, i's the finest example of one of the rarest cards known to exist, a true museum-quality piece whose sui generis transcends even that of the T206 Wagner, the capstone of the sports card collecting world.

Final Bid with Buyer's Premium (20%): $894,250

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