Tuesday, 26 July 2016


OYO is the name of a modern small plastic sport figure / toy that has been on the market for several years now. As is sometimes the case with these sorts of products the CFL eventually became involved a few years after inception and there are now more CFL OYO's than you can shake a stick at out there to collect.

The figures are reminiscent of LEGO toy figures (except they are athletes and not pirates or Luke Skywalker) and so is the name OYO but of course for trademark purposes no direct reference to the other company's product is made (although it is stated that the figures are "compatible with most name brand building toys").

As with most things memorabilia these days Saskatchewan was the first team to harness the marketing power of OYO with a set of white uniform figures issued in 2013 

The first CFL figures were designated G1LE for Generation 1 Limited Edition (actual production figures are unknown) and as Series 1 but only Roughriders were available. The usual suspects were produced (Durant, Dressler, Sheets, Chick and presumably a few others). The figures are not actual likenesses of the players but are customized with the player's jersey number and name on the back and on the packaging material. Black and White figures are used depending on the player. Each player comes with a few accessories as well.

This was followed up by a dark jersey Saskatchewan Series 2 with a copyright year of 2013 as well 

In 2014 the line was expanded across all of the CFL teams but somewhat confusingly the figures for each of the other 8 teams were also designated G1LE Series 1. So it is not clear if the Series designation is for a separate issue of a given number of figures (per team, per year) or the Series number is incremented if a player is given a second figure (with the same team) in the same year or possibly also in a subsequent year.

Note that the initial figures for the other teams issued in 2014 have the same box design as the 2013 figures. Here is a "Series 1" Ricky Ray of Toronto.

Later in 2014 the box design was slightly modified with the 6+ child safety designation being moved to the back and the rest of the graphics remaining pretty much the same but some of the wording is removed as well. G1LE Series 1 they remain.

2014 Hamilton Simoni Lawrence with modified box design

2014 also saw the release of the first of what will likely be a large number of vintage players as well as team mascots, with the same modified box design.

 Doug Flutie and Ralph the Dog are immortalized in mini plastic form. Flutie is also available in his Stampeder uniform, unknown if a B.C. version exists.

For the 2015 season a few players that changed teams are available with the late 2014 box design and with 2015 as the copyright date on the back of the box. Presumably the players that were issued in 2014 also continued to be produced because there were plenty of them around for purchase.

Part of Kevin Glenn's sojourn through the CFL teams is available for collectors. Also pictured is a different box design for the Tiger-Cats mascot, it is unclear which year this was issued in but 2015 would be a reasonable guess.

2014 Also saw the arrival of larger Endzone playsets in specific team configurations. Priced around $30.00 - $35.00 they are still commonly available at team stores and on Ebay. Not sure whether or not there has been any evolution or changes to the endzone sets between 2014 and 2016.

These sets came with two generic players and a referee. 

These OYO figures are obviously a very successful product and they have a lucrative target market for something that requires just a little product and packaging customization to produce "different" players for consumers to buy. They are marketed at kids but how many 6+ year old kids are going to differentiate between all of these athletes, so there is definitely an adult team sport collector aspect to all of this. While it is good to have the CFL included in these product offerings there is a lot of redundancy to the line as well.

So 2016 rolls around and what is a company to do in order to generate more sales for these little action figures? Redesign the box and include a different accessory for the figure to "use". There might possibly also be some slight changes to the figure (I don't have any new ones to verify against the older models).

This new Ricky Ray is described on Ebay as Generation 2 Series 2 but the designation is not visible in these scans.  Would seem to indicate again that the series number changes per player figure per team.

Now with all of the CFL based product activity one might expect to be able to get a comprehensive list of CFL players and available products from the OYO website which is prominently printed on each box. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) there is ZERO information on the CFL line on the website. An email to them inquiring about a CFL list indicated that they did not have one and directed me to the CFL website, which naturally also has ZERO information on the product, same goes for the CFLPA website. There is information on a few of the products on some of the team store websites so at least that is not a dead-end.

Here we have Chris Getzlaf with his new team listed as G2S1 so if that designation is accurate it may be further indication that the series number is per team (as Getzlaf had previous Rider figures) or it may be reset by Generation, it really is anybodies guess. G2 Solomon Elimimian appears to have wandered into the wrong locker room.

Also new for 2016 are accessory playsets such as the items pictured below - now with with CFL Stickers!

It would appear that the OYO trend is going to continue for a while as sales are likely strong (obviously led by the NFL, MLB and NHL licencees) and since it takes so little production line effort to swap the little buggers into CFL format we get to go along for the ride. They don't cost too much (between $12 and $15 each at full retail) for one or two if you are giving them to your kid to play with, but collecting a full team set can be pretty costly in the long run.

I have not decided yet if these should be catalogued as an addition to Volume I as they are technically player specific, or whether or not they should go into Volume 3 since they could also be considered effectively generic Novelties & Souvenirs. Anyway I need to go and buy my missing Generation X Series Infinity Ralph the Dog 3rd Jersey Limited Edition Dog Pound Playset Variant.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Magic ! From Space! - (Volume 1 Update)

The golden age of plastic toys occurred in the fifties and sixties when the versatile material overtook the traditional wood and metal as the primary component used to manufacture playthings for children (and of course thousands of other products). Couple this with the enthusiasm for all things relating to space thanks to the space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R and it kind of makes sense that a Canadian company that produced plastic novelties would call itself Space Magic LTD.

1963 Krun - chee CFL holder imprint on left and 1964 Nalleys CFL holder imprint on right 

But what does any of that have to do with Canadian Football? Well it seems that Space Magic was responsible for manufacturing all of the plastic cap holders that were made available for collectors to house their CFL plastic potato chip caps in both 1963 and 1964. The imprint was a little different between the two years as is evident above in the bottom central cap indentations.

When I published Collecting Canadian Football Volume I in 2013 I did not have a whole lot of information available about the holders and only two were pictured from 1963 and one from 1964. Additionally I made an assumption that in 1963 each team would have had its own colour of holder from each named potato chip manufacturer and I listed them that way although most colour/brand variations were unconfirmed. Naturally it makes perfect sense that an orderly mind would expect that a collector would want to put Eskimo caps in a dark green holder and Argo caps in a blue holder but examples of caps in holders where the owner made absolutely no attempt to enforce a proper colour correlation are disturbingly evident from time to time. That, coupled with the fact that all teams had more than one colour in their uniforms and also that there seemed to be more colours used for holders than teams means that those listings were incorrect or misleading at best,

To shed a little more light on the subject I am featuring at least one of each brand of holder that I have information on in this blog post, along with a few peculiarities.

1963 Krun - chee Black CFL holder : KRUN - CHEE Canadian Football Stars 

Although each of the 1963 holders had the same attractive football layout design, the brand name of course was different for each manufacturer and the sub-title was either a different phrase or had a different juxtaposition of the wording.

1963 Hunters Dark Blue CFL holder : Hunters Canadian Football Stars 

Humpty Dumpty holders seem to be few and far between as this is the only example I have seen a scan of. Note that the holder is bilingual which corresponds with the bilingual Humpty Dumpty caps but not with the no-name caps which were both unilingual and bilingual and no-name caps are known to have been available in Humpty Dumpty chip bags.

1963 Humpty Dumpty Gold CFL holder : Humpty Dumpty Football Plaque - Plaque A Jetons 

At first glance at the holder below it appears that all is in karmic balance as the conscientious long ago collector put his B.C. Lions caps with their black and orange uniforms palette into an appropriate black holder. But wait, these are in fact 1964 Nalley's caps inserted into the holder designed for the 1963 issue so undoubtedly some type of negative repercussions eventually manifested themselves in the life of the foolhardy offender.
1963 Nalley's Black CFL holder : Nalley's Pro Football Stars Of Canada 

For 1964 only Nalley's issued potato chip caps for the five western teams and it is thought that there were just five colour matched holders produced with a new field design, although I cannot recall actually seeing any more than the blue and green versions, so perhaps the other three team holders listed in Volume I should have been marked in lighter text as unconfirmed.

1964 Nalley's Blue CFL holder : Nalley's Pro Football Stars Of Canada 

Another error in Volume I was the statement that the 1964 Nalley's cap holders were identical to the 1963 versions except for the caption, but the above two images makes it clear that wasn't the case. For unknown reasons the subtitle for the green holder was different as per below, and for the remainder of the 1964 holders it is still a mystery, perhaps both versions exist in all colours?

1964 Nalley's Green CFL holder : Nalley's 1964 Western Conference Pro Football Stars

It is one of the oddities of classic CFL collectibles as to why no ephemera of these chip cap promotions seems to have survived, after all you would think the packaging would have advertised the premiums inside, the shields would have had order forms or there would have been in grocery store displays for the products. Well the following two images would appear to be just that with regards to the wall plaques. (I was using the term holders in the guide and this blog entry, but now might be a good time to start using the official designation).

1964 Nalley's Wall Plaque packaging illustrations, not to scale, sizes unknown, blank backed

The left illustration matches the green shield for subtitle and the players actually look distinguishable but I have not compared them to any of the 1964 caps to see which team, if any they are modeled on. The player images on the right illustration are generic and the subtitle is gibberish letters. Both pieces look to have been cut from a larger package. These came up on ebay a few years ago and interest was surprisingly low if I recall correctly.

Space Magic was also apparently involved in producing a series of space caps and probably the related wall plaques and perhaps that is where the name originally came from. There is a posting on the Topps Archives from last year that has some more information on Space Magic and some of the other promotions they were involved with here Space Patrol.


Sunday, 29 May 2016


As I have mentioned before in an earlier post relating to the Saskatchewan Roughrider's 1989 Collector Series , posters are one of the most ephemeral of ephemera for a variety of reasons and as such relatively few survive long and that means many are forgotten and uncatalogued. This post will examine a few of the posters that have come to light since the publication of Collecting Canadian Football Volumes 1 and 2. All of these will hopefully make their way into a catalogue update or one of the proposed Volumes 3 or 4 at some point in the future. 

Early 1970's Generic Saskatchewan poster at left and
 early or mid 1970's B.C. Lions team helmet poster at right

The Roughrider poster is probably (but not certainly) unique to that franchise as it was issued by Al Benecick Enterprises which would obviously have been a venture of Hall of Famer Roughrider player Al Benecick. His career lasted until 1969 so the seventies date assignment is an educated guess. This item bounced around ebay for a while before finding a home. The Lions helmet poster is one of three western team half size posters that were on ebay a few years back, all western teams so presumably a set of 5 were available at one time. Nice item and unusual to see the single bar helmet graphic of this era facing left instead of right.

Late 1970's All-Pro Countdown poster at left and
close up of some of the player vignettes at right 

All-Pro countdown was a sponsored promotion of General Tire in the late seventies and various promotional items were produced in conjunction with a weekly TV show where CFL stars would compete in physical football related challenges, hosted by then CFL play-by-play TV announcer Pat Marsden. Interestingly the small player images obviously all come from the same posed photographic sessions and some of these exact same images (only wider in scope) were used for the extremely rare Nalley's 1976 Chips cards for the Calgary and Edmonton players.

Rothmans 1981 CFL Stars poster in English at left and
same Rothmans 1981 Les Etoiles LCF in French at right 

Gotta love tobacco sponsored issues and the above pictured Rothmans posters were issued in both French and English as standalone posters on white glossy stock (above left) and as center pages on magazine newsprint (above right) and for multiple years so there are lots of variations to collect of this interesting uncatalogued issue.

Late 80's or possibly early 90's Hamilton Tiger-Cats Molson Cup poster at left and
mid or late 80's Toronto Argonauts action poster at right

While a lot of poster action happened out west the Eastern teams were not completely dormant as the above two team specific items show. The Molson Cup was promoted for every team (and hockey teams, of course) so there many be similar or related posters available for the other CFL franchises but the Toronto poster was probably team issued. Whether the players represent recognizable athletes or are completely generic, has not been elaborated yet. 

CBC Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1992 Get On-Side poster at left and
CBC Calgary Stampeders 1993 In Your Face! poster at right

CBC issued at least two promotional poster sets celebrating their participation in CFL broadcasting in the early nineties. I have seen posters of these designs for other teams as well so presumably both sets include items for each franchise.

CFL 1994 All-Star Ski Team poster at left and
Family Funfest 1995 Grey Cup Activity poster at right

Sometimes CFL posters are not at all what you might expect as the multi sponsor Ski poster nicely illustrates. The Grey Cup activity poster shows the league at its all time maximum franchise level (13) that is certainly not likely to be surpassed anytime this century or possibly not in the next either. One notable aspect that has not yet found its way into any of the Collecting Canadian Football volumes are the official Grey Cup posters that were produced for each season's championship game from an indeterminate year forwards.

2000s Reebok What's Your Colour? League Wide promotional poster at top
2000's or early 2010's Reebok Reediscover Saskatchewan Roughriders poster at bottom

Some of the more difficult to get your hands on posters are those issued starting earlier this century by the league's promotional equipment and jersey partners.These were typically displayed at team stores and promotional league events and besides the posters there were other types of ephemera made over numerous years of the sponsorships. These sets and items are not well documented at the present time. The pictures above are not to scale and the Durant is a much larger stand-up style of hard backed poster than the top item.

2014 Geroy Simon B.C. Lions tribute night poster at left and
2014 Nick Moore Winnipeg Blue Bombers Co-op promotional poster at right

Player specific posters are also still being produced, but you have to be at the right place at the right time if you want to score them for free. The Simon poster was handed out at a specific Geroy Simon night at B.C. place stadium after he had retired and the Moore poster was part of a set of promotional items manufactured to popularize specific co-op products in a program that has been running in the west for three or four years now and spans all of the prairie teams where co-op grocery stores operate.

One thing is for sure, even in this digital age CFL posters continue to proliferate, and when you see one it will be here today and gone tomorrow.

Friday, 29 April 2016

We Regret To Inform You...

Some things never change, or at least never changed for decades, and one of those things was having the initiative to reach out to the professional football clubs in existence at the time, in search of a job, banging heads, in a foreign country if need be, to either put food on the table or to continue chasing your dream.

Luckily the process involved in promoting yourself as a capable prospect for a team in need of your particular gridiron skills, would generate ephemera in the form of letters and envelopes (covers in the collecting vernacular of philately), some of which have survived offering fascinating time capsule glimpses of the era.

1953 Edmonton Eskimo letterhead with hand written rejection letter and 1953 Calgary Stampeder letterhead with typed rejection letter. Both feature great vintage logos and word marks.

One such case played out in 1953 when lineman Karl Giesler sent letters to multiple CFL clubs looking for an expenses paid tryout. Giesler played at Pepperdine University and random internet information credits him with time at Green Bay and Washington in the NFL as well but I can't find any record of him playing regular season NFL games in the Total Football II reference guide.

The associated covers the letters were mailed in also feature the vintage logos and word marks but with some variation on the Edmonton cover.

By reading these letters (and doing some persistent googling) you can get a pretty good micro summary of Karl's career (I have scanned the letters at a higher resolution than normal for the blog images so you can click on them to get a larger view). The Tiger-Cats at least offered to allow him to come to camp and if he made the team he would be reimbursed expenses, which apparently he didn't as there is no record of him playing in the CFL either.

Giesler's 1953 rejection letters from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Bomber letterhead is very plain (some glue residue creating the comet effect) but the Tiger-Cat letterhead has a superb real image of a tiger's head that differs from the traditional logo. 

These letters can also be worth considerable sums of money for those that collect autographs of football players and administrators. The Bomber letter is signed by head coach George Trafton who was previously a hard rock perennial All-Star and eventual Hall of Famer with the leather helmet era Chicago Bears. I believe I read somewhere that it was Trafton that severely injured former teammate Red Grange in 1927, a hit from which the superstar Grange never completely recovered his former form. It is another example of the overlapping of Canadian and American football legacies due to the peculiar nature of the historical intertwining of the two sports.

Both the Hamilton and Winnipeg 1953 covers are about as plain as they can be.

Flash forward more than twenty years to 1976 and another hopeful player, Chuck Slater is also sending letters to CFL clubs in search of on field employment. Unfortunately for Chuck there is no record of him having played professional football in either the CFL or NFL either.

Montreal Alouette 1976 letterhead and Hamilton Tiger-Cat 1976 letterhead. The stationary was a little more reserved in the seventies, but still interesting. 

Here are two Ottawa letterhead versions, the first from 1976 being Chuck's PFO letter and one from four years earlier showing the slight evolution of the graphic design of the top header from monochrome to two colour.

These types of items appear on Ebay every now and then and are often fairly reasonably priced since this type of memorabilia is not heavily sought after by most collectors.

Here are the respective covers from 1976 with the Montreal and Ottawa items featuring colourful designs, but the Hamilton item is almost identical to the 1953 version. However of interest is the custom meter cancellation promoting Canadian Football as Canada's Most Exciting Sport. 

1966 Hamilton Tiger-Cat Commemorative Cover and 1962 Winnipeg Blue Bomber colourful vintage logo cover with custom meter cancellation 

Lest you think Hamilton and Winnipeg always had drab covers for their correspondence, above are two more stylistic examples. Somewhat unusually the same Most Exciting Sport slogan is used for the Winnipeg metered cancellation in a different design, but a full 14 years before the Tiger-Cat example. Hard to believe somebody coordinated that promotional slogan across multiple teams over that time span, maybe just a crazy coincidence.

1957 Toronto Argonaut letterhead with nice double blue colour scheme and great player graphic and 1963 B.C. Lion letterhead with classic mountain lion logo over Empire Stadium schematic drawing.

Finally above are two attractive vintage letters from two of the clubs not represented in the earlier images. There are undoubtedly many more unique items out there waiting to be be rediscovered, similar to those presented in this blog post. Just another fascinating aspect of CFL history that can be collected and enjoyed.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Fifties Flatland Frenzy

In 1951 the Saskatchewan Roughriders advanced to their first Grey Cup of the modern post war era. The franchise had competed in seven Dominion championships but had lost them all and it was hard to say what was worse - the 54-0 thrashing in their first appearance in 1923 as the Regina Rugby Club, or their string of five straight Grey Cup defeats as the Regina Roughriders from 1928 through 1932. On top of that the 1936 team, that some contemporary observers felt was the strongest in the country, was denied a chance to compete for the championship because of Eastern football governing body rule machinations related to the number of U.S. imports allowed to participate. So when the team finally returned to the big game, the province went into overdrive promoting and supporting their heroes.

On the left is a 1951 Saskatchewan Roughriders game program. These programs were typically very thick for their era because the team depended on community business support and many pages were devoted to sponsor advertisements. On the right is some snappy songwriting promoted by star quarterback Glenn Dobbs. 

From a memorabilia perspective the team produced their standard game programs in 1951 as well as the odd other piece such as the official team song sheet music (actually not 100% sure that this dates to 1951, might be a bit later). It might seem strange that the team quarterback Dobbs would be hosting a radio show while playing but Dobbs was widely regarded as the most popular man in the province and all efforts to promote the team were undertaken.

This colourful pamphlet with team photo inside was listed in Collecting Canadian Football Volume II. A few years back an ebay lot included an actual photograph of this team shot that was used to produce the brochure, which would be considerably rarer than the more mass produced item.

Once the team had qualified for the Grey Cup (by virtue of a nail biting 19-18 best of three rubber match victory at home versus Edmonton) they started producing ephemera that focused attention on the province's three biggest assets - Wheat, the Roughriders and the Mounties.

This broadsheet was mass produced promoting the province's role as a food producer, and just to be absolutely sure the rest of Canada knew about Saskatchewan wheat actual small loaves of bread with an attractive insert were baked and shrink wrapped. The die-cut ribbon-ed decoration reinforces the wheat - football team tie in again. 

One gets the feeling that as jubilant as the province was to be going back to the Cup, they were somewhat guarded about their chances, perhaps with the multiple disappointments of previous attempts still in mind. Thanks to Rider super fan Warren Welte for the loaf of bread image above.

This spectacularly evocative placemat is dated 1951 and clearly was themed for the Grey Cup quest with those three Saskatchewan assets prominently portrayed.

The beautiful placemat above was on ebay just recently and I was somewhat shocked that it did not bring a higher final bid (around $15 I think, the last time I checked it) because it would be rated an extremely rare fairly fragile item to have survived and it is so quintessentially Saskatchewan and Roughrider focused. While their are definitely some Rider super fans/collectors that have impressive team memorabilia shrines, I sometimes wonder if a lot of their huge current fanbase has little affinity or appreciation for the history of the club and the on and off-field struggles they went through during decades of lackluster results.

At left is the 1st edition of the 1951 Grey Cup News and at right is the 4th and final edition. The newsletter was printed on the "Green Train" to Toronto for the big game.

In an earlier post relating to team news publications I noted the existence of the above pictured Saskatchewan Grey Cup News sheets and upon closer examination (although the images above are unfortunately a little too grainy to tell) it appears there were 4 in all produced on-route by the team delegation heading east. What a great historical record of the championship excitement and hoopla a full set of these would make!

The Grey Cup program front cover design was rather unimaginatively the same for each of the
1949 through 1952 cup games. 

Well the big day finally arrived and team supporters from both sides could purchase the 1951 game program at the stadium. Rider fan's (western ones anyway) dreams were destined to be dashed once again as the Ottawa Rough Riders prevailed 21-14.

A nine! record set of 78's (that's the RPM - revolution per minute speed designation for you internet age kiddies...) of the radio broadcast of the team homecoming celebrations

Despite the loss the province was still upbeat about their hometown heroes, so much so that the homecoming celebration at Regina Exhibition Stadium (which is actually an indoor arena, apparently the oldest still standing in use hockey arena in Canada) was recorded and a large record set pressed for posterity. The celebration featured player introductions with roaring crowd and speeches by dignitaries of the day. The set features attractive packaging and era evocative football graphics on the records and the one pictured at right was presented to player Bill Clarke by the premier's office. It is unknown how may sets were pressed and if they were just handed out to team members and officials or if they were made available to the general public as well, possibly both. Either way this is a great memorabilia piece for Roughrider collectors.

Note that the Ottawa Rough Rider 1951 game programs (actually since at least 1948) used the much nicer full coloured more detailed graphics that were the original source for those used for the Grey Cup programs of the era.

On the Ottawa side the number of collectibles from that year is somewhat less expansive (although there is a great 12 item Rough Rider team issue printed picture set catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume II), but they definitely managed to produce the most satisfying piece of football ephemera for 1951 pictured above right.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Upper Deck Take Two - (Volume 1 Addition)

Well I finally got my hands on the 2015 Upper Deck CFL product and so this post will examine the sophomore effort and contrast it to last year's issue. The packaging alternatives were the same with large hobby boxes and smaller retail boxes

There is more differentiation in the boxes (pictures not to scale) this year with different images of
Bo Levi Mitchell being used for each box as well as for the foil packs contained within

One can assume from the similarity of card types and intentional distribution shortages that this strategy was successful enough for Upper Deck in 2014 so as to be replicated with a few new twists for the 2015 offering. The base set increased to 200 cards with four checklists for the Offensive, Defensive/Special Teams, Star Rookies and All-Star subsets.

The card design is sharp and perhaps a little more attractive than last year's issue.
There are a few quality control issues, such as Jon Cornish being identified 

as a Quarterback on the checklist card. 

Most if not virtually all of these cards will be bought by collectors by the box, and not by the pack as was common in the past. So the fact that some categories of the base set are harder to get than others means increased box sales as opposed to more and more pack purchases, either way a win for the dealers and Upper Deck and perhaps for the collector if you like that sort of thing.

Autographed cards are more prominent in this issue than last year's and appear with decreasing frequency across offensive, defensive, CFL marks and numbered (out of 25) All-Star subsets. Most of these are pretty rare and challenging to acquire.

Offensive and Defensive autographs feature the same card design and images as the player's normal issue but with gold instead of silver borders. 

Jersey and numbered (out of 15) patch cards are back again this season and it is nice that you are guaranteed two jersey cards in each box. My favorite cards are the OPC retro subset, the full colour backgrounds are very reminiscent of some of the old Topps sixties sets. These are seeded eight to a box and blank backed versions (the only subset category NOT mentioned on the boxes or company website) occur again, notably they are in addition to the eight card per box so they add to the population of OPC retro's. From what I have seen the blank backs are perhaps not quite as limited as in 2014.

This year's O-Pee-Chee retro set included two former stars - Pinball Clemons and Jeff Garcia. 

Now pictured above at right are my absolute very least favorite cards. These thick blank slugs are in every pack, except the ones where jersey or patch cards appear. Obviously they are there to prevent unscrupulous pack buyers from feeling the sides of each pack and determining which ones contain the goodies, and probably it is Upper Deck company policy to use these wherever thicker premium cards are part of the set (although the 2014 CFL issue did not have them). But this all seems pretty unnecessary for a market where pack by pack purchases are minuscule. Having purchased 3 boxes I am now the proud owner of 66 of these slugs.

Hey Upper Deck, how about a little creativity, say take 2 classic images of vintage B&W Grey Cup games and 2 classic images of more recent colour Grey Cup games. Make up two 5 X 10 puzzles where you need 50 of these printed on both side slugs to complete each picture, one side colour and one B&W. Then the collector needs 100 slugs for a complete set of double sided puzzle pictures of historical championship games, only now they are not slugs anymore but something else that might make me buy more boxes. Just one idea, anything would be better than blank nothing. Incidentally there are no slugs in the retail packs leading one to conclude that retail means direct to collector via the Upper Deck online website sales.  

Chase cards including 3 Grey Cup Moments (about 3 times less rare than the 2014 GCM cards), 1 CFL Heroes and a continuation of the popular O-Pee-Chee team and league logo crest patches
that look to be slightly rarer than last years logo patches 

Pinball Clemons makes an appearance as the first ever CFL Hero with Numbered (to 25) autographed cards (and un-autographed versions I believe but have not confirmed). Finally once again double sized blank backed cards (same image as the regular cards) ostensibly from the CFLPA have surfaced, so far only players from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A limited set of 165 All-Stars was released at the Grey Cup, despite the inclusion of All-Stars already in the regular base set and autograph subsets. Both boxes from 2014 and 2015 indicate time sensitive redemption cards need to be submitted before the respective deadlines, but it does not appear that redemption cards were ever included in either year.

All in all it looks like Upper Deck has created another solid addition to the CFL collecting landscape (minus a few quibbles) that will keep collectors busy for a while going after those short printed cards that particularly interest them. Ebay sales of the product are brisk again, and so the ongoing Upper Deck experiment with the CFL appears to be succeeding.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Play for Pay...The Big Train Way

Lionel Conacher nicknamed The Big Train! who was designated Canada's Athlete of the Half Century in 1950, knew a thing or two about translating his athletic ability into $$$ despite the prevailing atmosphere in his era that all Rugby-Football north of the border was supposed to be strictly amateur.

I listed his 1924 Dominion Chocolate sports card in Volume I of Collecting Canadian Football because it is generic and does not show him in any particular sport's equipment and in 1924 he was probably better known for his gridiron exploits leading the 1921 Argonauts to the Grey Cup, than for his hockey talents since he had yet to play for any NHL team.

Uncatalogued picture of Lionel Conacher (center) with his Toronto Argonaut teammates
probably produced by Alexandra Studios of Toronto

The exact uniform and pads Conacher wore for the Argonauts were replicated in 1956 in a painting commissioned for the Prudential Insurance Company and eventually issued as a poster in multiple formats in different decades. Specifics on these issues can be found in Volume I although some details remain to be be determined.

1973 Prudential Poster

Conacher started a 13 year Hall of Fame caliber NHL career in 1925 but what most people don't realize is that at the creaky old age of 33 he also organized, promoted and starred for the first professional team in Canadian Football History. The team was called the Crosse & Blackwell Chefs as it was sponsored by the Crosse & Blackwell food production company. It was an independent team unaffiliated with any league and it played only three games in 1933 (two home, one away).

Poor quality image of one of the two produced Crosse & Blackwell Chef programs from Maple Leaf Stadium. The stadium was built for baseball but could be configured for football as well.  

Conacher was a savvy promoter and he made sure that Alexandra Studios of Toronto took plenty of media photos of him kicking and running the ball and he used those images for program covers as well as in advertisements of products he was spokesman for. Some of these photos are catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume II.

Conacher exercising his kicking form at the stadium during a promotional photo shoot and uncatalogued photo of coach Mike Rodden who is in the Canadian football Hall of Fame as a builder. Rodden coached the Hamilton Tigers to two Grey Cup championships in the late twenties 

Since the Chefs opponents were American semi-pro independent teams (the Rochester Arpeakos and a Buffalo club whose name is not certain) it is likely that the games they played would have been by American rules, however there is the chance that some local hybrid rules would have been in play for the Toronto games.

R-ochester P-acking Co-mpany = R P Co                       Brooklyn Newspaper story about the first  Meat Products Advertising Sign                                     game of the "Chiefs" versus the Arpeakos
Information about the team's that faced the Chefs is hard to come by, presumably Conacher's four years with the New York Americans NHL team allowed him to make many contacts in the state and would also account for why this game was reported in a Brooklyn paper. In fact there was a long tradition of semi-pro independant football teams upstate and according to The Encyclopedia of New York State: local semi-pro teams could attract 8,000 paying customers and interest in them often surpassed that for local professional NFL clubs.


In 1934 Conacher gained new sponsorship so the team name changed to the Wrigley Aromints as this program versus the now Buffalo Parksides shows. Conacher is prominent hawking Bee Hive Syrup (kicking in his 1933 Chicago Blackhawks jersey!) as well as athletic supporters and probably numerous other things. I did not bother to remove the Ebay seller digital mark from the ad & lineup pages.

The Buffalo team was likely named after a prominent Buffalo neighborhood although its possible it was also sponsored by a Buffalo candy company that is still in business today. Note that Lionel drafted his brother Charlie to play quarterback for the 'Mints (and Chefs).

Marked up 1933                                                                             Uncatalogued Sports Themed Promotional Photo                                                                                           Political Handout 

Not one to let good promotional material go to waste, Conacher reused some of his old football images while running for political office after his playing career was finally over.

Thanks to Bobby Burrell for the images of the Conacher 1924 Dominion Chocolate card.
Well I think that is enough vintage focus for a while, next post will feature the 2015 Upper Deck CFL cards.