Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie isn’t always thought of in the same light as some of the more recognized names in baseball history – with players such as Ruth, Mantle, Mays, Cobb, and Wagner grabbing all the attention.
However, when it comes down to great ballplayers, Lajoie most certainly fits the bill, and I think that vintage baseball card collectors sometimes overlook Lajoie’s baseball cards.
Lajoie was one of the best second basemen ever to play the game, even garnering more HOF votes in 1937 than fellow ballplayers Cy Young and Tris Speaker.
Here, I take a look at the top baseball cards of Nap Lajoie, providing collectors with more information on the cards, along with overall investment potential and scarcity.
A Look Back At The Career Of Nap Lajoie
Napoleon Lajoie was born on September 5th, 1874 in the small town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
He got his start with the Philadelphia Phillies at the age of 21, and in just his second year in the big leagues, he led the league in slugging percentage.
He played for several Major League teams and is credited with being one of the best second baseman to ever play baseball.
Nap Lajoie is a player that most fans of the game have never heard of. However, he was one of the best players in baseball and deserves to be remembered as such. He played for twenty-one seasons and had over three thousand hits with a batting average of .338 during his career.
"Lajoie was one of the most rugged hitters I ever faced. He'd take your leg off with a line drive, turn the third baseman around like a swinging door and powder the hand of the left fielder." - Cy Young.
He won five batting titles and batted an unbelievable .426 in 1901, although some say that he likely benefited, as the foul-strike rule had not yet been implemented.
Lajoie was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937, receiving the most votes, among a class that included Cy Young and Tris Speaker.
Our Top Picks - Nap Lajoie Cards
Best Budget Card: 1911 T201 Mecca Double Folders
Best Long Term Investment: 1909-11 T206 Portrait
Best Buy (If Money Is No Object): W600 Sporting Life Cabinets
Twenty Best Nap Lajoie Baseball Cards
1900 M101-1 Sporting News - Napoleon Lajoie
These oversized paper photo cards measure 8x10 and were issued as a supplement for readers of the Sporting News.
This is considered to be the first issued collectible for Napoleon Lajoie, but most collectors would be hesitant to call it a 'rookie card'.
Still it is highly collectible and quite rare, especially hard to find in good condition, due to the frailty of the paper.
1902 W600 Sporting Life Cabinets - Napoleon Lajoie (Street Clothes and Uniform cards)
The W600 Sporting Life Cabinets issue was issued continuously from 1902 through 1911 and feature black and white photos of players on thick cardboard, measuring 5" by 7-1/2". Many of the early cards show the players in street clothes, however, later issues feature players primarily in their uniforms.
Lajoie has two cards in the set, one in street clothes, and shown above and one in uniform, as shown below. Note this is the same image used in the infamous T206 set, along with several later baseball card issues.
There are notably four 'types' of the W600 cards, which are differentiated by the bottom border of the cards. More on this from PSA's website.
W600 cards in general are quite rare; PSA has graded only 278 cards from the entire 600+ card set. Lajoie's card in either variation is extremely rare and has fetched significant value at any auction.
Here's an extremely rare green mount variation that sold for $60,000 back in 2017 at auction.
1903 E107 Breisch-Williams - Nap Lajoie
The 1903 Breisch-Williams set is a landmark set and is considered to be the first major baseball card set of the 20th century.
The cards are also super rare, with PSA grading ~200 cards out of the entire 159 card set.
The Lajoie E107 card comes up for auction every now and then, but given the scarcity hard to say what value one might bring in today's market.
1906 Fan Craze WG2 - Nap Lajoie
The 1906 Fan Craze set was issued by Cincinnati’s Fan Craze Company and featured 51 cards from players across the American and National leagues. The set was issued with a game board and served as a table game for baseball fans.
Note that the American League set of which Lajoie is a part of, is designated in the American Card Catalog as WG-2, whereas the National League set is catalogued as WG-3.
PSA has graded 30 of the Lajoie Fan Craze cards, making it, at least a bit more accessible than some of his earlier issues.
1909 E92 Dockman/Croft's/Nadja #21 - Nap Lajoie
The E92 caramel card issue of Lajoie is a great pose and differentiated from many of the repeated portrait poses of Lajoie throughout the early 1900s. The E92 issue was issued with three different advertising backs, from Dockman & Sons, Nadja Caramels and Croft's Candy.
Note that many of the early caramel cards utilized the same images, so while I note E92 here, the same Lajoie pose on a nearly identical card can be found across several sets. These include the E102 Anonymous and E101 Anonymous issues, along with the E105 Mello Mint set.
1909 E90-1 American Caramel #67 - Nap Lajoie
The E90-1 set is often referred to as the 'Caramel Monster' for its larger size (118 cards), star power, and fairly easy availability.
The E90-1 American Caramel Nap Lajoie card features a different portrait than the common portrait of Lajoie used across several other cards.
The card is not rare, but I wouldn't exactly call the supply plentiful, but scarce enough to make it a solid longer term investment.
1909 W555 Strip Card Nap Lajoie #41
Smaller, square cards that were cut from the bottom of a box of 'Base Ball Snap Shots', believed to have been issued by Jay S. Meyer Confectioners of Philadelphia. (source).
The card images closely resemble many of the early caramel issues, such as those in the those in the E93, E94, E97 and E98 sets, also confirming the likelihood of a candy relationship.
PSA has graded only 8 of the Lajoie W555 cards, however these cards don't really seem to get a lot of love in the hobby; they are somewhat ugly after all.
1909 T206 White Borders (Portrait) - Nap Lajoie
Probably the most recognizable Napoleon Lajoie card of all, the T206 White Borders Lajoie Portrait is the most sought after, even despite a fairly plentiful supply. PSA has graded over 850 copies, and lower grade copies can sometimes be found for under $1000.
1909 T206 White Borders (With Bat) - Nap Lajoie
Note that Nap Lajoie has three cards in the T206 set, this being the 'Lajoie With Bat' card. It's an awesome image, showing Lajoie in full Cleveland uniform, with a sunset background common on many of the nicer looking T206 cards.
Note that among the three Lajoie cards in the set, this one has the lowest graded population, however, the Portrait Lajoie still tends to sell at a higher price than the others.
1909 T206 White Borders - Nap Lajoie (Throwing)
Another great card from the T206 set, this one is known at the "Lajoie Throwing" card. For anyone looking to sink their teeth into a playing day Lajoie card, this one is a good choice. It's the lowest cost Lajoie in the T206 set, and a lower grade copy can be found for under $1000.
1910 E98 Anonymous 'Set of 30' - Nap Lajoie
As is quite common across early pre-war cards, the image from the T206 card is replicated on this E98 Anonymous 'Set of 30' Lajoie card. The only change is the addition of an orange background. This is a fairly popular set, despite the anonymous issue, due to the massive star power across the thirty cards in the set. The same pose is also included on the E93 Standard Caramel issue.
1910 E96 Philadelphia Caramel - Nap Lajoie
What you'll also notice across many of the caramel issues is not only a reusing of images across various caramel sets but across some of the tobacco issues (namely the T206 white borders set) as well.
Here's one example where that is true, as the Nap Lajoie card from the E96 Philadelphia Caramels set is the same illustration used from the T206 Lajoie Portrait card, with some additional changes made such as some of the coloring on his face and his jersey.
1910 M116 Sporting News - Nap Lajoie
The Sporting News M116 issue is in my mind one of the more underappreciated pre-war sets. In addition, as you might notice, this is the same image used as on the aforementioned E96 Lajoie card.
Note there are two variations to the card, a blue background and a pastel background. PSA has graded 43 blue background and only 19 pastel background Lajoie cards.
1911 D304 General Baking - Nap Lajoie
The D304 General Baking set is one of the coolest early D series sets among all of pre war cards in my opinion. The Lajoie pose is a bit 'cartoonish' and isn't as great as some of the other great poses in the set, but still a highly collectible card.
1911 T3 Turkey Red #23 - Nap Lajoie
The T3 Turkey Reds are among my favorite pre war cards of all time. Until you've held one of these oversized beauties in your hands, you don't quite realize what a specimen these cards are. The unfortunate truth is that they are a heck of a lot rarer than any other tobacco cards from the era.
PSA has graded less than 100 of the T3 Turkey Red Lajoie cards, so even in low grade, the T3 Lajoie will run you in the several thousands of dollars.
1911 T201 Mecca Double Folders - Nap Lajoie
The T201 Mecca Double Folder cards are a bit underappreciated in my opinion. I feel like the uniqueness of the cards just hasn't really translated to a ton of respect from a collector standpoint. However, many of the star names in the set such as Lajoie are valuable, just not on par with other tobacco cards from the era. Lower grade T201 Lajoie cards can be found for under $500 if you're lucky.
1914 + 1915 Cracker Jack #66 - Nap Lajoie
The Cracker Jack sets of 1914 and 1915 are the epitome of what baseball cards represent. And their beauty has become even more respected over the last several years, leading to a massive surge in values for all the star players in the set. The two Lajoie cards from the 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack sets are nearly identical, with the minor difference being that the backs of the 1915 issue are upside down. More on the Cracker Jack sets here.
1915/1916 M101 Sporting News #97 - Nap Lajoie
The M101 set from the Sporting News is underrated, as you can get playing day early hall of fame superstars for a fraction of early tobacco issues. The Lajoie is my selection in the set for pure value. Note there is an M101-4 and a M101-5 version of the set, with a lot of similarities between the two. PSA has graded around 30 of the M101-4 whereas they have graded only 9 of the M101-5.
1933 Goudey #106 - Napoleon "Larry" Lajoie
While the 1933 Goudey Ruth cards are probably the most well known, the rarest card is actually the Nap Lajoie card (#106).
Lajoie was not initially included in the set, yet due to an outcry from fans, Goudey later produced it in 1934. The only way to get the card was via a mail in a request to Goudey.
According to PSA, there are less than 100 of the Lajoie cards that have been submitted for grading. And if you’re lucky to have one sitting around, it is worth a pretty penny; a high graded PSA 9 Lajoie sold for $264,000 in 2019.
I'm sure that figure would be well in the several millions of dollars today.
Be careful, as this one is also a very common reprint.
Investment Potential For Nap Lajoie Cards
I think the future for Nap Lajoie's baseball cards remains bright. Collectors don't necessarily lump Lajoie in with the top tier legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner, but he's certainly right on the cusp. In terms of overall second baseman rankings, most put him near the top, although Bill James has Lajoie ranked 5th, behind Joe Morgan, Eddie Collins, Rogers Hornsby and Craig Biggio.
The good thing is that Lajoie's second tier placement with collectors puts him in a more affordable range and the facts are that many of his playing day cards are fairly scarce and stills somewhat affordable. Thus, I don't necessarily see a scenario where Nap's cards are going to get you rich, but I can see some of his more recognizable and sought after cards as being an attractive long term investment.
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