“Joltin’” Joe DiMaggio, the eighth of nine children, was born in 1914 to Italian-immigrant parents in Martinez, California. A year later, the DiMaggio family, which claims two other Major League centerfielders (Dom and Vince), moved to San Francisco.

Although he would make his name as one of the greatest New York Yankees of all time, DiMaggio got his start in 1932 playing professional baseball for his hometown San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League (PCL). In 1933, DiMaggio’s first full season with the Seals, a candy company called Zee-Nut released the first DiMaggio trading card.

Zee-Nut printed two DiMaggio cards in 1934, one showing him batting, the other featuring a fielding pose. The company also printed DiMaggio cards in 1935 and 1936 before it stopped publishing cards of PCL players altogether in 1938. The Zee-Nut cards were black and white and are notable for the misspelling DiMaggio’s name on the front as “J. DeMaggio,” which was also true for Zee-Nut cards made for Joe’s brothers.

The Zee-Nut cards were tall (3 ½”) and narrow (1 ¾”). Although the cards were not dated, a perforated coupon on the bottom of each card had expiration date, which is how collectors today can determine a Zee-Nut card’s year.

DiMaggio was extremely successful in the PCL. In his first full season he had a 61-game hitting streak—five games longer than his hitting streak with the Yankees in 1941, which is still the Major League record. He finished the 1933 season batting .340 with 28 homeruns and an astounding 169 runs batted in.

Although his first full season with the Yankees was in 1936, the Goudey Gum Company did not issue a DiMaggio rookie card until 1938. There were actually two DiMaggio cards produced that year. Both feature an oversize, hand-tinted photograph of DiMaggio’s head atop a hand-drawn body of the slugger with a bat in his hands. One card was dominated by this caricature alone, but a second card used the same image surrounded by a series of cartoons about DiMaggio’s life.

The cartoons were intended as jokey commentaries on DiMaggio’s meteoric rise in the big leagues. For example, “$25,000 a year. Pretty fair salary for a young fellow!” reads one ...

In 1940, Play Ball made its DiMaggio card the #1 card in its set. As with the 1938 Goudeys, the Play Ball cards suffered from toning irregularities, so finding this black-and-white DiMaggio card in high-grade is extremely difficult. Eight years later, DiMaggio would again be given the honor of #1 card in a set, this time in Leaf’s 1948-49 series. Unlike the Play Ball cards, these new Leaf cards were bright, colorful, and visually appealing, though not enough, it seems, to prevent the company from folding in 1950. Both the Play Ball and Leaf #1 DiMaggio cards are hard to find in top condition.

A year after Play Ball put DiMaggio at the head of its set, the “Yankee Clipper,” as he was often called, won his second of three American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards. It was during that 1941 season that DiMaggio had his 56-game hitting streak, a record that has been called one of sports’ hardest achievements to eclipse.

DiMaggio’s MVP award that season was controversial, however, because Ted Williams, an outfielder for the rival Boston Red Sox, had a .406 batting average and led the league with 37 homeruns. No player has hit over .400 since that year. DiMaggio would win his third MVP in 1947, two years after returning to baseball after serving three years in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

DiMaggio and Williams enjoyed a great rivalry over the years, and consequently collectors have longed for photographs of the two men together, like the famous shot of them in a dugout taken during that 1941 season, or the picture of the pair that graced the July 8, 1950 cover of “TV Guide.” Collectors also covet memorabilia such as game-used bats and balls signed by both players.

While they were arguably the two best players in baseball in the 1940s, the owners of DiMaggio’s and Williams’ teams briefly explored the possibility of trading them for one another. Yankee Stadium played to Williams’ strengths as a left-handed hitter while Fenway Park played to DiMaggio’s strengths as a righty. The deal fell through only after Yankees’ General Manager Larry MacPhail refused to include Yogi Berra in the trade.

DiMaggio retired after the 1951 season, but not before he had the opportunity to share the outfield with another Yankee great: Mickey Mantle. Mantle was a rookie in 1951, so the two only spent a year as teammates, which mean a photograph of the two players together, especially autographed, is extremely desirable to many collectors.

As it turned out, DiMaggio’s retirement did not signal the end of his career as a creator of baseball memorabilia. That’s because in 1954 he eloped with movie star Marilyn Monroe. The marriage lasted less than a year, but that was enough time to create collectors’ items out of photographs of, and correspondence between, DiMaggio and Monroe.

In 2006, DiMaggio’s grandchildren auctioned off many of their grandfather’s collectibles. In total the auction netted more than $4 million and included everything from letters between Monroe and DiMaggio to a silver-plated ice bucket DiMaggio used in the 1940s.

The items that garnered some of the highest bids included a pinstriped flannel game-worn uniform from DiMaggio’s last World Series in 1951, as well as the ball he hit in 1941 to break Wee Willie Keeler’s record of 44 consecutive games. The item that sold for the highest amount, $281,750, was DiMaggio’s 1947 MVP award. Because he was such a popular player in New York, everything from his Hall of Fame ring to his and Monroe’s marriage certificate commanded huge prices.

Other popular DiMaggio collectibles include game-used Louisville Slugger bats, statues, autographed baseballs, and autographed Hall of Fame plaques, which have been produced by various companies and sold by the Hall of Fame since the late 1930s. Only certain players, DiMaggio among them, have autographed plaques available for purchase.

Finally, although autographed DiMaggio artifacts are not especially difficult to come by, bats autographed by DiMaggio are extremely rare because he was one of the first players to control the types of bats he used and the number of them he would sign. That scarcity has made them quite sought-after today.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Mickey Mantle & Joe Dimaggio Signed 1969 Original Wire Photo 8x10 Auto Jsa Loa Joe Dimaggio Hof Yankees Signed 1980 Perez-steele Postcard Psa/dna AuthenticJoe Dimaggio Signed Autographed Oal (lee Macphail) Baseball RareDimaggio Brothers Signed Index Card Set! Joe, Dom And Vince! Rare! Psa! Antique Baseball Bagger Bat Joe Dimaggio 600-p1948 Leaf #1 Joe Dimaggio New York Yankees Hof Signed Auto Psa/dna Psa 10 Pop 11938 Goudey Joe Dimaggio #274 Rookie! Card Psa 2 Good # 27288566Joe Dimaggio Duke Snider Whitey Ford Mel Allen Signed Nyy Jsa Z11549Joe Dimaggio # 5 Signed Baseball Rare ! Joe Dimaggio Signed Signature Series Porcelain Set 162/500Joe Dimaggio Yankees Hof Signed Baseball Psa/dnaJoe Dimaggio #5 Mickey Mantle #7 Yankees 22x18 Autographed Photo Showcase W/coa!Dimaggio Greenberg Gehringer ++ Hof Original Autographs Jack Krasula CollectionJoe Dimaggio #5 Mickey Mantle #7 Ny 18x14 Autographed Photo Pinstripe Mat W/coa!1939 Playball Play Ball #26 Joe Dimaggio New York Yankees Hof Psa 6 Ex-mtMantle/ Mays/ Dimaggio / Snider Signed 8x10 Photo ......certifiedAutographed Baseball - Joe Dimaggio #52001 Sp Legendary Cuts Mel Ott- Joe Dimaggio 2 Player Bat Combo Relic #d #3/251950 Yankees Sketch Book Yearbook Joe Dimaggio Yogi Berra Phil RizzutoJoe Dimaggio Psa/dna Certified Signed Personal Check Autograph 819976261939 Play Ball Joe Dimaggio #26 Yankees Psa AuthenticMickey Mantle Joe Dimaggio, Ted Williams 8x10 Signed 1937 Wheaties Joe Di Maggio N Y Yankees Rookie Baseball Card Cereal Box PanelJoe Dimaggio "yankee Clipper" New York Yankees Signed Auto Portrait With Frame!Joe Dimaggio Charlie Keller & Tom Henrich Multi Signed 8x10 Photo Auto Jsa LoaJoe Dimaggio #5 New York Yankees Pinstripes Stitch Button Down Jersey Men Xl NewJoe Dimaggio Signed & Framed 11x14 Photo! New York Yankees! 100% Authentic!Joe Dimaggio / Mickey Mantle Autographed 5x7 Photo In A 8x10 Matt.....certifiedNew Joe Dimaggio Cooperstown Jersey New With Tags Size 52Joe Dimaggio + Dom & Vince Dimaggio Signed Framed Photo Display Auto Jsa Loa HofMantle / Yogi / Dimaggio / Ford Signed 8x10 Photo.........certifiedJoe Dimaggio Autographed 4x6 Photo In A 8x10 Matt ....certifiedYogi Berra / Joe Dimaggio / Mickey Mantle Autographed 8x10 Photo ..certifiedJoe Dimaggio Autographed 8 X 10 Photo Gfa Certified1961 Golden Press Set Lot 32/33 Dimaggio Cobb Gehrig Wagner Ott Greenberg Nice1952 Topps Sgc-30 Lot W/ #33 Spahn - #11 Dimaggio - #59 Roberts2016 Flawless Greats Joe Dimaggio Hof New York Yankees Patch 12/25Ted Williams / Joe Dimaggio Signed 8x10 Photo ......certified2009 Ultimate Ted Williams Joe Dimaggio Satchel Paige Yogi Berra 8x Jersey #/35Joe Dimaggio / Ted Williams Autographed 8x10 Photo .......certifiedJoe Dimaggio Signed Autographed Oalb Baseball New York Yankees Hofer SweetspotMantle / Dimaggio / Mattingly/ Jackson 8x10 Photo .....certifiedJoe Dimaggio Autographed 8x10 Photo.........certifiedJoe Dimaggio / Ted Williams Autographed 8x10 ........certifiedMantle / Dimaggio / Martin / Ford Autographed 8x10 Photo......certified2007 Ud Premier Remnants Joe Dimaggio New York Yankees Hof Quad Jersey /361963 Joseph Paul Di Maggio Bust Baseball Sports Hall Of Fame 1963 Ny Yankees!Mickey Mantle / Joe Dimaggio Autographed 8x10 Photo..........certified.Joe Dimaggio AutographFord / Dimaggio / Mantle / Berra Signed 8x10 Photo ........certifiedMickey Mantle / Joe Dimaggio Autographed 8x10 Photo ......certifiedJoe Dimaggio 2001 Upper Deck Hall Of Famers Game Jersey J-jd Beautiful Card Joe Dimaggio 2004 Vintage Timeless Teams Game Used Bat Hof YankeesJoe Dimaggio 2004 Sweet Spot Classic Game Used Jersey/pants Hof #144/275Joe Dimaggio Bat Relic #262/399! 2011 Topps Tier One # Tsr-5! Hof! Yankees!!!Joe Dimaggio Signed 8x10 Photo Auto Autograph Jsa Loa New York Yankees Hof1963 Hall Of Fame Baseball Bust Dimaggio / JohnsonJoe Dimaggio/ Ted Williams Autographed 8x10 Photo .........certifiedJoe Dimaggio, Billy Martin & Earl Weaver Signed Magazine Photo! 100% Authentic!Joe Dimaggio And Dan Daniels Signed Vintage Photo! Long Inscription! Jsa Coa!