The Disappearing Act of Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Inexpensive Cards
Trying to buy Shoeless Joe Jackson’s less expensive cards has proven difficult
A while back, I wrote about Shoeless Joe Jackson and the fact that he doesn’t appear in too many baseball card sets. But another little-discussed phenomenon is that even the availability of his cards in those sets seem to be few and far between. His more expensive stuff can be found in some auction houses but, in particular, his cheaper cards rarely turn up.
I track a good many pre-war card auctions and while I don’t necessarily have a target on Jackson stuff, they are cards I would be interested in if the price was right. Problem is that, by comparison to other players, Jackson’s cards are not seen that often.
While you will usually find hundreds of authentic Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb cards for sale on eBay, the amount of Jackson stuff is tiny by comparison. eBay typically will have no more than a few Jackson cards in all. As mentioned, part of that is because he doesn’t have as many cards in general. But even with that, you’d expect to see his cards pop up for sale a bit more often.
To be fair, some of Jackson’s stuff is pricey and not really suited as well for eBay. But some of it even the more affordable, mainstream stuff does not seem to be offered all that often.
A common target, for example, is Jackson’s W514 strip card. Like many of the players from the infamous 1919 Black Sox team, he’s in that issue. And with the card starting around $1,000-$1,500, it fits into the price point for collectors more than some other stuff like his common but expensive E90-1 American Caramel rookie card. Finding it, though, isn’t all that easy. While they do appear on eBay from time to time, none are even listed there right now, for example.
What’s interesting in the case of his W514 card is that the lack of them for sale is not tied to rarity even in the slightest. To date, PSA has graded a total of 67 of them, which is actually the most of anyone in the set — even more than Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.
Another great example is the T202 Hassan Triple Folders card, which features Jackson as an unnamed subject. For years, collectors did not even realize it was a Jackson card until a discovery was made on the Net54 message board, which outed it.
The card titled, “Lord Catches His Man,” does not reference Jackson but he has been identified as the runner in question on the picture and the card’s value has shot up in value, starting at around $150-$200 in low-grade condition. T202s, as I recently wrote, are not extremely plentiful. But you’d still expect to be able to find the card more than you see it because it features a star player. Typically, for example, you’ll find a dozen or more Cobb T202s on eBay. Part of that is because he’s on a few cards but that still doesn’t explain why Jackson’s is so rarely seen. As of right now, the grand total of Jackson T202s on eBay is firmly at zero.
Then there are Jackson’s game cards. Game cards are often targets of collectors on a budget since they’re easy to find in great condition and a lot less expensive than tobacco or caramel cards.
Jackson is in at least three mainstream game card sets — the 1913 National Game set, the 1913 Tom Barker Game set, and the 1914 Polo Grounds Game set (that card is shown here). And the good news is that these, like his others mentioned here, are fairly inexpensive compared to his other stuff. These generally start around a grand, give or take. But even among these three sets, you won’t find many of these cards. eBay typically will have some but the asking prices are almost always above board. And even though those are three separate sets, you won’t typically find more than a small amount.
Now to be fair, finding post-playing day cards of Jackson is easier. His 1940 Play Ball card, for example, is not a tough find (though it is pricey). But if you’re looking for cards from Jackson’s playing days, they’re very tough.
So what gives? If the cards are not all that rare compared to other players in the same sets, why do they seem so utterly difficult to find?
Jackson, of course, has a cult following. Some collectors want a Jackson card merely to have one. And while you can say the same about Ruth, Cobb, and other big names, there are so few Jackson cards to go around in totality. His cards in these sets may not be rarer than others but because he does not appear in other sets, the problem is easily understood.
There simply are not enough Jackson cards for all that want them and I suspect that many are buried away in collections of folks that have no desire to move them. Again, that surely happens with Ruth and Cobb, too. But those players are found in so many sets that it does not create the shortage as it does with Jackson.