Sarah Berge

Signed 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson Photo sells for over a million

It may not have been in Iowa, but it certainly was heaven for one collector who sold a signed Joe Jackson photo for over a million dollars. I know that we usually cover sports cards in these blogs, but I thought that since we’ve talked about Shoeless Joe in previous posts, this story may interest some of our fellow sports enthusiasts and collectors.


As we’ve covered in the past, Joe Jackson is one of the sports’ most controversial baseball players/athletes because of his alleged involvement with the 1917 World Series Scandal, where he and the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the game to the Cincinnati Reds. This controversy would follow Jackson through the rest of his career and until his death in 1951. Even though no formal charges were brought against him, Shoeless Joe would live with the stain of suspicion and even be kept out of the MLB Hall of Fame. This should sound familiar to passionate collectors and baseball history buffs. Or, you may just love the movie ‘Field of Dreams’, which is cool, too.


As I’ve stated in the past, controversy equals value when it comes to sports figures and their memorabilia. That notion remains true even to this day, as a rare piece of baseball history was sold just recently...and it has Shoeless Joe’s name all over it. 

Shoeless Joe Jackson Photo

The image above is a photo that was taken of Shoeless Joe back in 1911 when he was playing for the Cleveland Indians. This was before his time with the Sox and the controversy that would come with it. This is the same photo that was just auctioned off for $1.47 million, which is a new record for a sports photograph. Once you know the story behind this particular photo, you’ll understand why it is so valuable.


Again, controversy is always a driving factor, but there’s more to it than that in this case. The fact is, finding an actual photo (instead of a card) with a candid shot of Shoeless Joe Jackson on it is no easy task, especially a signed photo. Yes, Joe Jackson himself signed his name across the photo and even dated it as well. This came from a man who could barely read or write, which was pretty common back in those days.


The image was captured by a photographer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer named Frank Smith, who took shots of all the players on the team as they were practicing. Remember, this was 100 years ago, so having a photo taken during practices was a big deal. Smith also requested that each player sign the photo that they were captured in. Although Shoeless wasn’t really one for publicity, Smith was able to get him to sign the photo, not knowing just how much it would be worth 100 years later.


Of course, Jackson’s family has photos of him and some signed documents of his as well, but no one has ever been able to find a signed photo. Cards are a different story. A photo is more personal and candid than an actual card. Many, including Christie’s and Hunt Auctions (the company that auctioned the card), agree that this may be the one and only signed photo of Shoeless Joe. 


Now, if you look at the photo, you’ll see that it actually resembles a card and has even been graded by PSA, a known card grading company. If you look closely at the top of the image, you’ll notice a little red square, where PSA indicates that the photo has been given a MINT 9 grade, meaning that the photo itself is in mint condition. 


With all of these factors to consider, you can see just how someone can be compelled to pay $1.4 million for a photo like this. Whoever the buyer and the seller are, both parties walked away from the sale with a smile. Since this may be the only signed photograph of Shoeless Joe, as so many believe, the buyer could potentially be sitting on a unique piece of history that’s worth twice or perhaps three times as much 50 years from now. Who knows, with a photo as rare as this, the possibilities and the price tag are limitless!


Until we meet again,

Vince The Prince

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