We prefer his more common nickname: Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio; it has such a nice ring, a rhythm and even the rhyme of his first and last names. But DiMaggio, as noted on his 1936 World Wide Gum Co. card, had another nickname, albeit a lesser-known one: “Deadpan Joe.”
DiMaggio wasn’t known for having a smiling, bubbly effervescence. In fact, some considered him to be a bit dour. More than anything, though, he was a serious, straightforward guy. And, he could hit. The Yankees center fielder batted .325 with 389 homers during his 13-year career. And he gave up three prime seasons to serve in World War II; during those years, 1943 through 1945, he turned 28, 29 and 30 years old.
The photograph on the front of DiMaggio’s 1936 World Wide Gum card shows a seriousness in his eyes to go along with a sort of pursed look on his lips. It’s classic Joe, and it reflects the fact that he got right to business as a major-leaguer. In 1936, his rookie season, he batted .323 with 44 doubles, 15 triples, 29 homers, 132 runs scored and 125 RBI. (Imagine the impact he’d have made in fantasy baseball.)
World Wide Gum cards were issued in Canada, so you’ll see both English- and French-language biographical material on the reverse. In DiMaggio’s case, we find a mention of the 61-game hitting streak he accomplished in the minor leagues in 1933. Eight years later, in 1941, he’d set a major-league record with his still-standing 56-game hitting streak.
Last time in this space, our Top 10 list showed a 1936 DiMaggio World Wide Gum card that sold for $20,109 on 45 bids. The card had been graded only PSA 3, but its scarcity pushed it to that high price. As seller PWCC Auctions noted, it’s “difficult to put into words the importance and sheer rarity of this offering.”
At press time, another seller listed a PSA 3 example of the 1936 DiMaggio card for $25,000. Still another listed an SGC 84 at—hold onto your hat—$95,500. Both were Buy It Now deals with “Make Offer” options.
Just to prove Joe DiMaggio wasn’t always serious, we’ll give you a look at a smiling Yankees Clipper. The cover of the September 1949 issue of Sport magazine shows a relaxed and comfortable Joe D. giving the photographer a million-dollar smile.
The photographer, by the way, was Ozzie Sweet, who (by way of full disclosure) collaborated on two books with your “Online Auctioneer” columnist. Sweet’s signature style—warm but heroic-looking portraits of top athletes—graced Sport covers from the late 1940s through the 1970s. Today, those old magazines often can be had for $25 to $100 (sometimes more), depending on the featured athlete and, of course, condition.
OUR TOP 10 ALL-STAR HOOPS SQUAD
You’ll see lots of basketball within (and just outside) our Top 10 list this time out—enough that we can field an impressive starting team.
• G Michael Jordan: At the 2-guard spot, you can’t do better than MJ. Indeed, he appears in our No. 1 slot; a 1997-98 Upper Deck signed Game Jersey card graded BGS 8 sold for almost $100,000. Jordan also shows up in our No. 9 and No. 10 spots for his first Star and Fleer cards. Jordan’s career numbers: 30.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game.
• G Jerry West: At point guard, how about the reliable, efficient and productive West? A top-notch specimen of the Lakers legend’s rookie card—a 1961-62 Fleer card—fetched $23,989. It had been graded PSA 9. West’s career numbers: 27.0 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game and 6.7 assists per game.
• C Bill Russell: Russell’s rookie card is one of the hobby’s holy grails. Our Top 10 chart features not one, but two Russell rooks—one graded PSA 8 ($22,384), the other PSA 7 ($19,302). Wilt Chamberlain may have had better stats, but nobody won like Russell, his arch-nemesis. In his 13 seasons as the Celtics’ center, Russell won 11 titles. Russell’s career numbers: 15.1 points per game, 22.5 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game.
• F Kobe Bryant: Our small forward is Kobe Bryant, whose Topps Chrome 1996-97 rookie card has been on the rise in the hobby. In November, we saw a PSA 10 example sell for $19,656, putting it at No. 7 on our list. Bryant’s career numbers: 25.0 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game and 4.7 assists per game.
• F Elgin Baylor: We round out our starting five with Lakers legend Baylor, whose 1961-62 Fleer rookie sits just outside our Top 10 (see below). A clean and impressive PSA 9 specimen of the card brought $17,709, giving us the prototypical power forward. Wouldn’t it have been fun to watch Elgin team up with Kobe in the Lakers’ frontcourt? Baylor’s career numbers: 27.4, 13.5 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game.
ON THE OUTSIDE
We already touched on one of the items that just missed our Top 10 chart: the Elgin Baylor rookie mentioned above. Others that fell short include Tom Brady, Ben Simmons and Mike Trout cards.
• $17,709: 1961-62 Fleer Elgin Baylor (PSA 9)
• $16,900: 2000 Upper Deck SP Authentic Tom Brady (PSA 10)
• $16,300: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Basketball sealed hobby box (PWCC)
• $15,900: 2016-17 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Ben Simmons (PSA 10)
• $14,200: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Refractor, auto (PSA 10)
MJ BIDDING WAR
Never mind his Fleer rookie card; how about Michael Jordan’s 1997-98 Upper Deck Game Jersey card? Featuring a patch from his All-Star jersey along with his distinctive autograph, the card was issued in an edition of 23. When a BGS 8 example of the card landed on eBay in November, it inspired 93 bids, sending the price soaring to $94,630. (For that money, you could buy around four PSA 10 Jordan Fleer rookies—and have a little change left!)
LEBRON AND MICHAEL
Speaking of hoops legends, an Upper Deck insert favorite from its 2006-07 set featured both Michael Jordan and LeBron James on a double-signed card. The Dual Exquisite Number Pieces issue bearing the autographs of both hoops heroes was issued in an edition of 23. In November, we saw #11 from the run sell for $14,200. The card was ungraded but appeared to be in at least Near-Mint condition, judging by the seller’s photographs.
LeBron James appears solo on a card that sold for almost as much in November: his 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic. A bidder spent $14,109 for the card, which was numbered 148 in a 500 card edition. The item had been graded 9.5 by BGS.