T204 Set Overview
T204's (or, "Ramlys") were issued in 1909 by the Mentor Co. of Boston with their Ramly and T.T.T. Turkish cigarettes. The cards display photographic portraits surrounded by a filigree-like gold design that was probably meant to look 'Turkish'. They're also embossed, meaning some of the card surface is raised. Although most card collectors don't actively pursue T204's because of their scarcity and prices, they're widely known and admired throughout the hobby.
There are 121 cards in the set, with a good representative overview of major leaguers from 1909. 15 players were later inducted into the Hall of Fame, including Johnson, Plank, Burkett, Keeler, Tinker, Evers, Chance and 8 others. Notable stars of the day like Mathewson, Cobb, Young, and Lajoie were omitted for unknown reasons. None of the 121 cards is appreciably scarcer than any of the others, but a few like Pelty (the only Jewish player in the set) and Cicotte (famed for his Black Sox participation) are in greater demand than typical commons. There are 4 non-players included in T204: Frank Bancroft, Cincinnati manager in 1902; Tim Murnane, a prominent Boston baseball promoter and President of the N.E. League; Jimmy McAleer, manager of the Browns; and Clark Griffith, Cincinnati's manager in 1909 and a future HOFer. Murnane likely got in because of his New England connection, while Griffith and McAleer were popular figures of the day. Bancroft is an oddity, but there's a good explanation for his inclusion - see the info below on the Worcester, MA angle for square-bordered cards.
13 of the 16 major league teams are represented; Pittsburgh, Philadelphia NL, and Chicago AL have no players. The two Boston teams are, not surprisingly, the best represented - they have a combined 23 players (19%) of the total.
Photos used for the T204 set were taken at the Carl Horner Studios in downtown Boston, sometimes several seasons prior to 1909. Horner was the de facto official photographer for major league baseball for more than a decade and his photographs were used in in many sets of the same era. One of his most famous photographs is of Eddie Plank, the same one used in T206.
The April 2007 Mastro Auction contained more than 40 Horner cabinets, several showing the same photos used for T204 cards. The cabinets demonstrate that, in many cases, T204 photos were altered to remove team designations from the uniforms. Here are cabinets and corresponding cards for several players: Arrelanes, Bates, Bowerman, Bresnahan, Donahue, Jones, Kleinow, Niles, Sweeney, Lush, Konetchy, Sheckard.
A few cards have an image of a different player than intended.
- Roy Hartzell is actually Topsy Hartsel.
- Bill O'Hara is actually Tom O'Hara.
- The images of Harry Howell and Jack Powell are reversed.
- Coakley has a white scratch to the left of the player's face. This is consistent on all of his cards because it was on the photographic plate.
- Wid Conroy, T204 brown-noser
- Walter Johnson, masked bandit
T204's can also be found with a T.T.T. advertising back. Copies of these cards are much scarcer than those with the Ramly back. Only about half of the players have been found with a T.T.T. back, so it's unlikely that a full set is possible.
There are 6 blank-backed square-bordered Ramly cards in addition to the regular set that were likely either proofs or some type of promotional issue. They are exceptionally rare and can be roughly estimated at 10 times the value of "normal" Ramlys. The six shown are Anderson, Bancroft, Bransfield, Burkett, Dinneen, and Moran. Along with Howard (sometimes mistakenly cited as having a square border card), these are the only players in the set that have their first names on their cards. All six had a connection with Worcester, MA where the factory was that issued the cards, and this is probably why they were included in the square-border group. Bancroft, Bransfield, and Moran were born close by, Burkett managed the Worcester team, Dinneen played for several years in Boston, and Anderson was a native Worcester-ite.
Prices for T204's in 2011 can only be described as "all over the place". Some higher grade cards (EX and better) have recently sold for record amounts, but cards in lesser grades have been at levels seen 5 years ago. In other words, the market is soft unless you have something unusual. I'd contend that T204's are under-valued, but unless demand picks up, they're likely to stay at the same prices for a while. VG commons are $150 or so right now.
Classic Baseball Cards : The Golden Years, 1886-1956 by Frank Slocum, published in 1990, has beautiful, full color pictures of the entire T204 set and many others. This book is long out of print, but used copies can sometimes be found on eBay (search on "Slocum baseball") or on Amazon.
Some T204's also exist with blank backs and are often incorrectly referred to as "proofs" (they're actually printing mistakes). These are also scarce, but the prices are usually not much higher than for other T204's.
17 player names (14% of the set) in T204 are misspelled : Arrelanes (should be Arellanes), Byrnes (Byrne), Cicolte (Cicotte), Dineen (Dinneen), Elberfield (Elberfeld), Hoblitzell (Hoblitzel), Hummell (Hummel), Kargar (Karger), Kleinon (Kleinow), Konetchey (Konetchy), Loebert (Lobert), Nichols (Nicholls), O'Hare (O'Hara), Ruelbach (Reulbach), Schekard (Sheckard), Stienfeldt (Steinfeldt), and Unclane (Unglaub).