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Without question or hesitation, the celebrated 1914 Cracker Jack issue of the tragic American icon, "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, ranks among the single most coveted items from the sprawling kingdom of baseball ephemera hailing from the increasingly distant and nostalgic dead-ball era, which some argue began with the invention of baseball in the mid 1800s, but, no one disagrees, ended when Babe Ruth clobbered 29 home runs in 1919, single-handedly changing the National Pastime unlike no one player had ever done before or since, save maybe for the war club-wielding master batsman so eloquently depicted on this remarkably well-preserved specimen from the inaugural Cracker Jack set of 1914. Before proceeding further, interested bidders, whether brand new to our exciting hobby or not-so-new but still dreaming of calling this American treasure their own before following Ray Cancella into the cornfield, should bear in mind, first and foremost, that the 1914 Cracker Jack cards were distributed exclusively in boxes of the "Famous Popcorn Confection," one card per package, and with absolutely no protection whatsoever. Consequently, not only do the cards suffer from a wide variety of condition challenges one would expect from the design and production of a first-time issue, such as centering and print issues, to name a couple, but the cards, when they can be found in conditions representative of what "box-fresh" examples would have looked like 100 years ago, almost always display at least some trace of caramel stains from their unprotected placement in the boxes, the total absence of which would perhaps signal more cause for suspicion than celebration. Incredibly, however, the offered example reveals just a single smidgen of the sweet goo in question, and, thankfully, it can only be found on the reverse, just around or above the word "was" in the second-to-last line of the brief biography, which, for its part, displays a delightfully bold saturation of the blank ink comprising the text, a telling characteristic that unquestionably mirrors the brilliant saturation of the of iconic colors of the obverse, or front surface. The centering, next, appears fairly accurate from top-to-bottom, but it self-evidently favors the right border to an approximate NM/MT degree. In other words, the centering, while clearly not perfect, is still sufficient for a significantly higher grade, necessarily leaving some other mildly imperfect facet to blame for the accurate if not somewhat conservative opinion of NM 7 from the graders at PSA, the single second highest PSA grade ever awarded to this hobby legend. With a borderline MINT image characterized by precise color applications, particularly in the all-important area of Joe's facial features, and with strong NM/MT to even NM/MT+ or MINT edges, that leaves only the corners to explain the grade. Sure enough, while it might require a high-powered loupe to be convinced, the bottom two corners do show minor traces of wear appropriate for the grade, while the top two crowing points come in at about NM/MT+ to even MINT. Condition-wise, the card certainly registers in the high-end range, particularly since only one copy has ever graded higher at PSA, at NM/MT 8, and the next best is a full numerical leap down the grading ladder, at EX/MT 6, and its only imperfections, its self-evident centering and its barely evident corner wear and caramel stain, are the sort of features we expect on the issue, the sort that might give some collectors greater comfort than, say, the perfect example famously graded SGC 98 GEM 10, even though most informed hobbyists expect that copy to generate upwards of $1 million if, or rather when, it comes to market. Bearing in mind that no other card, except of course for the famed T206 Wagner, has yet to cross the million dollar mark, here is your chance to claim a stake in those inevitable headlines by adding to your collection the one 1914 Cracker Jack Joe Jackson that most collectors agree is the third-finest graded copy in existence. Currently, it resides in the same relative plateau as a handful of other iconic hobby issues, not quite in the range of the T206 Wagner, at least not yet, but definitely in the same range as the other big guns from the T206 set, as well as the infamous '33 Goudey Nap Lajoie, the '51 Bowman Mantle rookie card, and the '52 Topps Mantle high-number, to name a few. Really, though, how long will that last? Joe Jackson might not have changed the game of baseball in the same way that Babe Ruth eventually did, but The Babe himself considered "Shoeless" the greatest batsman he'd ever seen, literally modeling his swing after the powerful slugger from South Carolina, and for that, and for myriad more reasons, the game will forever celebrate his legacy, whether we finally embrace his tragedy as our own and enshrine him in the Hall of Fame, or not. So hear the voice calling from the cornfields, embrace it, and join the celebration with a competitive bid today.
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