The sport of baseball has been one of America's favorite sporting events ever since the diamond-shaped playing field swept across the nation. It didn't take long for many cities across the United States to assemble a team and sign up for Major League Baseball (MLB), then determine whether to join the American League (AL) or the National League (NL). For the Cleveland Indians, it was the American League when they first registered in 1901. Since then, they, along with the baseball cards to show for it, have been a solid fixture in professional baseball that has captured the hearts of fans, both local and from afar. Nowadays, the team goes by the name of Cleveland Guardians, but the rich history still remains the same.
Cleveland's baseball team has undergone a number of name changes and its 2021 change from Cleveland Indians to Cleveland Guardians came about due to controversies revolving around social-political issues that saw the team's name and mascot choice come into question by activists, despite the fact the chosen name was meant to honor, not discriminate. Originally, the team started out as the Cleveland Bluebirds, but it was too unpopular, so it became the Cleveland Naps, named after its team captain at the time, Nap Lajoie. However, when Lajoie left the team in 1914, the team's owner requested a new name. Due to the influence of the fans at that time, it became the Cleveland Indians. Now as the Cleveland Guardians, one of the oldest running teams in the league still strives to continue with a legacy that has made the 121-year old team into who and what they are today.
That legacy is also reflected on some of the team's most sought-after baseball cards, namely some of the rare collector's items that have seen a spike in its price tag as the hobby of collecting these cards is becoming popular again. Among the Cleveland Indians baseball cards, the one that stands out the most is the 1933 Goudey Lavoie card which has a rather interesting story that adds to its value and why collectors and hobbyists covet it so much. Although the year claims it's a 1933 card, it wasn't officially printed until 1934 as collectors noticed there was a card number of 106 missing from the 1933 deck. At the tie, collectors wanting that particular card had to request it by mail. According to Sports Collectors Daily, this was Goudey Lajoie's card. Interestingly enough, this particular baseball card came out after Lajoie had already retired from professional baseball for two decades already, yet his popularity was still so immense that when discerning card collectors noticed he was missing from the 1933 lineup, enough awareness was made about it that put it into distribution.
10. 1909-11 T206 Hand Shows Cy Young ($125,000 USD)
At a PSA-9 grade level, this baseball card typically goes for $125,000 USD due to its colorful beauty and rarity. While with the Cleveland Naps, Cy Young's pitching prowess on the diamond-shaped field served the team well. Overall, with 511 career wins as a pitcher, this meant the pitcher had to win twenty games per year for twenty-five years, plus an extra eleven just to match Young's impressive record. Young completed 749 games and pitched a total of 7,354 innings. Both of these are Major League Baseball's all-time high records. The rare caliber of Young's talent is met with the rarity of this particular baseball card, which is why only the fortunate few have it.
9. 1933 Goudey Napoleon Lajoie #106 PSA Mint 9 ($190,000 USD)
The 1933 edition of the Goudey Napolean Lajoie #106 baseball card comes from the ninety-five Lajoie cards that were printed in 1934 when collectors of the 1933 season's roster of baseball cards saw there was a number 105 and a number 107, but no number 106. Napolean Lajoie was the missing card, which was printed on the 1934 sheet and offered only by mail. Despite Lajoie's popularity, it seemed baseball collectors at that time felt it was too inconvenient to receive the card by mail. Only a few bothered. If it wasn't for one zealous card collector who wrote to the Goudey Gum Co. about the missing card, it never would have been printed nor distributed.
8. 1910 T210 Old Mill Joe Jackson ($199,750 USD)
In the spring of 2011, a PSA-3.5 graded 2010 baseball card of Shoeless Joe Jackson was auctioned off by Robert Edward Auctions for $199,750 USD. Already rare at the time these were first made, the rarity and desirability of these cards are even greater now. It is the only tobacco card featuring Joe Jackson and although he was only a minor leaguer at the time, he became one of the stars of the Cleveland Indians before the Black Box scandal abruptly ended his professional career in major league baseball.
7. 1909-11 T206 White Border Cy Young (Portrait) ($225,000 USD)
A PSA-9 graded baseball card featuring the portrait of the pitcher of the Cleveland Naps, Cy Young, typically fetches the asking price of $225,000 USD, at least according to its website. The era from 1909 to 1911 saw a limited production run of Cy Young with Cleveland while the team still sported the Naps name.
6. 1933 PSA-9 Goudey Napolean Lajoie #106 ($228,000 USD)
Sold in 2016 for $228,000 USD, a PSA 9 graded 1933 Goudey Napolean Lajoie baseball card made big news at the time it happened. During the height of Napolean Lajoie's career, when the Cleveland Indians started off with the team name of Bluebirds, this was not popular among the fans. Instead, the team was called the Cleveland Naps as Napolean Lajoie was not just the team's star player, but a major league baseball icon. The 1933 edition of the Napolean Lajoie baseball card is one of the most counterfeited, as well as the 1933 Babe Ruth printouts that were featured on the exact same sheet before they were officially cut into cards in 1934.
5. 1914 Cracker Jack Joe Jackson ($300,000 USD)
In 1914, Cracker Jack placed baseball cards inside their product without protection. The result saw caramel stained baseball cards, an error the company rectified in 1915. However, this hasn't stopped the value of Shoeless Joe Jackson's baseball card prints from spiking in value over the years. Because of its rarity, as well as the very name of Shoeless Joe, this baseball card is one of those must-haves by enthusiastic collectors who think $200,000 USD for it is a bargain. Prior to the Black Box scandal that ended Jackson's short-lived baseball career in the majors, he was one of the star players. Not only did the Cleveland Indians benefit from his World Series contributions, but so did the entire league.
4. 1915 Cracker Jack Joe Jackson ($350,000 USD)
Considered as one of Shoeless Joe Jackson's most attractive and popular baseball cards, this 1915 edition served as a higher-end issue of its 1914 predecessor that has the exact same image. The 1914 editions were pulled directly from the box, usually having caramel stains on them. The 1915 edition was part of a redemption program that saw a much cleaner product that can better preserve its condition. At a PSA-9 grade level, this card is priced at $350,000 USD, at least for now.
3. 1933 Goudey Napoleon Lajoie #106 PSA Mint 9 ($420,000 USD)
This 1933 Goudey Napolean Lajoie baseball card has the current owner asking at least $420,000 USD for it, based on the most recent auction bid that was placed on it. Overall, there were only eighty-seven of these Lajoie baseball cards ever submitted to PSA and only nine of them have a PSA-9 rating, which means it's as mint condition as it gets as there are none that are at the Gem Mint 10 level. These Lajoie cards came out during the timing of the Bubble Gum era and have recently become a rising star in the world of baseball card trading.
2. 1948 PSA-8 Leaf Satchel "Leroy" Paige ($432,000 USD)
In 1948 and 1949, Satchel "Leroy" Paige played as a forty-two-year-old rookie for the Cleveland Indians saw this pitcher become the oldest signed rookie in the history of Major League Baseball. Although Paige only played one season for the Indians, the impression he made during that time was a big one. Already with one of the most intriguing stories for a major league baseball player, fans and collectors see the rookie baseball card of Leroy Paige as one of the most prized items to possess. During a November 2018 auction, the PS-8 graded baseball card featuring the talented pitcher sold for $432,000 USD. Paige was credited for his unique pitching style that helped the Cleveland Indians win the World Series against the Boston Braves.
1. 1910 T210 Old Mill Joe Jackson PSA 3.5 VG+ ($600,000 USD)
In 1917, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was a World Series champion while he was part of the Cleveland Indians roster. The infamous Black Box scandal that ended his professional ballplayer career still remains as one of those epic tales that are as Hollywood-worthy as it gets. Before all this, however, Joe Jackson's legacy as one of the most gifted baseball players ever to grace the field can still outweigh the scandalous stories against him that brought his career to an abrupt end. In 1910, before becoming a Cleveland Indian, he played for the New Orleans Pelicans, the minor league team that belonged to what was the Cleveland Naps at the time. This baseball card is an extreme rarity, and one of the most coveted items for collectors. Even at a less than impressive PSA rating of only 3.5, the fact it could fetch a price of $600,000 USD is amazing. Any form of memorabilia revolving around Shoeless Joe is highly sought after, no matter what it is, for as long as it's authentic.
Written by Dana Hanson
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