Comparing Joe Jackson ‘Rookie Cards’

Here’s a look at Joe Jackson’s two most expensive early baseball cards

Shoeless Joe Jackson is a cult figure. A member of the group consisting of the eight banned Chicago Black Sox players conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series, he is not a Hall of Famer. But Jackson was one of the biggest stars of his era and without his affiliation in the World Series fix, he certainly would be enshrined in Cooperstown. His cards are heavily desired, in part because there are so few of them.

Jackson’s real rookie card is his E90-1 American Caramel card that was issued between 1909-11. But another one to watch is his T210 Old Mill minor league card. While that card depicts Jackson as a minor leaguer, it is important to note that it is technically not a rookie issue since it was distributed in 1910. Jackson had already spent time in the majors in 1909 and since that’s when production of his American Caramel card began, it technically should not be considered a rookie or a first card. Still, because it’s a minor league card, it’s often treated like a rookie of sorts. But how do the two cards compare with each other? 

E90-1 055 Jackson

Let’s take a look at the American Caramel card first.

Technically, the card is not terribly rare in comparison to the rest of the set. Now, the cards are not super easy to find. The population reports for the three major grading (PSA, SGC, Beckett) show about 170 of them graded. That’s not a ridiculously large amount but the set, in general, has low pops. Jackson’s card, in fact, is one of the ones graded the most. Because of its high value, you can actually find it available in auctions with a somewhat high degree of frequency.

Aesthetically, the card pictures Jackson as a major leaguer with his first team, the Philadelphia Athletics. It’s not a great depiction of him but the overall artwork in the E90-1 American Caramel set is sort of hit or miss. Many fans might not even realize Jackson played for the Athletics. After all, he only played a grand total of ten games for them over two seasons. Because of that, he has a ridiculously low amount of Athletics’ related memorabilia.

One interesting thing about this card is that it includes an uncorrected typo. Players in the set have a comma after their last name on the front of the card. However, Jackson does not have one and instead has what looks like an apostrophe. It’s unclear if it is truly an apostrophe or a misplaced comma. Either way, though, it’s a mistake.

So, what about price? Some might argue that the card is overvalued. As stated, it is not a terribly rare card given the context of the set. But the card is significantly more valuable than the other expensive cards in the set, including those of Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, or the shortprinted, valuable Mike Mitchell card. Still, it is the legitimate rookie card of one of the early great hitters in the history of the game. Even in low-grade condition, the card sells for thousands of dollars. Modestly-graded cards are in five figures. That puts it out of the reach for many collectors wanting to build that popular set.

Joe Jackson T210 Old MillThen, there’s Jackson’s T210 Old Mill card.

As stated, this one is not technically a rookie card. Even if you believe that minor league cards can be rookie issues, this one still can’t be considered a rookie since his American Caramel card was earlier. Still, don’t let that designation fool you. This is easily the more desirable of the two.

The biggest reason for that is the extreme rarity. While there are close to 200 of the American Caramel cards that have been graded, the big three graders have seen only 16 of these (if that — some could have been regraded, obviously). It’s a much, much tougher card to find.

The card, from the rare Series 8 of the T210 set, shows Jackson without any equipment and pictures him with his New Orleans Pelicans uniform. He spent nearly all of 1910 with them in the Southern Association. There, he showed tremendous potential, hitting .354 with the club before he would be called up to the majors for good.

Like I said, the rarity is what drives the price of it. You hardly ever see this card and even in low-grade condition, it almost always sells for more than $100,000.

While it may not be his true rookie card, there’s no doubt that the T210 Old Mill Jackson is the more elite card.

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