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Go Back Forums > Net54baseball Postwar Sportscard Forums > Boxing / Wrestling Cards & Memorabilia Forum

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Old 10-09-2018, 07:24 PM
G1911 G1911 is offline
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Bay Area, California
Posts: 207
Default T220 Coburn Variation (One does exist!), and Donovan background changes

Too Long, Didn’t Read : The Short Version:
Coburn actually does have a true variation with the man at left on a white border cards, though not the same one that used to be catalogued. Mike Donovan of To-Day features a background change between the silver and white border cards, also seemingly pointless. Jack Goodman doesn’t have a silver border, can’t have a silver because of the background style, and I would love to know when this card crept into early check listing efforts of the hobby pioneers. I think the variation on Donovan is the key to its rarity and the Corbett’s as well, though it is just a theory and in no way verifiable fact.

The T220’s were issued in late 1910, possibly into 1911, between the second and third series of the closely-related T218 issue. The Silver border issue of 25 cards came first, issued only by Mecca at factory 649. It is the only set that Mecca issued without a factory 30 variation. The 50 card white border set was issued after, with both factories and a Tolstoi back to boot.

The silver border card of Coburn came first, and features a man in a suit against the fence in the background, on the left side. The White border version removes this man, though traces of him remain. That area of the card is just a bit darker, and you can see the tips of his shoes.

When I got into the tobacco boxing cards in about 2003, almost every checklist included a variation and a non-existent card, both of which have been removed today.

Joe Coburn, and the history of its variation
Coburn was the variation, listed as having a man at left or no man at left on his white border card. Many of his graded cards include a variation notation for a variant that doesn’t actually exist. No white border has the full rendering of the man at left like the Silver Border does, and I also have never seen one where he is fully and properly erased. However, there is a variation here from the early printings where the man is present in a light blue silhouette. There’s at least 1 completed copy with a Mecca 649 back (I cannot locate a photo of another, but I am sure there are at least several more) and this same ‘blue man’ variation exists on Exhibitman’s scrap card of Coburn, that is handcut and has an upside down back of Joe Gans that I presume was scrap from when American Lithographic was setting up to print these. This makes sense, as most Mecca issues indicate that the first sheets of their sets had factory 649 reverses. This seems to be a true variation to me, akin to the variants created by Fleer in 1989 when they needed to erase a cigarette advertisement behind Randy Johnson and modify Billy Ripken’s scandalous bat. After the silver run, the man was removed from the image, leaving the blue silhouette/splotch, which was quickly fixed again, but still not quite correctly, leaving a faint black image that most all white border Coburn’s have.

Jack Goodman's Silver border can't exist, but Donovan does
The non-existent card was Jack Goodman, ‘cataloged’ as having a silver border card, although it should have been quite surprising if this card existed, as the background design of single-boxer T220 cards tell you whether the pose can have a silver border or not. Goodman is not in this group. 24 cards that actually exist were known then, with the 25th only surfacing in 2006, Mike Donovan of To-Day. Donovan made much more sense to be the 25th card in the silver set. There are 20 cards portraying a single boxer in the outdoors, and all 19 others go this design type had Silver Border cards. 3 or 4 Donovan’s are now known today, though I notice the fantasy Goodman still lingers in many peoples checklists and want lists. If anyone has a copy of the old catalogues or periodicals rom the early hobby days that includes the T220’s, I’d love to know for curiosity’s sake if this card was checklisted then and how it, like the t206 Hustler back, somehow crept in. The other great silver border short-print rarity, James J. Corbett (World’s Champion) has no discernible difference to me between the silver and the white border, though I don’t have a silver to compare in hand.

Donovan's background change, similar to Coburn
Anyways, the Donovan features the same kind of change as the Coburn, although both seem to be among the most pointless variations of any set. Donovan’s background behind the stands has been completely redone for the White Border set. The man to Coburn’s left is too distant to have any facial detail or to be identified as a specific individual, so I doubt he needed to be removed like the T206 of Wagner was supposedly pulled. I have never been able to think of any good reason either change would be made.

Does the change explain the short printing of Donovan and Corbett?
Without any evidence to prove it, I do suspect that the change to Donovan’s card is the key to explaining the extreme rarity of both it and the Corbett card. Corbett doesn’t have more than a handful of known cards, and Donovan was unknown to the hobby for 96 years. We know that most American Lithographic sets for American Tobacco had sheets with repeating columns of cards; miscuts top/bottom more often than not show that the card above or below is the exact same card. Some miscuts are known showing a different card at top or bottom, however, so it isn’t always the case, or a column had say, 8 of one card and 8 of another repeated. We know that American Lithography clearly paid close enough attention to make these rather small changes for reasons unknown, and we know they did a poor job changing the Coburn and had to fix it again. The change on Donovan’s card was much more work, repainting the whole background, and was properly changed. Perhaps they took more time with it, and pulled his card early, on a column shared with James J. Corbett’s card and found it easier to just cut off the column. Corbett isn’t short printed in the white border set, so they certainly had the rights to his image. Furthermore, I am not aware of any of the numerous American Tobacco 1909-1912 issues having some sort of redemption program. The above seems the most likely explanation to me.

Would love to see your guys Coburn’s, or hear your thoughts on this set. Net54 image uploads limit file size, but better view of the Coburn's here:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Coburn Man at Lefts.jpg (11.8 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg Donovans.jpg (73.3 KB, 39 views)

Last edited by G1911; 10-09-2018 at 07:28 PM.
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