Any list of the best Joe DiMaggio baseball cards begins on the west coast, where he first showed up on regional issues while in the minor leagues. His career ended before the arrival of Topps so his ‘card history’ is as interesting as his career.
DiMaggio was a bit of a risk. One of the most talented young players in the Pacific Coast League in 1934, he tore ligaments going to his sister’s house for dinner one night and big league scouts who’d been drooling over him weren’t sure what the future held.
Yankees’ scout Bill Essick persisted and after DiMaggio passed a physical test of his knee, the Yankees bought his services from his hometown San Francisco Seals on November 21, 1934. The price? $25,000 and five players. Safe to say, it was a dandy investment.
The deal allowed DiMaggio to stay in San Francisco for the 1935 season and he didn’t disappoint, winning the PCL MVP award. He joined the Yankees in May of 1936 at age 21 and stayed in the big leagues until the early 1950’s.
DiMaggio baseball cards begin with the rare Zeenuts cards issued in California during his time with the Seals (his name misspelled “DeMaggio”). One has him in a throwing motion while the other shows him taking a swing. The cards were originally issued with coupons on the bottom and those that still have it carry a premium.
In 1936, he was also on the World Wide Gum set, issued in Canada. In ’37, Canadian collectors would find him on O-Pee-Chee and he appeared on the backs of Wheaties boxes in the US.
The 1938 Goudey, with its “heads atop cartoon bodies” is another early DiMaggio issue.
The Play Ball sets of 1939,’40 and ’41 probably offer the best examples of DiMaggio cardboard. The ’39 is black and white but has a nice image of a smiling Joe D while the 1941 brings gorgeous color to the table and is one of DiMaggio’s best looking cards.
Memorabilia and cut signature cards issued in recent years aren’t lost on collectors either, often selling for impressive sums.
His potential was hard to fathom when he first arrived. No one could have imagined fans saying “Ruth, Gehrig…and DiMaggio” in the same sentence. And it’s hard not to imagine what he must have felt when he put his name on that Yankees contract back in November of 1934.
Below is a real-time list of the most watched Joe DiMaggio baseball cards on eBay right now.