Nap Lajoie was an early member of the Hall of Fame and is considered by many to be the greatest player in the history of the Cleveland Indians franchise. The Nap Lajoie cards highlighted here are some of his best options. However, the majority of these cards are from the early 20th century, making them difficult to track down and expensive to acquire.
Napoleon Lajoie, nicknamed "The Frenchman," spent his career playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics and the Cleveland Naps, which is the current Cleveland Indians franchise. At the turn of the century, he was the star of the upstart American League and spent most years battling Ty Cobb for the batting title. Lajoie would win a total of five batting titles, eventually becoming the third player to reach the 3,000-hit mark behind fellow Hall of Famers Cap Anson and Honus Wagner. He was also part of the Hall of Fame's second class of players, entering Cooperstown in 1937 with Cy Young and Tris Speaker.
Most of the Nap Lajoie cards were produced during his active playing career along with a few decades proceeding his retirement, which is known as the "Pre-War" era. While Nap Lajoie does not have an official rookie card, many collectors treat his 1902 Sporting Life Cabinet cards as the preferred choice.
There have been several "Post-War" Nap Lajoie cards produced, as well, with his vintage and modern cards being much easier to find and far less expensive than his Pre-War cards. Collectors just starting a collection of Nap Lajoie cards can find affordable and widely-available options from these eras.
Do you have any treasured Nap Lajoie cards in your collection? Let us know in the comments.
Top 10 Nap Lajoie Baseball Cards
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10. 1967 Venezuela Topps Retirado Napoleon Lajoie #159
The 1967 Venezuela Topps Retirado set is the second of three series that the card giant produced in the South American country that year. The Retirado line features a wide array of former Major League stars and players who had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The cards have a distinctive appearance with a blue background and a sepia player photo. In addition, the bottom of the card is stamped "Retirado" in red print. The overall quantity of Nap Lajoie cards produced after World War II has been small, but this Venezuelan card is one of the best options. Although they can be tough cards to find in good condition, there are still a decent number on the secondary market if you are patient.
9. 1910-11 M116 Sporting Life Nap Lajoie
In 1910, Sporting Life began a redemption program for baseball cards in order to boost their readership over rival Sporting News. Each week, collectors were offered the chance at 12 different baseball cards. The promotion ran a total of 24 weeks and produced nearly 400 baseball cards including variations. Similar to other issues from this era, the Sporting Life Nap Lajoie card featured a color photo of the baseball player with a vivid background and a white border around the edge of the card. Sometimes the M116 cards can be mistaken for the T206 cards, but the writing at the bottom is different and the colors are more muted on the Sporting Life cards.
8. 1919 W514 Nap Lajoie #62
The diminutive W514 set featured strip cards sold at grocery and candy stores. Collectors can still find uncut strips, but it is much more common to find them as hand-cut singles. The fact that they are hand-cut means that they are condition-sensitive. This causes the W514 prices to vary greatly. One notable quirk about the card is that it was made post-retirement and identifies Lajoie as a player on the Cleveland Indians. The franchise had adopted that nickname by the time this card was printed in 1919, but not while Lajoie was playing for the team.
7. 1903 E107 Breisch-Williams Nap Lajoie
The Breisch-Williams Nap Lajoie card is a key early card of the Hall of Fame second baseman. It might also be one of the toughest cards on this list to track down. Breisch-Williams was a Pennsylvania-based confectionery company that produced this single baseball card set. They were likely given out with a purchase of one of the company's candies. The exact quantity of these cards is unknown and they are very difficult to locate, especially in good condition.
Breisch-Williams cards also featured advertisements on the back that factor into the rarity. Copies with blank backs or the phrase "one of one hundred and fifty prominent Baseball players," are easier to find than copies with a Breisch-Williams logo.
6. 1911 T201 Mecca Double Folders Nap Lajoie/Cy Falkenberg
The 1911 T201 Mecca Double Folders cards were inserted into the packs of cigarettes by the American Tobacco Company. The checklist featured 100 players on 50 different cards, which could be folded to draw focus to either player on the card. Two design elements made this an innovative product. The first was the fold-down layout, an idea that Topps would later use for the 1955 Doubleheader cards. Second, the Mecca Double Folders featured player stats on the back of the card, which was a rarity at this time.
Collectors looking for this card should keep in mind that creases are acceptable wear, and are generally not penalized during grading unless there is tearing or separation along the fold. Lajoie's card paired him with teammate Cy Falkenberg.
5. 1911 T3 Turkey Red Nap Lajoie #23
1911 T3 Turkey Red is another favorite for collectors of Pre-War baseball cards. They are not technically cabinet cards, but the thick oversized cardboard stock of this product resembles other cards in that category. Coupons for the Turkey Red cards were placed in three different brands of cigarettes that collectors could redeem for a card of their choice. Lajoie appeared in the more popular first series, which features numerous Hall of Famers, including Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Cy Young. The Turkey Red Nap Lajoie card is a true work of art with a great picture of him in his uniform contrasted by the warm and cool hues of orange and green in the background.
4. 1914 Cracker Jacks Nap Lajoie #66
Cracker Jack sets offer some of the most distinctive gum and candy cards from the Pre-War era. The red backgrounds and color drawings make them easy for collectors of any era to identify. Larger than the standard tobacco or caramel card (at 2 1/4" x 3"), Cracker Jack cards were inserted into boxes of the popular snack. Lajoie appeared in both Cracker Jack sets, which ran in 1914 and 1915. The 1914 card for the Cleveland Naps is tougher to find and often considered a more desirable card. His 1915 Cracker Jack card is actually very similar, but with two exceptions. For this later issue, the jersey is blank and the team name at the bottom is the Philadelphia Athletics.
3. 1909-11 T206 Nap Lajoie (3 cards)
The T206 cards were produced by the American Tobacco Company and distributed across numerous brands of cigarettes and loose tobacco. The set is sometimes referred to as the "White Border Set" due to the frame around the beautiful color lithograph of the player. The cards are the standard tobacco size (1 7/16" by 2 5/8"), so they are smaller than the modern baseball card.
Providing some choices, Nap Lajoie is featured on three different T206 tobacco cards. The first two are portrait-style cards. Collectors often distinguish these by referring to whether or not he is pictured with the bat. The third Lajoie T206 card shows the Hall of Famer throwing the ball.
All three issues are very popular with tobacco card collectors, but the card backs can determine the true scarcity of the T206s depending on the advertisement. Card backs with advertisements from brands like Piedmont and Sweet Caporal are very common, while backs featuring Ty Cobb Tobacco or Uzit Cigarettes are very difficult to find and will cost more.
2. 1902 Sporting Life Cabinet Cards Napoleon Lajoie #337 and #338
Sporting Life offered readers the opportunity to purchase cabinet cards starting in 1902, with the promotion running for nearly a decade before ending in 1911. The oversized cards (5" x 7 1/2") were actually photos mounted on thick cardboard. The cardboard gave the appearance of a player photo being surrounded by a faux frame. Like all players featured in the Sporting Life Cabinet set, Nap Lajoie has two cards.
One card shows him as the player-manager of the Cleveland American League Club, complete with a photo of him in his uniform. The other Lajoie card has him in his street clothes and only acknowledges him as a player with Cleveland. Both cards are equally desirable with collectors.
1. 1933 Goudey Napoleon "Larry" Lajoie #106
The 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie card is one of the true holy grails of the baseball card hobby, often placed in the same category as the T206 Honus Wagner. This card is extraordinarily difficult to find as it was not included with the rest of the 1933 cards. Instead, collectors had to contact the manufacturer and request the card via mail the following year (in 1934). Copies were also given to collectors registering a complaint with the company.
The elusive 1993 Goudey card often has various condition issues due to the fact that it was distributed through the mail. The card was frequently paper clipped to the return letter, as seen via the indentation in the top corner for many copies. This card naturally has a very steep price tag, but if you like the looks of it, there are always reprints available that are inexpensive.