It is often said that the greatest artist ever to step onto the baseball diamond was a well-groomed Frenchman named Napoleon Lajoie. He was to baseball what Rembrandt was to canvas. For those who witnessed the great Lajoie there was no more graceful a player and his play was as refined as any man to take the field.
Lajoie was one of the game’s first superstars. He was the king of turn-of-the-century baseball. His picture was everywhere and corporate barons of the day begged the great Lajoie to endorse their products.
When Lajoie retired in 1916 he had collected 3,242 base hits and compiled a remarkable lifetime batting average of .338. He would enter the Hall of Fame in 1937.
Lajoie is also one of the most treasured names in the field of vintage baseball signatures. The demand is simply tremendous. I can remember back in the early 1980s when his signature sold for $10-$15.
Lajoie signed in a refined and elegant hand. His writing is marked with nice flowing strokes that results in a signature with superior display value.
Examples 1-3 are good illustrations of Lajoie’s signature. Example 4 is a signature removed from a contract dated 1906, signatures from this period are not available in the open market and this specimen is extremely rare.
Typically, Lajoie signed autographs using his nickname “Larry” but on occasion he would sign using his real name, Example 5 is a nice illustration that has been accomplished in fountain pen.
As nice as Lajoie’s hand is, it has one serious flaw: his signature lacks rapid motion (as found in the handwriting Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby). The slower nature of Lajoie’s signature is very inviting to forgers. Skilled forgers will tell you that Lajoie is a relatively easy name to forge and many well-executed forgeries exist in the market. I would estimate the vast majority of Lajoie signatures available in the market are counterfeit. It should also be noted that in my opinion many forgeries have been wrongly certified as genuine by the major authentication companies so caution is warranted.
Lajoie is by no means a rare name and is readily available on index cards, government postcards, multi-signed balls and album pages. He should be considered scarce on letters and 8-by-10 photographs. Single-signed baseballs and Black-and-White Hall of Fame plaque postcards are rare.
I have never seen a genuinely signed tobacco card, however, at least one signed 1933 Goudey gum card exists. I have never seen a genuinely signed baseball bat or equipment of any kind. To my knowledge bank checks do not exist.
Lajoie was not known as a prolific letter writer and today letters are very scarce with typewritten letters tougher to find than handwritten ones. Content of Lajoie letters tend to be pleasant and mundane. The affable Lajoie did not write with a cutting pen like that of Cobb.
Signed baseballs of Lajoie are scarce in any form and most available for sale are multi-signed balls. Single-signed balls are just plain rare. I have only seen five to six genuine examples in more than 20 years of a searching. All were signed on the side panel and dated in the 1950s. Most were signed in ballpoint pen. As a side note, Lajoie was one of the early converts to the technology of ballpoint pens and used them often from the late 1940s until his death.
As to team-signed balls from Lajoie’s playing days, they simply do not exist.
Lajoie liked to date his signatures and ones signed toward the end of his life evidence a slight to moderate shakiness of hand. Older-age signatures appear somewhat labored in appearance and lack the graceful flow of vintage signed material.
Lajoie material has increased greatly in recent years and today his signature can be purchased for $350-$400, government postcards generally sell for $600-$700. A signed 8-by-10 photograph will likely start at $2,000 as will a signed letter. A single-signed ball should start at $6,000 with a museum-grade specimen approaching $20,000. A Black-and-White Hall of Fame plaque postcard is very rare and likely worth at least $5,000.