Card of the Day: 1912 T202 Tommy Leach and Chief Wilson

It’s been too long since I last featured the 1912 T202 set. The last appearance was in October of 2021, when we looked at the card from this set that included Deacon Phillippe and George Gibson. Today’s Card of the Day has two key members of the 1909 World Series champs, with Chief Wilson and Tommy Leach.

Wilson was a rookie in 1909. He was a big guy, who got his nickname because when manager Fred Clarke first saw the young Texan, he said he looked like he could be the chief of the Texas Rangers (obviously not the baseball team). Many Native American players from that era had the nickname “Chief”, so it’s a somewhat popular misconception that Wilson was a Native American as well. He got his nickname the day he joined the Pirates based on his size and being from Texas.

Tommy Leach is one of the all-time great Pirates, who doesn’t get enough recognition. He gets lost a bit behind the Hall of Famers from his era on the Pirates. He’s ninth in franchise history in games, plate appearances, at-bats and runs scored. He’s seventh in triples, and fifth in stolen bases. He’s tied for 12th in team history for WAR among position players with 36.5 WAR. The player he’s tied with is Bill Mazeroski. Leach needs a better publicist because he has 47.1 WAR career and receives very little in the way of recognition. I’m not saying he’s an all-time great, but Andrew McCutchen has 47.0 WAR (in 907 fewer plate appearances) and I’m sure he’s going to be remembered fondly in Pittsburgh for generations to come. Unless McCutchen has a major resurgence, they are going to end up being very similar in value vs playing time.

Here’s the front of the card:

You can see that there are folds between the player panels and the middle photo. You might sometimes hear this set referred to as the triple-folder set. There’s another name that I’ll mention when we get to the back of the card.

This set has some great Hall of Fame cards, and it’s stacked because some of those Hall of Famers appear multiple times. The side panels have the same look as cards from the T205 set, put out at the same time. In fact, they used the same exact artwork for both sets, so the real difference is the borders of the photo and the lack of Pirates team logos on the T202 cards. The T205 set has gold borders. The size of the T202 card is 2-1/4” by 5-1/4”.

The middle photo here is Mike Donlin (the runner), who we mentioned earlier today because the Pirates traded for him on this date in 1912. There is no mention of him being acquired by the Pirates on the back, so it appears to just be a coincidence that he’s between two Pirates players. The middle panel was a rebel in most cases, though sometimes in matched with the team, sometimes it matched a player on the side. All of the cards in the set had players from the same team on the end panels.

Here’s the back of the card:

I mentioned that there’s another name for these cards. That would be the cigarette brand you see on the back here, Hassan. You’ll notice that the back here is set up like it’s three different cards. Even though these cards were meant to be folded, many old collectors separated the side panels from the middle section and made this three different cards. Obviously they weren’t thinking 100+ years ahead, because that really hurts the value of these cards. You can still sell them in three pieces, but let’s just say that this card pictured above is worth $200 as is (I’ll get into the actual prices below). If it was cut in three, you could probably get $15 each for the three panels.

As for the actual prices of these cards, there are no completed auctions over the last three months. There are four examples currently listed on Ebay. Three of them are graded. A PSA 5 has a $720 price. A PSA 4 has $505 price tags from two different sellers, though one has a best offer option. The final card is ungraded, coming from an extremely reliable seller of vintage cards, who I have used often. He’s asking $131 delivered for one that is as nice as any of the three graded copies. The one issue with that card is the printing on the Leach panel is a bit off, similar to what you see above with the color pass going into the border of the Wilson panel.