Wednesday, 29 November 2017

That's The Ticket!

OK, so now that we have resolved the annual question "How will the Stampeders blow the Grey Cup this year?" - Answer : In never-happened-before-in-104-years, setting-multiple-all-time-distance-of-play-going-against-you-records, carve-your-franchise-name-in-stone-as-the-greatest-CFL-choke-artists-ever fashion.

You knew it was going to happen, you didn't know who or how or when or what, but sure enough when the opportunity presented itself to literally give the game and the championship away to an opponent they had thoroughly dominated almost all night long, they did exactly that in a way that makes snatching defeat from the jaws of victory a brutal understatement. And then having somehow miraculously managed to put themselves back in the position to at least tie the game, they decide to piss it all away again on a low percentage, risky, unnecessary, under thrown long pass to a five foot nothing receiver who was not open and was double covered. Brilliant...

And related to the theme this month's post will look at the popular collectible category of CFL Grey Cup tickets.



Vintage Grey Cup tickets from the fifties are fairly basic in
design but still attractive and sought after



The earliest ticket image I can seem to find right now is this 1952 complete ticket that was obviously not used. I guess papering the house was not unknown even back then. 


Grey Cup tickets are not particularly rare (although obviously the older they are the fewer have survived) with examples from the sixties onward being relatively easy to accumulate if a collector was to put their mind to it.




As you can see from the above two images some games had different coloured tickets,
probably for different price levels meaning there is more to collect than just one item per year


Obviously the better the condition of the ticket, and whether or not the stub had been torn off has a significant effect on the price, with a NRMT vintage ticket probably being at least 2 to 3 times more valuable than an EX+ ticket with missing stub.



By 1965 there was some variation in the ticket graphics


From 1970 to at least 1978 the tickets used almost the exact same design every year making that decade probably the least interesting era of championship ticket.






Of course if you search out this material you will eventually come across other ephemera related to the game but not specifically a game ticket, such as the Manitoba Lottery ticket below.


This lottery ran for many years but was not
legally allowed to use the term Grey Cup


By the mid eighties tickets had started to feature regular photographic images and foil stamping or holographic effects. Some tickets from some eighties championship games were undersold and there are plenty of unused items on the market so they are only worth a few dollars per ticket.




Some collectors will specialize in only Grey Cup tickets where their favorite team participated, or more commonly where their favorite team managed to win!


One whimsical additional series of ephemera that can be collected for the eighties championship match ups are these SunLife turncoat tags that measure very roughly somewhere around 9" X 7"



These are team specific on each side so you can instantly change allegiance during the game,
issued from at least 1981 through 1986



Turn of the decade into the last years of the century and Grey Cup tickets start to get larger and as you might expect have incrementally higher face values.




As evidenced by the 1996 ticket on the right, surplus blanks were sometimes printed with the results and issued solely as keepsake collectibles after the fact 





Of course the cup continues to feature prominently on designs of this century as well.
Foil stamping, die cutting and eventually anti-counterfeiting measures are part of the tickets.


Despite the glossy nature of the premium commemorative tickets it is still possible to find more mundane objects related to the game as shown below.



1997 Tim Hortons Grey Cup contest coupon from Edmonton and
a regular ticketmaster style non-premium ticket to the 2015 game in Winnipeg



In 2012 for the 100th Anniversary of the Grey Cup game, the league issued 4 different tickets with four legendary Grey Cup winners on them and they look to have been printed on plastic with holes for stringing onto a lanyard.



Doug Flutie and Lionel Conacher on 2012 tickets.
Russ Jackson and Normie Kwong were the other two players produced.


So there you have it, there are no shortage of Grey Cup themed tickets and associated bits of ephemera to collect that will likely bring back great memories of games and titles won by your favorite team in decades past. Just so long as you do not have the gut wrenching misfortune to be a Stampeders fan.


   

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Go Get 'Em! - (Volume 1 Update)

Two things about collecting Canadian football memorabilia are fairly constant yet somewhat contradictory at the same time:

1) The process of purposely searching for and finally locating quality obscure uncatalogued material can be long and tedious with rewards few and far between, and yet

2) Wait long enough and keep your eyes open and no matter how popular and presumably well documented a classic CFL collectible promotion is, uncatalogued items will likely continue to surface.


Beautiful promotional retail advertising cardboard window display from
the classic 1965 CFL Coke & Sprite promotion 

Case in point is the fabulous retail display (roughly 15" X 24") that I was lucky enough to come across in Southern Ontario on a recent trip to Toronto. I had some spare cycles and spent them looking for any interesting memorabilia and after coming up empty for the first couple of days, finally struck paydirt!

The piece would have been folded in half initially and mailed out to probably hundreds of corner store and grocery retailers in mid 1965 in a large cardboard sleeve. A similar promotional package of retail advertising signs and ephemera was earlier detailed in this blog post. This sign would have also been accompanied by related documentation to assure the retailer of the probability of healthy profits and heavy manufacturer advertising support for the promotion.



Photograph of the type of billboard advertising the retailer could expect for the products 


One such additional piece was framed with the sign, the above small actual developed photograph, likely taken somewhere in Toronto with the same slogan and graphics. There was also another interested printed illustration of a Coke billboard scheduled to be run in October 1965, found with this group, but that piece was for the American Coke football promotion and had a different slogan with different graphics altogether.



Canadian Football News October 12th 1965 Advertisement 

The above ad ran in October but the uneven distribution of players per team strongly indicates that the caps were being produced from as early as August of 1965 as players cut during that month appear on the caps and a couple of  players traded in August appear with both teams.



Gorgeous French language magazine advertising page.

A poster and two magazine advertisements in English were catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football V1 but as the above image shows, in French the slogan was Allons-Y! Collectionnons, and this would lead one to suppose that all of the promotional material available in English was most likely also produced in French as well.



Two distinct cap holder order forms from different provinces


The cap holder order form was listed in Collecting Canadian Football V1 and as noted in the writeup different bottling plants were distribution points for the mail-in premium resulting in multiple variations for the pamphlet. And these aren't the only variations within the issue, on at least one bottle cap images were reversed from printing to printing or plant to plant. No way to know at the present time how many of these might exist or within which product or language type differences or even which ones are the rarer variant. Thanks to Carl Lamendola for the image below.


Blue Bombers Barrie Hansen with obvious left and right image reversal  


Many years ago there was an Ebay auction that had a couple of actual full bottles of Coke with the caps still intact and the 1965 Coke inside. Unfortunately I have misplaced the images and even more unfortunately since one of the bottles had a Wayne Harris cap I neglected to add it to my Stampeder collection and will now never see them again.


Nifty metal tab "pinback" for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 


Another recently surfaced related collectible is the promotion specific lapel button shown above. While it is possible that only Hamilton area bottlers funded this extra novelty a more likely assumption would be that these were available for every team, possibly in both languages for Montreal. On the other hand if that were the case one would expect to see these around from time to time and since this is the only one I've ever seen it may have been city specific.




A Cap Holder filled with Argonauts caps


Over half a century ago you might have seen the impressive display above hanging on a diligent young fan's bedroom wall (with probably a worrisome number of dental cavities as well). It is too late to carefully pry the caps off of product bottles without denting or scratching the player image to accumulate a near mint team set for your favorite franchise, and in 1965 very few would have had the foresight to do so. But it is not too late to keep uncovering old and forgotten aspects of vintage issues and expanding the knowledge base of CFL collectibles and the history of the sport in Canada.

       

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Light 'Em Up & Stub 'Em Out!

One of the earliest posts I wrote for this blog focused on a small number of CFL themed vintage matchbooks and afterwards I was advised by some collectors of a variety of team matchbooks that I had forgotten to mention. Additionally a good number of other fascinating vintage Canadian Football themed matchbooks have surfaced since then, but I will leave these for another time and instead focus on two different groups of accessories that facilitated the habits of smokers once upon a time.



One of the best known CFL themed vintage gas lighters was this model given out to attendees of the Saskatchewan Roughrider's $100 annual dinner in 1962. Made by Japanese manufacturer Maruman, it came in a wood grain case with fuel supply.    


Vintage lighters are a a sub-class of Smoking Accessory collectibles with an avid collector following chasing thousands of differently designed or decorated items from hundreds of manufacturers. Maruman began producing lighters in Japan in 1959 and won first prize at the New York International Lighter Fair in 1961. Perhaps the model pictured above was in the award winner style.   



Roughrider fans could extinguish their cigarettes into team themed ashtrays, 1960 on the left and 1967 on the right being just two examples.


Ashtrays typically made for very attractive collectibles as there was ample space for period graphics and in some cases extensive information. Condition can be a problem though as ashtrays that were used can have tar and burn marks as well as damaged graphics, near mint examples will command significantly more money than heavily used items.    




At left is the oldest CFL vintage lighter I am currently aware of, an Eskimo Grey Cup decorated model that I think celebrates all three mid fifties championships. At right is a vintage early sixties B.C. Lions Sapphire lighter.


The popularity of smoking during the last century meant that lighters and ashtrays were produced in the millions, but as with anything else, CFL themed objects were a tiny minority of those numbers and they are not particularly easy to come by today.




At left a Stampeders logo ashtray (probably sixties) and at right a Stampeders logo lighter by Hamilton (probably late fifties)


For some teams I have no examples of vintage lighters (Winnipeg, Hamilton, Montreal, Toronto) or vintage ashtrays (Winnipeg, Toronto) but they almost certainly exist and I probably just haven't stumbled upon any yet. 




At left a great (probably sixties) Hamilton themed ashtray combining the fierce logo with the fiery steel mills the city was known for. At right another Hamilton ashtray (probably seventies) with the common helmet logo graphics that were used on many products from that era.


While CFL branded smoking accessories are going to be found on ebay from time to time, it may take some effort examining the inventory of dealers that specialize in smoking accessories at antique malls and flea markets to score one of these interesting items.   



Scripto made lighters from the mid fifties to the mid seventies with this Ottawa model (with case) probably dating from the sixties. 



These two glass ashtrays (probably early seventies) likely indicate that every team was represented with a product in this style. 




At left is a vintage Alouette ashtray (or possibly candy-dish I suppose) and at right an example that shows that although smoking is out of favour, modern ashtrays are still sometimes produced.


Of course one of the best known lighter brands is Zippo. Even though there are numerous references for Zippo collectors out there, as usual any data on CFL designs is absent or spotty at best. Consequently I am unsure when the first CFL Zippo lighter was made, sometime in the nineties may be a good guess (although the mid fifties Eskimos model shown above is possibly a Zippo model). 



Undated Eskimo and Argonaut Zippo lighters with different display stand styles


In some years Zippo manufactured complete league sets, with one such set being sold for $350 or $35 per lighter recently. Zippo lighters bring pretty good prices even if they were made fairly recently.




Six of a full league set of 10 Zippo lighters for 2002 



While we are thinking about vintage smoking accessories, here is a weirdo football themed carved touchdown pipe made in Canada.


These collectibles are another example that CFL and Canadian football themed items were produced in just about every category and class of objects that might have a promotional aspect to them, you just have to look out for them.

  

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Tigertown Tradition

Recently I posted a blog about Winnipeg and the Blue Bomber's rich championship history in order to present a different perspective to the franchise while they are mired in the current longest CFL championship drought (27 years). So now I think that perhaps a quick review of the glorious football history of another city with a struggling team (the currently 0-8 Hamilton Tiger-Cats) and slim hope of ending their own championship drought (18 years) anytime soon, might be appropriate. But this time we are going way back to the origins of the sport in Canada.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats via their ancestor the Hamilton Tigers team, have the oldest pedigree of any franchise in Canadian Football History. The team was formed in 1869 and spent the first few seasons in local play before beginning inter-city play in 1873 with the first match against the Toronto Argonauts (who have the second oldest pedigree).  After a decade of some level of affiliation with nascent early national sport associations (meaning for Quebec & Ontario) and minimal or non-existent record keeping the Tigers became a founding member of the original Ontario Rugby Football Union (O.R.F.U.) in 1883.


Printed Illustration mounted on cardboard celebrating the two earliest Canadian Rugby Football teams, the Argonauts and the Tigers in a late 19th Century match up. Issued around 1890 probably. 


Keep in mind that the evolution of what is today called Canadian Football was a long and convoluted process as original English Rugby codes were repeatedly modified by local unions to suit their own purposes. What looks like Rugby from the last century to the current observer can in fact be directly linked to the modern game by the participating franchises that existed then and still exist today.



At left a beautiful pinback commemorating a very early Hamilton football dynasty along with a program from the final year of the 4 championship run. During this period the O.R.F.U. used the Burnside rules which were notably more similar to the modern game than those used by other unions of the era.

The Hamilton Tigers competed in the O.R.F.U. for 24 seasons from 1883 to 1906, a time period over which competing national sport organizations and a variety of other unions made the process of determining who was using what rules and who was eligible to play for which championship a chaotic affair during most seasons. The Tigers came out on the losing end of the O.R.F.U. championship in 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892 & 1894 while capturing the championship in 1890, 1897 & four years consecutively in 1903 to 1906.


1906 Postcard featuring a packed house of fans equipped with a giant megaphone tube, no doubt in order to yell Argos Suck. Captioned "Rooters for the Tigers at the Tiger - Argonaut Football Match. Hamilton, Ont."

The team also lost the Dominion Championship in 1897 and won it in 1906. The Dominion Championship under the auspices of the Canadian Rugby Union began in 1892, which is the proper real starting point for the collation of Canadian national championships per city/franchise, as the Grey Cup in 1909 was simply the beginning of their being a specific trophy awarded to the Dominion Champions.



Mounted photograph of the 1908 Champions. Several other early postcards and photos of Tiger championship teams were listed in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 2.

In 1907 the Hamilton Tigers switched leagues by becoming a founding member of the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (I.R.F.U. or Big Four encompassing teams from Montreal, Toronto & Ottawa as well). The Tigers won their second dominion championship in 1908, lost their first Grey Cup in 1910 and then subsequently won their first Grey Cup (3rd Dom. Champ.) in 1913 and won again in 1915 (4th D.C.). In the meantime a different Hamilton club that played in the old O.R.F.U., the Alerts had won two O.R.F.U. titles and technically won the city's first Grey Cup in 1912.



Grey Cup program from 1910 at left and a Song, Parody & Yell pamphlet intended to spur Varsity to victory in the same game, apparently it worked. 


The Alerts only lasted two years in the O.R.F.U. and were replaced by the Hamilton Rowing Club in 1913 who managed to participate in eight seasons up until 1925 and won one O.R.F.U. title. In 1926 the Tigers were strong enough to place their "B" team into the O.R.F.U. who subsequently changed their name to the Hamilton Tiger Cubs playing in the O.R.F.U. from 1927 - 1937 (the last season as the Panthers).



At left Hamilton Amateur Athletic Association Tiger cloth patch worn by Tiger teams in the O.R.F.U. including the original Tigers and the Hamilton Tiger Cubs. At right the Championship cap awarded to members of the Hamilton Alerts.  


Meanwhile after World War I ended the Tigers continued the next 21 seasons (1919 - 1939) in the I.R.F.U. winning their 5th, 6th & 7th Dominion Championships and their 3rd, 4th & 5th Grey Cups in 1928, 1929 & 1932 while coming out on the losing end in 1935.



At left program for the Hamilton Rowing Club contesting the 1925 O.R.F.U. championship and at right program for the 1932 Grey Cup where the Tigers defeated the Regina Roughriders.


During World War II the Tigers suspended operations after 1940 and a newly commissioned Hamilton Alerts team that played in the O.R.F.U. for a single season in 1940 also disbands. Both teams send some players to the team organized in Hamilton supported by the Armed Forces, the Hamilton Flying Wildcats who continue play in the O.R.F.U. The Wildcats win three O.R.F.U. championships as well as the 1943 Grey Cup.

After the War the Tigers resume operations in 1945 but in 1948 they jump back to the O.R.F.U. because of an ineligible player scandal caused by the signing of two ex New York Giants suspended by the NFL for gambling irregularities and the Wildcats subsequently jump to the I.R.F.U.  The Tigers dominate the O.R.F.U. going 19-2 over two seasons and winning both O.R.F.U. championships while the Wildcats struggle in the I.R.F.U. going 1-22-1 over the two seasons.
    


O.R.F.U. championship program from 1943 featuring the Wildcats and a program from the final season of the Hamilton Tigers, their 75th.

Finally in 1950 with the merger of the Wildcats and the Tigers the modern Tiger-Cats were born, and went on to considerable championship success in the following 50 years. Incredibly by 1949 the Tigers had already participated in 75 organized seasons before some western teams were even formed! Just over that initial span Hamilton teams won 14 O.R.F.U. championships, 9 Dominion championships (including 7 Grey Cups) and helped form and sustain the two most storied football unions in the history of the sport in Canada. And none of that even touches on the numerous Intermediate and Junior Canadian Rugby Union titles won by teams representing the Steel City as well.

So while the current team's trials and tribulations are painful to watch, fans of other teams shouldn't feel too superior to the 'Cats, because in reality most of the other franchises accomplishments are no where near as storied or numerous as what Hamilton has achieved.  

        

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Dairy Queen Serves Up A Winner!

One of the most fondly remembered CFL memorabilia promotions ever, was held over multiple seasons in the mid-seventies by Dairy Queen. Fans could enjoy a tasty soft serve sundae in a football helmet shaped cup and then, with suitable logo stickers affixed to both sides (some with stripe) take the helmet home with them as a keepsake of their favorite team!



Saskatchewan Roughriders sundae helmet at left and Ottawa Rough Rider sundae helmet at right


The promotion ran for sure in 1976 and 1977 as associated helmet display boards and advertising materials attest to those seasons. It also ran in the U.S. for NFL teams in at least 1976 with the exact same helmets and similar display board. All helmets were identically molded and came with a grey two bar plastic face mask.  


An intact sundae helmet sticker sheet at left and
a game program advertisement for the promotion from 1977 at right


The helmets can be considered roughly a 4 - Rare on the availability scale with the display boards and the sticker sheet rating as 5 - Extremely Rare. The sheet shows that the helmets were manufactured in only 6 different colours, both the Argos and Als using blue, both the Bombers and Eskimos using gold and both the Lions and Rough Riders using black. Seven stripes were available as Montreal and Calgary did not feature stripes on their helmets during this time period. As far as is known the sticker sheet was the same in both years.






The display board available in 1976 may have only been intended for in Dairy Queen franchise display purposes or it may have been available for fans to take home as well, the answer to this question is not currently known. A 1976 board in prime condition would probably rate in the $75 to $100 range and advertises the promotion as CFL "Ko-Lecto" BY FUZZ INC., whatever that was supposed to mean?  


Here is the same board with the helmets removed,
note the misspelling of the Ottawa Rough Riders 

In 1977 the board was upgraded in the graphics department and was designed so that the fan could keep track of the east and west standings by rearranging their helmets in the slots. This board was available for purchase at the DQ locations as per the advertisement shown earlier.


Above is the considerably more modern looking display board from 1977


The helmets themselves will range from about $5 for a sloppily stickered one in average shape with some flaws to maybe $12 to $15 for a near mint condition example with well placed stickers and a straight stripe where applicable. The stickers themselves tend to hold up age wise fairly well with good adhesion to the plastic 40 years on more often than not. I actually paid $20 to reacquire a Stampeder helmet (my vintage DQ eaten out of  versions from the mid-seventies having long ago ended up in the landfill) because, well the owner did not want to sell very much and I really wanted it...



At left is the earlier helmet imprint data and at right is the later helmet imprint data

Although you can't tell the helmets from different years apart from the outside, inside the copyright information imprinted in the plastic is different in the earlier year versus the later year. A few uncertainties remain, it is not known why the copyright date is 1974, and why the copyright seems to have been settled in Canada first and only later in the US, why the bottom number (both of these are Stampeder red helmets) changed from one year to the next and whether each different colour helmet had a different number.

It is somewhat possible that the items were also produced in 1975 but with no display board (some ebay auctions have claimed that Ko-Lecto was stamped on the inside of their helmets but this remains unconfirmed) and it is certainly unusual that the US NFL promotion did not predate the Canadian one as that is usually the case with these sorts of things. Anyway a set of these helmets is a great reminder of summer treats and gridiron action from four decades ago.


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Team Royalist or Team Federalist, both like a good beverage.

Two vintage categories of collectibles that there were an awful lot of items produced across a large range of styles, types and compositions, are CFL themed glassware and tableware from the fifties, sixties and seventies. Eventually these numerous sets will all be catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 3, where a Macro category distinction will be made between Glassware (food and beverage containers and utensils made specifically of glass) and Tableware (food and beverage containers and utensils made of any material, other than glass).

This post will preview two sets from the Tableware category that span the time frame from the mid fifties to the early seventies. Both are colourful and fairly highly sought after, although providing the space required to display these attractive pieces is not something that every collector is willing or able to accommodate.



Saucer and Teacup from circa 1955 Royal Stafford Football Series
("Rough Riders" is misspelled for Saskatchewan on the saucer, and so probably on their cup too)


    One of the least likely pairings one could imagine came about sometime during the middle of the fifties when an English fine bone china manufacturing company issued a tea cup and saucer set celebrating the bone crunching sport of Canadian Football. The exact year is uncertain (all nine teams exist) and the existing Royal Stafford company website has no information about vintage past issues.



Each saucer and teacup have the company branding on the bottom and each piece has gold highlights and an autumn leaves motif  



The graphic design work is impressive with different player poses for each team and what looks like fairly accurate uniform and colour renditions for each club. The images are very evocative of the era of early goalposts and no face masks which is a solid indicator that these were a fifties issue. The images would have had to have been copied from photographs provided to the china company as it would be highly unlikely that their normal artists would have had any concept of what Canadian Football was.
 



Each cup has the Grey Cup on the reverse and each saucer does as well with the slogan
"Symbol of Canadian Football Supremacy"


The players are not identified but each has a number and it is possible that a check of rosters from the mid fifties for each team might correlate with known athletes, or they may be totally arbitrary. The lack of distinct player identification is why these items were slated for Collecting Canadian Football Volume 3 instead of Volume 1.






Since these were dishes the set is of course subject to wear, especially if they were ever put through the dishwasher cycle and so pristine items with the gold leaf trim intact command a premium, usually landing in the $50-$75 range per team.



Fast forwards about 15 years to roughly 1971 or so and the Federal Glass Company from Columbus Ohio produced a set of CFL themed opaque glass milk mugs for each team with a caricature of modern players. Federal produced probably thousands of mugs of different designs and this issue was likely sponsored by the league itself.



Each cup had the player graphic on one side and the well known team helmet logo on the other.
The cups are 3" tall and 3" in diameter at top


The caricatures once again are not identified as any particular player, but certain very well known players from that era do match the jersey numbers (#30 Jim Young for B.C. & #10 Gerry Keeling for Calgary for example) and so a little roster research here might determine that in fact identities could be assigned to each cup.



If that is Argo QB Joe Thiesmann at top left he looks more like a linebacker than a quarterback.
The cups also feature striping in team colours between the cartoon and the helmet logo.


The cartoon designs are unsigned but are very reminiscent of the work of Canadian artist Ted Michener who did the caricature work for the same era 1971 Macs Milk player stickers (as listed in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 1, but misspelled "Mitchener").



Left image shows false colour bottom for cup no 41 (Calgary) and
right image is cup no 4-something-but-not-1 (Winnipeg)


The bottom of the cups has the Federal logo and possibly a unique cup number for the series, more research is required to see if other cups also have distinct numbers and usually it is very hard to make out the printing on the cup bottoms from online images.




Hamilton, B.C. and Saskatchewan all have somewhat similar player poses


These cups also tend to be found with dishwasher and usage damage, so pristine examples go for premium amounts, but generally speaking a cup in pretty good condition usually costs about $20.

Both of these issues are not necessarily that easy to come by and putting together a complete set of 9 cups in good condition for either group would be a challenging prospect.