T206 Joe Doyle Hands Above Head N.Y. Nat'l SGC-3.5 sold for $1,323,000
Robert Edward Auctions (Aug 13, 2023)
Lot #1: Extremely Rare 1909-1911 T206 White Border Joe Doyle Hands Above Head N. Y. Nat'l SGC VG+ 3.5 - Newly Discovered!
Presented is one of the most exceptional and highest-graded examples of the rare T206 "Slow Joe" Doyle, N. Y. Nat'l
(hands above head) error card in the collecting world! This exciting, newly discovered example is graded and
encapsulated VG+ 3.5 by SGC. The T206 Doyle error card is by far the rarest card in the T206 set. It is more than
ten times rarer than the T206 Honus Wagner. This error card was uncatalogued and completely unknown until the 1970s,
when legendary dealer Larry Fritsch, while sorting through thousands of T206s, first discovered it. No one had ever
noticed the card before, which is understandable given its great rarity. Fritsch kept his discovery as quiet as he
could but naturally drew attention to the card when for years he advertised extensively to purchase any and all
T206 Joe Doyle hands-above-head cards in the hopes of finding more examples.
For many years, Charlie Conlon and Larry Fritsch were the only collectors known to have this extreme T206 rarity.
Over the past thirty years, several additional examples have been discovered. To the best of our knowledge, only
ten authentic rare Doyle cards exist: five graded by PSA (one VG+ 3.5, two VG 3, and two GOOD 2), two ungraded
(presumed authentic), one by SGC (the offered example), one by BVG (VG-EX 4, previously SGC Authentic), and one
ungraded in the collection of Senator Richard B. Russell housed at the University of Georgia. Though various
population reports might suggest otherwise, we believe that errors are responsible for this and that the offered
example is at or near the top of the known population of authentic Doyle error cards.
This example is entirely new to the collecting world and has with it, as most all exciting discoveries do, an
interesting and fortuitous backstory. For more than 100 years, the offered card sat undiscovered in the passed-down
collection of a North Carolina man born in 1900. That man, our consignor's maternal great-grandfather, would roam
the streets of his hometown, gathering cards from smokers, newspaper men, and fellow adolescents. As a result of
his efforts, he amassed a collection of more than 1,000 tobacco cards, ranging from T205 Gold Borders, T206 White
Border, T209 Contentnea, and T210 Old Mill, as well as countless non-sport subjects issued during the same time
period. As this boy became a man and started a family of his own, he had two daughters who showed no interest in
the two scrapbooks of cards he kept from his childhood. The next generation produced only girls who felt similarly
about these cards, but one of those girls would go on to have a son who consumed all things baseball as a young boy.
That boy, ironically enough, was the son of two high school sweethearts - one of whom was the granddaughter of this
opportunistic collector and one of whom was a descendent of the founding family of the American Tobacco Company,
which produced the T206 cards and set into motion the idea of collecting these colorful tobacco cards.
Approximately twenty years ago, the son was shown the scrapbooks and told that they'd be his one day. All he knew
about at that time was the famed Honus Wagner card, and a quick review of the collection did not yield any Wagner
prize. Disappointed but intrigued, he tucked away the cards until he was old enough to take responsibility for them
himself. As with the generations before him, he didn't give them much thought until 2022, when news of a booming
baseball card trade piqued his interest. Armed with more knowledge about the history of baseball, he looked through
the scrapbooks and was delighted to find multiple examples of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and dozens
more Hall of Famers. He checked again for the Honus Wagner card, but this time, he researched what other cards might
hold value from the T206 set beyond the big names he recognized. Now, looking for Eddie Plank, Sherry Magie, and
others, he took note of a Doyle card in the lower left of one page. Staring back at him was the extremely rare
variation of this otherwise innocuous-looking New York Giants player. After calling in some additional sets of
eyes to confirm what he was seeing, he set off on a torrent of research on what to do next with this very special card.
His research led him to dealers, collectors, and auctioneers alike, all of whom shared his excitement of this
new found discovery. There was, however, one issue that needed to be addressed: the Doyle card, as with the
entirety of the rest of the collection, was mounted into two 1910-era scrapbooks. Finding a trustworthy and
capable party to assist with the removal was the key next step in his process. After much research and consultation,
Graphic Conservation Company, a professional art restoration and conservation company with a specialty and focus
on all paper items, was selected to handle the project. Weeks of process testing on some of the non-sport cards
provided valuable insight into the manner in which the cards were mounted. After perfecting the process, the Doyle
was cleanly removed from the page on which it had lived for over 110 years. Graphic Conservation performed no other
cleaning or conservation type work on the card, leaving it in virtually the same condition as when it was diligently
added to the scrapbook by the original collector. SGC, as part of its grading process, was briefed on the work done
to remove the card and reviewed it thoroughly to ensure it met the company's standards for grading.
At a glance, without thinking about what the card is and why it is rare, we could see a collector looking at this
card and thinking that a few letters difference between the standard Joe Doyle card and this rare variation would
ultimately be insignificant. But these letters did not just mysteriously disappear. The "Nat'l" was intentionally
removed from the plate by the printer to correct an error. An important and fundamental point to understanding the
nature and significance of the rare T206 Doyle is that the rarity of the NY Nat'l variety is due to the printer's
removal of the "Nat'l" - not adding it. The image on the hands-above-head Doyle pose is Joe Doyle of the New York
Americans. But when the card was first printed, Joe Doyle, as seen on the rare error card, was listed as with the
New York Nationals. This was the error that set this change in motion. And it was actually a pretty understandable
error: Larry Doyle played for the New York Nationals; Joe Doyle played for the New York Americans. The manufacturer
of the T206 set got the two players mixed up, which resulted in this monumental error card.
When the printer discovered very early in the print run that an error had been made, rather than correcting the
league designation on the card (changing it from "Nat'l" to "Amer."), the league designation was simply removed
entirely from the printing plate. This was likely easier to do than to change "Nat'l" to "Amer." Because both Joe
and Larry Doyle played for New York teams, removing the league designation was the simplest fix. Because this was
caught early on and changed quickly, most Joe Doyle hands-above-head cards are identified only with "N.Y.," and
the extreme rarity of the "N.Y. Nat'l" variation is explained.
The offered example is stunning! It has outstanding centering, even and honest wear at the corners, and a clean,
perfectly registered image. Only a very faint surface wrinkle is visible under the most extreme review in the
top-left corner. The important text line at bottom is clean and undisturbed, making for an ideal representation
of this significant error. The Piedmont 350 reverse is boldly printed and perfectly centered. There are a few
tiny areas where evidence of the scrapbook removal is present, but they in no way detract from the extraordinary
aesthetics or the remarkable significance of the card.
For many years the great rarities of the T206 set were "Wagner, Plank, Magie," and these three cards were referred
to by T206 collectors as "The Big 3." Since the discovery of the rare "Doyle, N.Y. Nat'l," the term representing
the extreme rarities of the T206 set has been renamed "The Big 4," and this phrase is commonly used to refer to
the cards that are not expected to be included with a T206 set that is otherwise complete. The fame and value of
the original "Big 3" are testaments both to their rarity and the unrivaled popularity of the T206 set. The Doyle,
however, is actually in its own league in terms of rarity. It is a virtually impossible-to-obtain T206 rarity
unlike any other.
Only one example of this extreme rarity has been offered for sale publicly since 2017. That example, graded PSA 2,
sold in 2022 and realized $1,030,047. With great rarity comes infrequent data points regarding price, but we have
observed the price of the legendary Doyle error multiply significantly since REA offered its first example in 2009.
We believe this card is a must-have for collectors interested in putting together a world-class collection of T206s
or assembling a collection of significant rarities of which only a few examples exist. It is a great privilege for
REA to have the opportunity to offer this card and properly document the significance of the rare T206 Doyle and
this example's backstory as it enters the hobby.
Final Bid with Buyer's Premium (20%): $1,323,000