One of the most valuable baseball cards in the hobby, and the third most valuable card in the ultra-popular T206 set, this card of Hall of Fame pitcher “Gettysburg Eddie” Plank is one of the best-recognized cards outside the hobby, proof of its iconic nature. “Iconic” is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit in this hyperbole-filled hobby, but a T206 Eddie Plank is certainly worthy of the description.
Considered one of the “Big Four” in the T206 set, the Plank is so rare and valuable that most collectors consider the set complete without it. However, the card is a part of the set, as it was issued, in the Sweet Caporal 150 series (with Factory 25 and 30 backs), as well as Sweet Caporal 350 Factory 30. After this series was distributed, no additional Plank cards were printed. Today, the Plank can only be found with Sweet Caporal 150 (Factory 25 and 30), Sweet Caporal 350 (Factory 30), and a small number of hand-cut Piedmont 150 backs. The Planks with the Piedmont 150 backs, however, were never actually distributed in packs.
Many theories have been postulated about why the Plank is so rare, with perhaps 100 copies in existence. Early hobby scholars suggested that the printing plate was broken or damaged, a theory that was disproven as T206 researchers began to understand more about the printing of the different series. Today, nobody really knows why, as the rarity of the Eddie Plank card remains a mystery – that Plank is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest pitchers of his era simply adds to the card’s mystique.
The outstanding T206-related website T206Resource.com remains our “Go To” website for all things T206. The managers of that site have been working on tracking the sales of various T206 Planks in the hobby over the years, which enables us to glean quite a bit of information on the cards. They have, at this point, identified 55 different Planks that have changed hands in recent public sale – roughly half the Planks in existence. Of those cards, 30 were issued with the Sweet Caporal 350 back (the same back advertisement featured on this example), 12 with Sweet Caporal 150 backs, four with Piedmont 150 backs, and an additional 9 where the back cannot be determined by the scans published because the card is either ungraded, or the back is not noted on the grading label.
The example featured in this auction is Plank #55 of the 55 different examples tracked. In other words, it is the most recent “new” Plank to appear for public sale, relatively fresh to the hobby in that only once has it changed hands publicly during the era of online auctions and traceable public sales. That T206Resource tracks Plank sales as early as 1996 is an illustration that this is not one of those examples that seems to change hands repeatedly – as of today, they have tracked 100 different T206 Plank transactions, with several cards changing hands as many as four times during that period. This example has only been tracked once. And while that is by no means an indication that it has never been sold before, it is quite clear that this card has remained tucked away in collections far longer than some of its peers.
Why is that? We have no idea. However, what we can tell you is that this is a true collector-grade Plank, obviously well-handled and loved over the years, with significant color loss around the card’s blue background serving as its primary flaw. However, unlike many of the other examples graded POOR by its grading company, this example still boasts an extremely strong presentation, with a series of heavy creases that traverse the card at the lower part of Plank’s face, but certainly not detracting greatly from what is a very clean, striking image. While the card exhibits significant corner and edge wear, the card is still intact and presentable, with a clean back. Unlike some of the other low-grade Planks that exhibit significant creasing, paper loss, trimming or cleaning, this example, while certainly deserving of its technical grade, is a clearly attractive card for the grade.
This truly sensational card is one of the top cards in the hobby, considered by many to be significantly undervalued due to being overshadowed by the legend of its cousin, the T206 Honus Wagner. With low-grade examples of the Wagner routinely reaching into seven figure territory, and no Wagner selling for less than six figures since a horribly trimmed example sold for $62,000 ten years ago, a presentable, collector-grade Plank is a significant value. Even lower-grade Plank cardss are beginning to climb into the higher five-figure range, with two mid grade examples approaching and exceeding $100,000 just last month.
This is, of course, the first T206 Plank we have offered, a strong, presentable, collector-grade example that would be an outstanding highlight to any T206 or Hall of Fame collection, and since low-grade Planks do not make themselves available frequently, is perhaps the last opportunity to acquire an “affordable” Plank for some time.