This red-and-blue stitched baseball (no manufacturer’s name visible), dating from circa 1911, originally featured a multitude of signatures; however, all have long since faded beyond legibility with the exception of four: Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, and Cy Young. Unfortunately, even those four are extremely faint (grading “1” by modern grading standards), with portions of each signature no longer visible. While all of the black fountain-pen signatures present here are highly prized by collectors, it is the signature of Joe Jackson that is the most significant. Jackson's signature is legendary for its great rarity, especially on baseball-related items. Jackson was a functional illiterate and although he was capable of signing his name if necessary, he normally avoided doing so if possible. (The difficulty he had in signing his name was a source of embarrassment for him throughout much of his early life.) That is why his signature today, when it can be found, is usually seen on legal or official documents that he had no choice but to sign. This ball represents a rare exception and is one of the few examples in the hobby today bearing his signature. Jackson’s signature, which has been executed in black fountain pen, is the only one still visible on one side panel, although only badly faded fragments remain. The opposite side panel displays signature fragments of Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. The remaining signature fragment visible on the ball is that of Cy Young on an adjacent side panel. If we assume that these ballplayers all signed this ball at the same time, then it was probably obtained in 1911, as that year corresponds both to Joe Jackson's first full season in the Majors and Cy Young's last. (Even though he was just a rookie in 1911 Jackson's signature would have been in high demand that season: he finished the year with a .408 average.) The ball displays moderate-to-heavy toning and soiling, with a few small areas of abrasion and slight discoloration. In Good condition overall.
It should be noted that this ball does not
come with a letter from James Spence Authentication. When JSA examined the ball it felt that because the signatures had faded so significantly it could not responsibly offer an opinion one way or another. While we both respect and fully understand JSA’s decision to abstain from rendering a formal opinion, Robert Edward Auctions, with the full consent of the consignor, has decided keep the ball in the auction. We do so based upon the belief that any Joe Jackson signature, even one so badly faded that it is now beyond the limits of formal authentication, still holds some value for collectors. This is, admittedly, a ball that requires a slight leap of faith with regard to authenticity (as perhaps do all signatures), but given the obvious merits of the ball and the extreme rarity of Jackson’s signature, it is probably a “leap” that many collectors will be willing to make, especially since it will sell at a significant discount compared to that of a higher quality and properly authenticated example (if it can be found). The last Joe Jackson signature sold by REA was on a portion of a legal document (a 1915 Recognizance Bond) that originated directly from the Jackson family. That far superior, flawless Joe Jackson signature appeared as Lot 640 in REA's May 2007 auction and realized $44,062. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $5,875
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