While they weren’t found in packs of bubble gum or other consumer edibles, they are gradeable–and very rare. The 1960 Hemmets Journal Cassius Clay represents the first known trading card-like image of the man who would become a global icon.
One of the six rated 8 is up for auction via Memory Lane with a current high bid of just under $3,000. One of the two graded PSA 9 is on eBay. The owner of the 9 is Bob Lapides, a New York collector who has placed a lofty $1 million price tag on it.
The Hemmets Journal Clay shows him as a U.S. Olympic boxing champion. The back is printed in Swedish and calls him “the elegant 18-year-old Kentucky Negro, who won light heavy weight in Rome.” Hemmets Journal is a Swedish magazine that has been publishing since the 1920s. The name means “Journal of the Home”.
The “cards” were printed on thin, glossy paper and physically cut from the page. The image below shows the “before” picture with Clay/Ali, Wilma Rudolph, Swedish racewalker John Ljunggren and Danish soccer star Harald Nielsen. PSA grades both the hand cut singles and full quadrant of four images. The individual cards are labeled as “hand cut” on the grading company’s label. In all, fewer than 100 Hemmet’s Journal Clays have been graded by PSA. The other PSA 9 is owned by former NFL receiver Brandon Stokley, an avid collector of Ali.
In addition to the Ali, Lapides says he also owns a couple of other “pre-rookie cards” issued in Europe including:
- Three of the five highest graded 1958 Alifabolaget Pele Rookie cards MINT PSA 9 (Sweden)
- One of the two highest graded 1968 Mira Tuttosport Lew Alcindor Rookie cards NM-MT PSA 8 (Italy).