A high-grade baseball card of one of sports' most iconic figures was consigned to an auction during this year's National Sports Collectors Convention.
Of the approximately 3700 different cards issued by a west coast candy company from 1911-1937, one stands out.
In 1922, Collins-McCarthy Candy Company of San Francisco included Jim Thorpe in its 162-card Zeenut issue. Thorpe was a famous Olympic athlete whose professional baseball career was winding down while he attempting to catch on with the brand new National Football League.
Thorpe is by far the biggest name in the annual sets of Pacific Coast League stars that started in 1911 and continued annually through 1937.
A very limited number of Thorpe cards are believed to still exist and it would appear as if none match the condition of a new discovery that has been consigned to Hunt Auctions' Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum Auction later this fall. The company received the consignment at last weekend's National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland and had the card on display. It's been graded SGC 70 (EX+). An SGC 20 Thorpe is currently for sale on eBay for $13,500.
"When you do see them, they're usually in very rough condition," company president David Hunt told Sports Collectors Daily. "This is a fresh-to-the-market example. that's not been offered before. In almost 20 years of doing this, we've had one. That was a 1.5 grade which brought over $20,000 about a year and a half ago so it's a very significant card."
Thorpe appeared on baseball cards earlier than 1922. He had made the Major Leagues several years before and showed up as early as the 1913 Colgan's Chips Tin Tops discs. However, the scarcity of the Zeenuts cards make this one an attractive target. Issued only in the western United States where the PCL thrived, the Zeenut sets are among the most rare minor league sets of all time.
"There are some other key players in those series over the years like Buck Weaver of the Black Sox and Joe DiMaggio when he was with the San Francisco Seals," Hunt explained. "Thorpe and DiMaggio are the gems of that entire issue."
An SGC 60 1922 Zeenut Thorpe sold for $32,249 in May of 2008. So what will it sell for this time?
"When you get these iconic cards that turn up, whether it's the Babe Ruth Baltimore News or the T206 Wagner on the top level, the (1933) Goudey Lajoie, that's one thing," said Hunt. "But when you get them in top grade like this, where they might actually be the best one out there, you can kind of toss the price guide out."