What’s the Deal With: A Random Joe Jackson Apostrophe?

A closer look at Joe Jackson’s rookie card reveals a weird oddity

One of the hottest ‘rising stars’, so to speak, in the pre-war era is the 1909-11 American Caramel (E90-1) card featuring Shoeless Joe Jackson. Despite not being terribly rare compared to many of the very difficult shortprints in the set, the card has risen sharply in value recently with even low-grade ones usually commanding at least $10,000 and nice ones selling in the upper six figures.

The card is important because it is one of the few cards featuring Jackson, one of the best hitters of all time. But it’s even more valuable because it is generally considered to be his rookie card.

A strange ‘apostrophe’ … or is it?

E90-1 055 JacksonAt first glance, Jackson’s rookie card seems pretty straightforward. No one is really crazy about the look of it (particularly on versions that have a brighter-than-normal splash of red on his lips), but hey, it’s probably still one of the more iconic pre-war cards of all time.

A closer inspection, though, reveals something kind of puzzling – what looks to be a misplaced apostrophe. The offending punctuation mark stands out immediately after Jackson’s name at the bottom of his card and right before his r.f. position designation.

Now, if you just look at a single copy of Jackson’s card, you might miss it entirely or, even if you’re observant enough to catch it, you might just mistake it as a stray mark on a given card. Perhaps, even, it would look like a handwritten addition. But the mark actually appears on all copies of Jackson’s card and was apparently not corrected.

But while the mark looks like an apostrophe, it possibly is not. Other E90-1 cards actually have a comma printed after the name. There are a few anomalies in the set. Lou Criger’s card, for example, does not. Ira Thomas has a period instead of a comma. Others minor flaws may exist, too. But for the most part, everyone is supposed to have a comma after their names to help separate their name from the position.

Jackson’s is missing.

Jackson’s card could have a randomly inserted apostrophe combined with a forgotten comma. But it also could have been inserted by accident in place of the comma. Or, the comma itself could be offset and just not have printed properly.

Whatever the case, it’s a small but noteworthy mistake on one of the most important baseball cards of all time.

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