Baseball’s first superstar, Ty Cobb, played 24 seasons in the Major Leagues, mainly for the Detroit Tigers. Ironically nicknamed “The Georgia Peach,” Cobb was anything but sweet. Instead, he was known for his volatile demeanor, both on and off the field. For example, he would sharpen his metal cleats before games in order to intimidate fielders who might try to tag him out while he was sliding into a base. Such aggressive acts left Cobb with a less-than-stellar reputation among players and fans.

Despite setting 90 records as a player, some of which still stand today, Cobb did not have the appeal of other early stars like Babe Ruth. His frequent fights with teammates, opponents, and the public irritated many. Collectors, however, covet his items, especially his baseball cards, which are among the most sought-after ever printed.

Cobb debuted for the Tigers in 1905, and by 1907 he was one of the premier outfielders in all of baseball. The first Cobb baseball cards were in the 1909-1911 T206 white border series published by American Tobacco. There were five Cobb cards printed in that collection, though only four are generally considered part of the set. The set contains the legendary Honus Wagner card, but the quartet of Cobb cards are considered vital parts.

The four Cobb cards are often collected as a mini-set, like the four Babe Ruth cards in the 1933 Goudey set. Two of the cards are portraits, with the green portrait being rarer than its red counterpart. All four cards are difficult to find in high-grade, as they were stored in tobacco packs.

Cobb's fifth T206 card is nearly identical to the red portrait, but instead of an advertisement for a tobacco brand, the back of the card simply reads: “‘Ty Cobb’ King of the Smoking Tobacco World.” This card is nearly impossible to come across, which is why it is not considered part of the complete T206 set.

While the T206 set gets the lion’s share of attention from collectors of early 20th-century baseball cards, there are other Cobb cards from 1911 that may be even more appealing. In 1911, Cobb also appeared on a T205 Gold Border card—like the T206s, cards in this set were also distributed with tobacco products. Cards in the T205 set are graphically more interesting than those in the T206 set, but the gold perimeters give collectors headaches as the edges are prone to chipping at the slightest touch.

Cobb’s most stunning card, and possibly one of the most beautiful cards ever made, is his little-known 1911 T3 Turkey Red Cabinets card. The massive (5 ¾” by 8”) card shows Cobb ...

Not only was 1911 a good year for Cobb in terms of baseball cards, but he also posted video-game-like numbers on the field. For the year, Cobb batted a career high .420, with 127 runs batted in and 83 stolen bases.

A year later, Cobb was featured along with Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings on a T202 Hassan Triple Folders card entitled “Ty Cobb Steals 3rd.” Although Cobb was on a number of other cards in the set, this is considered the best and most desired because it features portraits of him and Jennings, two Hall of Famers, sandwiched around one of the best sports photographs ever.

The photograph exemplifies Cobb’s intensity. It shows him sliding hard into third base, with the third baseman swinging his leg out of the way to avoid Cobb's notorious cleats. Cobb is biting his bottom lip, a show of his aggression on the base paths.

The T202 Hassan is another larger card (5 ¼” by 2 ¼”), and it is condition sensitive because it was designed to be folded. Finding one that has not been folded is a Holy Grail for many collectors.

One of Cobb’s most striking cards comes from the 1914-15 Cracker Jack set. These years were great seasons for Cobb. He won his fourth and fifth consecutive batting titles (he would win 11 for his career) and asserted himself as the game's biggest star.

The Cracker Jack card shows Cobb looking like one mean son of a gun. He is standing, bat in hand, staring forward as if to bait the pitcher. It is hard to tell if Cobb intends to hit the ball or the pitcher. Unfortunately, despite this card’s vividness, it is nearly impossible to find one in decent condition because it was packed with candy boxes, which means many copies were ruined by caramel staining.

Cobb played with the Tigers through the 1926 season before joining the Philadelphia Athletics for two seasons prior to retirement.

When the Baseball Hall of Fame's inaugural class was inducted in 1936, Cobb received the highest percentage of votes, 98.2 percent. Not surprisingly, Hall of Fame busts of Cobb are prized commodities among collectors.

Other desired Cobb artifacts are statues and posters. Cobb’s autograph, unfortunately, is extremely difficult to come by, and even if you find one, adding it to your collection will cost you a serious chunk of change. In all likelihood, if you do come across a Cobb autograph it will be a “cut,” which is the term for a loose piece of paper, and not on a ball or a photograph. Cobb's autograph is also seldom found alone. More often than not it will be paired with that of another star like Wagner.

During his playing days and after retiring, Cobb endorsed Coca-Cola. For those who collect both, there's a fair amount of Cobb Coke memorabilia available, including newspaper ads and replica bottles.

Despite retiring in 1928, one more baseball card featured Cobb: a 1932 U.S. Caramel. The cards in this set include famous athletes from various sports—both boxers and golfers were represented—but it mainly consisted of baseball legends, including Cobb. This set is one of the scarcest there is, and Cobb’s card, a bust of his aged angry face, is one of the keys to it, along with cards for Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Cobb lived until 1961, and his all-time hits record stood until another ballplayer with PR problems, Pete Rose, broke it in 1985.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1909-11 T206 Setbreak Ty Cobb Red Portrait Psa 3.5 Vg+ (pwcc)Ty Cobb Signed Check Authentic Perfect Condition Tyrus Baseball Framed Autograph1909-11 T206 Setbreak Ty Cobb Bat Off Shoulder Psa 4 Vgex (pwcc)1909-11 T206 Setbreak Ty Cobb Bat On Shoulder Psa 4 Vgex (pwcc)1909 T206 Ty Cobb Green Psa 2.5!1908 Our Home Team Detroit Tigers Fold Out Baseball Postcard Ty Cobb JenningsT206 1909-1911 Ty Cobb (bat On Shoulder} Piedmont Psa 2 Gd Hof Tigers Centered Coca Cola Ty Cobb Store Advertising Lithograph Cardboard Display Sign 1947 Rare1909 T206 Ty Cobb Red Portrait Detroit Tigers Sgc 1.5 Polar Bear - Invest$$1972 Kellogg's 3-d All-time Greats Set W/ Ty Cobb Babe Ruth Gehrig Wagner +1907 H.m. Taylor Detroit Tigers Club Postcard Ty Cobb Psa 2 Baseball Card Offer!Rare 1920's Ty Cobb Candy Store Cardboard Advertisement Sign Baseball VintageSgc 10(1) Poor 1933 Sport Kings Ty Cobb #11973 Topps Baseball Near Complete Set 600/660 Gd/vg To Nm Ty Cobb Munson2016 Flawless Ty Cobb Diamond Jewel Card! 20/20! Last One Stamped! Encased!2016 Flawless Ty Cobb Players Collection Quad Jersey Bat /25 Detroit Tigers1976 Topps Near Complete Set 632/660 + Traded Gd/vg To Nm Aaron Ty Cobb Yount2002 Ud World Series Heroes Ty Cobb Game Used Pants Jersey Sp Ty Cobb RareT206-helmar #341 Ty Cobb Detroit TigersTy Cobb Cut Autograph2016 Flawless Ty Cobb Material Greats Jersey Sp /5 Detroit Tigers2009 Topps Tribute Ty Cobb Dual Bat Hof 15/50 Detroit Tigers2014 Topps Triple Threads Triple Auto Relics Longoria/moore/cobbBanty Red 22's "1922" Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers2015 Tri City Sports Legendary Lumber Ty Cobb Hof Bat Barrel Patch 28/50Helmar Our Guy #2 Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers Hof2015 National Treasures Ty Cobb Bat Relic #55 Numbered 86/99 Beckett Graded 92003 Donruss Timeless Treasures Ty Cobb Game Used Bat #hof-22 Sp #9/100 Tigers2015 National Treasures Ty Cobb Bat Relic #'d 98/99 Tigers1961 Golden Press Baseball Cards Babe Ruth, Cobb, Cy Young, Dimaggio, Gehrig Etc1910 T213 Ty Cobb Coupon Cigarettes Card In Screwdown Holder Selling As Reprint1910 E98 L.e. Reprint 2012 National Promo Lot Black Swamp Find Ty Cobb & Others2015 Topps Diamond David Cobb Rookie Autograph 7/10 (ww)2016 Flawless Ty Cobb Authentic Emerald /5 Detroit Tigers1921 Ty Cobb W551 Psa Authentic Hand Cut Detroit American League2015 Tri City Sports Legendary Lumber Ty Cobb Hof Bat Barrel Patch 17/501909 T206 Ty Cobb Cigarettes, Ty Cobb, Bat Off Shoulder 1961 Fleer Hof Lot: #1 Baker, Cobb, Wheat #2 Alexander #75 Babe Ruth1909 T206 Sweet Caporal Ty Cobb, Green Portrait 2009 Topps Update Vault Legends Of The Game Ty Cobb Letter Patch 1/1 Bgs 9 RareUnidentified Ty Cobb Card Thick, Very Old Cardstock Blankback1/1 2015 Diamond David Cobb Rc Gold Auto #1/1 1961 Golden Press Setbreak Ty Cobb #25 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1961 Press Photo Ty Cobb Of The Detroit Tigers Split Image From Playing Days2015 Flawless David Cobb Rc Auto 4/5 TitansTopps Diamond David Cobb 1/5 Auto 2015 Flawless Football David Cobb Rpa 13/25! Titans! Rookie Patch Autograph!1977 Reprint Series 1 Playball Complete 43 Card Set Includes Ty Cobb ChecklistTy Cobb 2016 Flawless 2 Case Grabag 4x Index Card Player Break Topps Bunt Nicknames Ty Cobb Georgia Peach Detroit Tigers Digital Insert CardTy Cobb Detroit Tigers 1926 W512 #3 Strip Card Original Vg-ex ConditionTy Cobb 2011 Topps Tier One Game Used Bat Card #011/399Sporting Life Trade Card Baseball Stars Series - Tyrus Cobb, Detroit, A.l.Ty Cobb - T-206 - Autograph On Back Rp T-2061908 E102 Ty Cobb Rookie Card,t206,aged,ungraded1933 Sport Kings Ty Cobb HofR318-helmar Hey-batter! #8 Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers Hof1909 T206 Ty Cobb Red Portrait - Baseball Card - Detroit Tigers - Ty Cobb Back2008 Topps Sterling #213 Ty Cobb Tigers Hof Very Rare /250 Bgs 9.5 Tough Grade2010 Topps Mini Blue Back Ty Cobb