The emergence of a signed Joe Jackson photo gained national attention Monday with the Associated Press offering coverage to news outlets around the world.
The 8″x 10″ photo, said to date from 1911, comes from the personal collection of early Cleveland Plain Dealer photographer Frank W. Smith. According to Heritage Auctions, the consignor’s husband purchased it, along with dozens of other baseball photos, from acquaintances of the Smith family for $15,000 five years ago, not realizing the potential historic importance—or value.
They will be part of the company’s upcoming Platinum Night sale on February 21 in New York. Heritage says the Jackson photo could sell for well into six figures. As of late Monday, bidding was over $52,000 including the buyer’s premium.
PSA/DNA authenticated the photos and the autographs, first determining they dated to the time frame and then turning its attention to Jackson’s autograph, which they say matched known examples and had the proper characteristics of an original signature. It isn’t known exactly when the photograph was signed.
Jackson was unable to write much more than his name and rarely did. The auction listing states that it was Smith who added the inscription, “Alexandria, Mar. 1911” below.
The back contains remnants of the album in which it was stored at each corner.
Heritage officials say Smith shot the Jackson photo at spring training 104 years ago when Cleveland trained in Alexandria, Louisiana. Other signed photos include Hall of Fame icons Nap Lajoie and Christy Mathewson..
According to the AP, Cleveland area resident Bill Bowen bought them with no intention of turning a profit. Bowen died recently and his wife Sharon consigned them to auction, surprised, she says, they were so valuable. Bowen was a collector who appreciated baseball history, especially if it involved Cleveland area teams.
The photo shows a young Jackson, eight years before the Black Sox scandal that would result in a lifetime ban from baseball. That season, he batted over .400, the only rookie ever to do so.
The Lajoie and Mathewson photographs are also being solid separately in the auction. Bidding on the Mathewson photograph, signed “Yours Truly” had surpassed $31,000 as of late Monday. Mathewson autographed photos are also exceedingly rare.