His Olympic medals had been won—and then stripped. His football career was over. 1922 would also mark the final year of his professional baseball career. Jim Thorpe’s life wasn’t always easy after that but his remarkable athletic career is celebrated on one final trading card from his days as one of the 20th century’s greatest athletes. One of the two highest graded examples of Thorpe’s rare 1922 Zeenut Pacific Coast League baseball cards is now up for grabs.
SCP Auctions is offering the Thorpe card as part of its current catalog. It’s believed to be the first time a PSA-graded example has come to a major public auction. The card was once an SGC 80, according to consignor Justin Cornett.
Originally purchased in raw form 20 years ago, it was sold via Hunt Auctions in 2009 and later crossed to a PSA holder.
The Collins-McCarthy Candy Company issued cards featuring players from the PCL in conjunction with their Zeenut candy during a remarkable 28-year run. Nearly 4,000 different cards were issued over the years, mostly featuring players who are unknown to fans today. A very young Joe DiMaggio turned up in the 1930s and you’ll find Buck Weaver, too, but the Thorpe card’s scarcity and desirability are tough to top.
Thorpe had won Olympic gold in the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912, but was stripped of the titles because he had played minor league baseball during an era when the Olympics were strictly for amateurs. He signed with the New York Giants and played there from 1913-1919. At the same time, he was among the earliest pro football pioneers.
He joined the Portland Beavers in 1922 at age 35. The PCL was sort of a west coast major league and Thorpe showed at times that he could still hit, batting .305 in 35 games and Collins-McCarthy was likely thrilled to have the opportunity to put a player of national fame in its sets.
The Zeenut cards are generally found in rough condition, with the detachable tabs at the bottom often missing. That’s the case with the current card being offered by SCP but unlike many, the cut is clean. Its corners and back show very little wear, resulting in the ‘6’ grade. Only one other ’22 Zeenut Thorpe has been registered at that level and in all, fewer than 30 are believed to exist.
An SGC 20 Thorpe sold for over $10,000 via Robert Edward Auctions this spring, just below the current high bid for the PSA 6, which is expected to fetch $35,000 or more. The auction continues through August 20 at SCPAuctions.com.