A card from 1910 of Shoeless Joe Jackson was sold in an online auction for $492,000 late Thursday, according to Heritage Auctions. The card was a family heirloom that was thought to be lost to time.
It had been 10 years since Ben Foster found an old card collection that was given to his father, Hayes, who received it as a child. The collection was originally located in 2009 in an unfinished room in the back of Hayes' law office. But in 2019, Ben decided to do some research on the cards they found.
After digging through cards from the 1950s, the bottom of the lunch pail holding the cards revealed some from the early 20th century. Even more fortunate for the Fosters was that they were part of the T206 collection, which are some of the most valuable cards for collectors -- a Honus Wagner T206 card sold for $1.35 million in 2019, for example.
Oddly enough, the Fosters didn't realize they had a Jackson card, even after explicitly discussing what turned out to be the six-figure card in the pile. The cards released in 1910 had a special subgroup of cards that were of players from their days in the minor leagues. This resulted in a case of misunderstanding that seemed like a throwaway from a sitcom.
"I went through the stack and found 'Jackson, New Orleans,' and showed it to my dad," Foster told ESPN. "There must have been a miscommunication about the minor league thing because I asked him if this was Shoeless Joe Jackson and he said, 'No, New Orleans wouldn't have had a major league team and he wouldn't have played for them that year.' So I put it back in the stack and kept taking inventory."
As it so happens, Jackson did play for New Orleans in his career, but in the minors on a team with the same name as the city's current NBA franchise: the New Orleans Pelicans. Luckily, Ben still remained curious about the card and continued to research it even after it was dismissed.
One thing led to another for the Fosters and they discovered that they could make quite a lump sum if they put up that card for auction. Given that this was something that could have been considered useless junk to an oblivious eye, the final price the card sold for was a joy for the family.
"My family was keeping up with the auction at home in North Carolina," Foster said to ESPN. "My mom would call every 10 or 15 minutes freaking out about how there wasn't another bid, and then another would come in. We were keeping a close eye on the auction page and refreshing constantly, and when the bids finally stopped, we were thrilled with the outcome."
Jackson is perhaps best known for being a part of the Black Sox Scandal where the Chicago White Sox were paid off to throw the 1919 World Series. His strong performance in the series -- including leading the team in several categories and setting a record -- have led historians to argue that he was innocent of being involved with the scandal, and ask MLB to remove his banishment from the league. He was also considered one of the best players of the 20th century, whose prime was cut into because of this scandal.