A 1911 photograph of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson signed by the baseball star himself sold for $1.47 million at auction this week. It's the most anyone has ever paid for a signed sports photograph, per The Associated Press and ESPN. And it is the only known Jackson-signed photograph of himself in existence, the auction house said.
The photograph was taken by Frank W. Smith and was part of a Christie's and Hunt Auctions collection in New York titled, "Extra Innings: A Private Collection of Important Baseball Memorabilia." It's an 8-by-10 inch matte finish image showing Jackson at the end of his throwing motion. The photo was taken in Alexandria, Louisiana, in March 1911, the auction site said.
An #auctionrecord for any signed sports photograph was set for an exceedingly scarce and important 1911 "Shoeless" Joe Jackson-autographed photo by Frank W. Smith which sold for $1,470,000, far exceeding the estimate of $200,000-400,000. @HuntAuctions https://t.co/MF5ay34oiU pic.twitter.com/pePqvupClf
— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) October 7, 2021
It last sold in 2015 via Heritage Auctions for $179,250 and Christie's estimated it to go for $200,000-$400,000. It is an increase of 720% in six years.
Joe Jackson autographs are rare
Autographed versions of Jackson photos are nearly nonexistent, as described by the auction house in the listing.
Jackson's labored and primitive signature formation is immediately recognizable due to his inability to formally read or write. As a result of Jackson's relative illiteracy there are scant few authentic examples of his autograph known to exist. To date, the offered Jackson signed image is the lone surviving example of any type.
Jackson's wife signed for him after his playing days ended. Mike Heffner, president and partner at Lelands Auctions, told ESPN in May that Jackson's signature alone on a scrap piece of paper is worth $50,000 to $100,000. The signature on the photo is rated 9 out of 10 and the piece itself is a MINT 9.
Jackson was banned from baseball for life in 1921 even though he was acquitted in the 1919 Black Sox game-fixing scandal.
The collection also included a bat used by Babe Ruth to hit eight home runs that sold for $1.05 million. A 1925 postcard autographed by Lou Gehrig sold for $687,500. And a 1952 handwritten letter from Joe DiMaggio to Marilyn Monroe went for $525,000.