Presented is an extremely noteworthy example of the T206 White Border Eddie Plank, one of card collecting’s most legendary rarities. Pedigreed from the collection of Lionel Carter, one of the hobby’s most celebrated early collectors, this card has the added distinction of originating from another famous collector, Charles Bray, before landing in Carter’s monumental collection.
"Wagner, Plank, and Lajoie" are the three baseball card rarities that have long been referred to as "The Big Three." These three cards, Wagner and Plank from the T206 Series, and Nap Lajoie from 1933 Goudey, have traditionally represented the height of rarity, desirability, and value in the baseball-card world. When Jefferson Burdick first published The American Card Catalog in the 1930s, the T206 Wagner was listed as the most valuable baseball card in the world at a then-incredible $50. Plank was the second most valuable card, listed at $10. Over the years, since the days of Jefferson Burdick, other cards have come to be universally recognized as among collecting's most desirable cards, but "Wagner, Plank, and Lajoie" will always be the inaugural members of this elite club, and the three cards that purists among baseball-card collectors will always recognize as the ultimate symbols of baseball-card rarity.
The reasons for the great rarity of Plank are shrouded in mystery. One popular explanation, which appears to have no basis in fact, is that the printing plate broke. It is far more likely that Plank, the Athletics Hall of Famer, objected to having his picture packaged with cigarettes. Like Wagner, Plank is in all the candy-card sets of the era but does not appear in any of the primary tobacco-card sets issued during this same time period, such as T3, T201, T202, T205, or T207. Since Plank was one of the greatest stars of the day, it is unlikely that the tobacco companies simply forgot to put him in all these sets. It is far more likely that there is a common explanation.
When Lionel Carter’s collection was presented at public auction beginning in 2007, collectors immediately took note of the condition of this Plank compared to the higher-grade cards that had come to symbolize Carter’s meticulous style of collecting. Graded POOR 10 by SGC due to severe creasing throughout, there was obviously more to this card than met the eye. Determined to get to the bottom of the story, the buyer from the August 2007 auction tracked down Lionel Carter and inquired as to the origin of this card, which was in lesser condition than the balance of Carter’s T206 set and overall collection.
According to Lionel Carter, he obtained the card in a grab-bag lot of cigarette cards presented in one of Charles Bray’s Card Collector’s Bulletin auctions in May 1957. Winning a box full of cards for five dollars, Carter sorted them upon receipt and found the Plank. His first instinct was to discard it due to the condition, but realizing that he didn’t have the card for his set, he opted to keep it until he was able to replace it. In a testament to the card’s rarity, even back then, he was never able to find a suitable replacement.
Since Bray’s offering of the card in 1957, and Carter’s sale of the card in 2007, we are aware of only three individual collectors who have owned this card. It is remarkable to be able to trace the provenance of any card back over sixty years, but to do so with one of the hobby’s most iconic cards is extra special.
It is a privilege for REA to be able to offer this card along with the story of its travels through time and collections over the last seven decades. We trust that collectors will appreciate the significance of this example, regardless of its condition, and will take note of the opportunity to be one of just a handful of collectors to own this very special card.