Rookie Card Year: 1902
Investment Rating: 9.0
Nap Lajoie was one of the kings of baseball's dead-ball era and the American League's first legitimate superstar. Nap Lajoie baseball cards command extraordinary sums, equal to those of other stars from his era including Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Joe Jackson.
Lajoie's debut in baseball came in 1896, he would play 21 seasons in the big leagues, most of them with the franchises in Philadelphia.
From 1905-1909, Lajoie held the role of player-manager for the Cleveland Naps. He complied a managerial record of 377-309. He was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the sophomore class of 1937. His career totals are certainly deserving of the honor. These are highlighted by a .338 lifetime batting average, 3,252 hits and 1,504 runs scored.
Nap Lajoie has an impressive portfolio of pre-war baseball cards that include cabinets, strip cards, candy and tobacco types. Vintage collectors wishing to pursue Lajoie's cards know that deep pockets are required as he is one of the most revered and valuable players of the era.
Top Nap Lajoie Cards
Lajoie's first recognized trading card hails from the 1902 Sporting Life Cabinet cards. Designated as W600 in the American Card Catalog, Lajoie has two cards in the set.
Several of the cards on his checklist, particularly the early part of his career include promotional food cards and regional releases. In addition, he has a major presence in early tobacco sets like T206.
The Sporting Life Cabinet cards are as popular today as they were in Lajoie's era. Measuring 5" by 7 1/2", they are ideal for framing. Featured in both street clothes (#337) and his uniform (#338), the cards were designed to give the impression of being matted with their two-tone borders. While both cards are extremely desirable, the one depicting him in his uniform is the more popular of the two.
A beautiful, early colorized sample, the E90 cards were produced by the American Caramel Company of Philadelphia, PA. The company released several such sets but the 1909 version is the one most cherished by the majority of pre-War collectors. The cards measure 1 1/2" by 1-3/4".
Nap Lajoie has three different cards within the T206 set. The cards are referred to as Portrait (#269), Throwing (#270) and With Bat (#271). To date, 26 different cards have been identified with various backs including American Beauty, Black Lenox, Broadleaf, Brown Hindu, Brown Lenox, Cycle, Drum, EPDG, Factory 42, Old Mill, Piedmont, Sweet Caporal, Polar Bear, Sovereign, Tolstoi, Red Hindu and UZIT.
Considered by most vintage and pre-war collectors to be the most beautiful cabinet cards ever produced, these tobacco premiums measure 5 3/4" by 8". These over-sized masterpieces were available in exchange for tobacco coupons issued with three specific brands, Turkey Red Cigarettes, Old Mill Cigarettes, or Fez Cigarettes. It is believed that approximately the same number of cards were printed for each player. The key to their value is condition. Being over-sized has made them difficult to preserve and high-grade copies are rarely found.
The 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack sets are two of the most iconic and easily recognizable sets of the pre-war era. Cards from the 1914 set are much more rare and more difficult to locate in higher-grade condition. This is the result of the 1915 cards being available as a complete set via mail-order. Additionally, while the majority of the cards within the two sets are identical, there are some exceptions and Lajoie is one of them. The first noticeable difference is the spelling of his name, which was corrected in the 1915 set. Also, Lajoie changed teams, moving from Cleveland back to Philadelphia. Not only is this noticeable on the bottom of the card, but "Cleveland" was erased from his jersey.
In one of the earliest known hobby gimmicks, Goudey played a cruel trick on collectors that earned the company sizable income and, eventually, some bad PR. People attempting to put the set together came to realize that Lajoie's card was almost impossible to find. The reason being is that it didn't exist. Goudey purposely excluded the card to drive sales. In 1934, the company issued the card to people who took the time to complain by writing them a letter. Today, the 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie is one of the rarest baseball cards in existence. It is considered to be one of the cards that collectors refer to as "The Big Three." The other two cards come from the T206 set, Honus Wagner and Eddie Plank.
2000 Upper Deck Legendary Cuts Nap Nap Lajoie #5
Just one copy of this card exists. It was one of a handful of cut signature cards included by the company of dead ball era players. To this day, there have been just under two dozen Nap Lajoie cut signature cards produced. When they appear on the secondary market, prices range from $2,500 to $5,000 or more.
2002 Topps Tribute Milestone Materials Nap Lajoie #NL Game-Used Bat #/14
In 2002, Topps, created the first Nap Lajoie memorabilia cards. A bat card has 14 numbered copies. There's also a one-of-one game-used jersey card. It is amazing to think that with the rarity of this card and the limited supply of authentic Nap Lajoie game-used bats that itcan be purchased for under $100.
Nap Lajoie Autograph Guide
When looking to purchase authentic autographed memorabilia from legendary and long deceased players like Nap Lajoie, great caution is urged. The Cardboard Connection only recommends buying authenticated Nap Lajoie signature autographs from one of the reputable authenticators in the industry, PSA or JSA. The most common items found to be authentically signed by Nap Lajoie are cut signatures. Trading cards that include a cut signature of Lajoie, from manufactures like Topps, Leaf, Tristar and Upper Deck should also be considered legitimate.
Nap Lajoie Cut Signature Pricing
For additional information on Nap Lajoie, including playing statistics and life off the field, be sure to visit: