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.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Curious Case of Kapp's Cards

When I was compiling the two initial Collecting Canadian Football guides, I noted in the listings anytime that a player was featured in a CFL uniform (but not a college uniform) that did not correspond to his team assignment on the particular card. This was usually the result of the player being traded or acquired in some manner and subsequently an existing older picture was used for his card with the new team, as Topps very often reused the same player's photos year after year.

One celebrated player whose card image was recycled multiple times in this manner was Joe Kapp, Revisiting this issue I had initially thought that perhaps this was a case where I had missed making the uniform notation but upon closer examination I believe that the correct procedure was followed (no notation) as will be explained in this post.

Joe Kapp led the University of California, Berkeley, Golden Bears to an appearance in the 1958 Rose Bowl (where he wore jersey no 22) and was drafted by the Washington Redskins. Afterwards Washington failed to contact him and he came north to the Calgary Stampeders in 1959. Kapp competed in a tough training camp and won the number two Quarterback position over future American Football League star and Hall of Famer Jack Kemp, which should tell you something about the quality of import players in the CFL in the late 50's - early 60's.    

Joe Kapp's Action promotional photo taken at Mewata Stadium in 1959 (catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 2). Quarterbacks wore high numbers in the CFL prior to 1960. 

Joe was captured in the standard action shot used for all of the players at Calgary's embarrassingly antiquated stadium (more on how Calgary's civic leaders continue to fail the population today with regards to stadium suitability in this blog post). The Players scoreboard and sparse bleachers were prominent in all of these photos.

At left (1959 outside of Mewata Stadium) Joe Kapp and Jack Kemp participate in a Calgary promotional staple, a Western styled image complete with white hatted cowboy. At right (1960 McMahon Stadium dressing room) Joe Kapp adopted no 11 once the switch was made to lower quarterback jersey numbers.    

Kapp makes appearances in several pre-season group and team photos from 1959 through 1961, but strangely he is not included in any of the team action or portrait dedicated player photos after 1959. Note the blocky smooth number style of the 2's on fellow quarterback Gene Chichowski's no 22 jersey in the image above right as it becomes relevant shortly.

Kapp did not have a card in the 1959 Topps CFL issue but by 1960 he was well known enough to be included in the set and his rookie card is shown below. The photo is cropped tightly so it is not possible to infer where it was taken but note the serifs at the top of the 2's on the jersey and the slanted body stroke, they are distinctly different from the actual Calgary number styles in use that year.  The other thing of course that jumps out is Topps ridiculously shoddy attention to detail resulting in all of the Calgary Stampeder cards being colorized green, when the team wore red.

1960 Topps Rookie: First usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly while a member of the Stampeders that wore red

The same photo with much more picture area shown was used for Kapp's 1961 Stampeder card shown below. At first glance this might be mistaken for Mewata Stadium, although the detail is obscured in shadow, but the jersey numbers are still are a mismatch, and of course Kapp was wearing no 11 in Calgary, not no 22.

1961 Topps: Second usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, monochrome, making this the only accurate representation of Kapp with this photo

The two photos below are more evidence that the image in question is from Kapp's college career as the picture on the left is taken at his campus field and the jersey number styles match. The right photo with much more visible detail was the source for the image Topps used for Kapp's trading cards. Players were generally known to bring samples of their promotional photos with them when they tried out with Canadian teams, but it's also possible that Topps was able to source Kapp's college photo from news wire services in the States as Kapp was a well known athlete.

Joe Kapp at University of California Berkely campus field at left, and probably on the practice field at college on the right. From what I know of Mewata Stadium environs, I don't think there is any reason to believe that the photo on the right was taken in Calgary.

Kapp was traded after 1 game in August of 1961 to the B.C. Lions where he would eventually lead the franchise to their first Grey Cup appearances and first win in 1963 and 1964. Strangely Topps would make use of a new photo of Kapp in his B.C. uniform for their 1962 double mini card perforated panel issue, but inexplicably return to the prior image for his 1963 and 1964 B.C. Lions cards. In 1965 Topps finally straightened it out and Kapp was again featured in a more current photo as a B.C. Lion.

1963 Topps: Third usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Lions that wore orange
1964 Topps: Fourth usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Lions that wore orange

The unusual thing was that Kapp had returned to wearing jersey no 22 the whole time he was with the Lions as the two memorabilia example below show, so if the image was dated and the colour was wrong, at least his number was correct!

1961 at left, Joe Kapp just after his trade to B.C. with the nifty triple stripe helmet and 1966 at right in his final season in B.C., wearing no 22 all the way

Topps CFL sets ended in 1965 so there was no opportunity to further the mistaken usage of the older photo in 1966, but Kapp jumped to the NFL in 1967 and his Topps rookie card was issued in 1968. In another case of Topps laziness or sloppiness or both, the old photo was dusted off from their archives and reused as his NFL Minnesota Vikings rookie card.

1968 Topps NFL Rookie: Fifth usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Vikings in a different league that wore purple

It didn't end there either, as the same image was once again used in his 1969 Vikings card and the 1969 4 way mini-album insert, all still in the wrong colorized green from a mistake made a decade ago. To top off the incongruity, Kapp was back to wearing no 11 in Minnesota so the jersey number was wrong again too.

1969 Topps NFL: Sixth usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Vikings in a different league that wore purple

Finally after leading the Vikings to a 12-2 season and a berth in the Superbowl, Topps apparently deemed him important enough to take a new photo as a Viking in 1970, by which time he was playing his final season in New England.

1969 Topps NFL Mini Stamps: Seventh usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Vikings in a different league that wore purple
Top Right: Kapp as he actually appeared in Minnesota purple

A many are aware Kapp played the opposing quarterback to Burt Reynolds QB character in the 1974 football movie classic, the Longest Yard as pictured below.

Jersey no 11 and Jersey no 22 featured prominently during Kapp's whole career, so perhaps this image is no surprise 

There was a lot of player movement between the CFL and the American leagues (NFL, AFL) during the time that Topps/OPC was producing CFL cards (1958-1965). While I think it is pretty clear that Joe Kapp's jersey no 22 cards were not images of him in a CFL uniform, there is always the chance that the shared photo archives of the company that produced cards on both sides of the border might have been utilized so that there are some players that did show up on US cards in the uniforms of their Canadian teams.

Saturday, 29 April 2017


"Winnerpeg" it used to be nicknamed, and this may come as a surprise to modern day fans who associate the Winnipeg Blue Bombers primarily with prolonged futility and desperation 61 yard playoff field goal attempts (well short - to nobody's surprise). Now that Ottawa has overcome their 40 year Grey Cup drought (as well as the loss of two of their franchises!) that leaves Winnipeg as the longest suffering CFL fan base going on 27 years with no championship team to celebrate. But it wasn't always this way, at one time the Blue Bombers were the ultimate powerhouse team in Canada
and only one of those amazing quirks of sporting fate kept them from very likely becoming the first team to amass five consecutive Grey Cup championships.

Fantastic colour image from the 1957 Grey Cup game used for the cover sheet of a career retrospective book for celebrated Toronto sport photographers Lou and Nat Turofsky 

Winnipeg was the only Western team to win the Dominion championship before the end of World War II (3 times) but had subsequently suffered multiple losses after the war in the Grey Cup final. Finally in 1957 under head coach Bud Grant they unseated the reigning Eskimo dynasty and began one of their own. They lost the 1957 game to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but that would be the last time that happened during the next 5 years.

With success comes more memorabilia to keep the ardent fans engaged. Above are a Bomber's pennant and 1957 Grey Cup paper badge as well as a plastic (I think) football shaped pinback celebrating the Bombers Western Conference title of that year  

From 1958 through 1962 the Bombers would dominate the West and the whole country appearing in and winning the Grey Cup in 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962. In every one of those games their opponents would be the Hamilton Tiger-Cats coached by Jim Trimble.

At the beginning of this period Winnipeg was loaded with record setting stars, many of whom would produce Hall of Fame careers. The above section highlighting some of these players is from the Blue Bomber's newsletter "The Blue and the Gold"  Issue no 4,  March 1958

In a series of articles that I wrote for the now defunct CFHA - Canadian Football Historical Association journal (From Scrimmage to Snapback) in the mid-2000's a statistical comparison was compiled from the records and achievements of post WWII CFL dynastic teams (up to 1982). These Blue Bombers over a 6 year period compiled the highest regular season win percentage (.781) of any team, including that spanning the Eskimos 5 in a row dynasty 1977 - 1982 (.756).

Regular trips to the Grey Cup and an end to a 17 year Grey Cup drought in 1958 meant ever more Blue Bomber souvenirs and an upsurge of civic pride for their gridiron heroes 

Cartoon section from the Blue Bomber's newsletter "The Blue and the Gold"  Issue no 1, April 1959 indicative of the team's focus with their Eastern rivals. The answer to the question posed turned out to be definitively yes  

In 1960 the Bombers' had what most of the veteran players felt was easily the finest team they had yet assembled posting a 14-2 record. In the East the Tiger-Cats had surprisingly crashed to a last place finish setting the table for what should have been a Bomber cakewalk to a third consecutive title. But
in the deciding game of the western final series with Edmonton, the Blue Bombers were leading 2-1 needing only to run out the clock in a brutally cold snowstorm. Instead an inopportune fumble allowed Edmonton to kick the winning field goal with seconds to play.

This metal fan badge and Booster Club cloth patch (or possibly air freshener type of product) are two more examples of novelties that the team's winning ways made profitable

Since the Bombers recovered to win the next two subsequent Grey Cups, the first overtime contest ever in 1961 and the infamous Fog Bowl in 1962, the upset loss in 1960 loomed even larger breaking the Bomber wins into two sets of back to back championships instead of a potential five in a row. Of course impressive regular season records are not necessarily a guarantee of victory (just ask the 2016 Calgary Stampeders).

Paper ephemera from this era is also plentiful and wonderfully evocative of the time  

Glassware was a popular product promoting the league in the late fifties and early sixties, and because much of it celebrated the Grey Cup, much of it naturally featured Winnipeg. For colour scheme you might as well use Blue and Gold since that was what champions wore! 

The Blue Bombers from 1957 - 1962 played an incredible 18! playoff games as this was the era of grueling multi-game playoff matchups, compiling a .694 playoff win record. Contrast that with their nemesis, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who only had to play 10 playoff games over the same time span. Compare that with the 1977 - 1982 Eskimos who only had to play 6!! playoff games to position themselves for dynastic Grey Cup glory and Winnipeg's achievements are even more impressive than just the bare number of Grey Cups won would indicate (which is of course plenty impressive on its own).

The team certainly did not go out of their way to trumpet their championship successes on their media guide covers. 

The Bombers returned to the Grey Cup in 1965 but were finally overcome by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The team would go on to another lengthy multi-decade championship drought after 1962 until 1984.  

These fabulous Community Hotels calendars (1963 shown above) are the best representative collectibles of the great Bomber teams of the late 50's - Mid 60's. They are catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 2.

Here is one of my favorite oddball items, one of those old style pens with a hollow barrel filled with fluid, when you tip the pen the football player moves back and forth while the referee signals touchdown! The other side shows the Grey Cup and Manitoba's legislature golden boy statue  

It would seem that the Bombers of this era had a low tolerance for lack of glory as they promote the return to it after just two seasons out of the Grey Cup on the left.  Finally in 1966 with the glory years fading in the rear view mirror the media guide makes sure that the team's impressive championship triumphs are properly noted.   

On the eve of the 1963 season the Winnipeg Blue Bomber's were easily the most consistently successful Western franchise by a huge margin and the other western clubs could only dream of emulating that standard. They had won 7 Grey Cups in total while the second best team Edmonton (3) had less than half as many, Calgary only had (1) and both B.C. and Saskatchewan still had (0).

Even today at 10 cups the Blue Bombers are still the 2nd most successful Western team in terms of championships won. So keep that in mind when you watch the Blue Bombers struggle to end their championship-less torment, this year and for how ever many more years it takes.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Upper Deck 2016 - (Volume 1 Addition)

Readers of a certain vintage will (hopefully) recognize part of the soundtrack to the third installment of the Sergio Leone / Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns trilogy, 1965's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

This month I am going to review the 3rd installment of the Upper Deck CFL trading card years,
2016's Issue and point out the aspects that I feel are the good, the bad and yes, a few ugly with the product.

Only one style of box and wrappers were produced this year,
instead of the two styles from the previous 2 issues. 

The Good: Continued focus on the previous season's Grey Cup Champions, with action graphics and attractive design. Elimination of the pointless "Retail" box style with a lesser number of packs.

The Bad: "2015 GRAY CUP CHAMPIONS CARD" referenced on the side panel, a typical American spelling mistake with regards to the cup, albeit a minor issue.

The Ugly: none.

This year's base set includes 163 cards with two checklists split into the standard Offensive, Defensive/Special Teams and All-Star categories with the last two being 3 times and 6 times scarcer than the Offensive cards. No Star/Rookies subset this year either.

The Good: Great photography, good player selection and a full set of the first 100 Offensive cards in every box, as has been the case every year.

The Bad: A couple of my cards were damaged out of the pack, the fact that they were the short printed cards and not the common Offensive cards was almost enough to push this into the Ugly category for me.

The Ugly: The Upper Deck website displaying card images that don't match the final designs. Hard for a collector to know that the cards pictured (presumably) do not exist, especially if somebody comes upon the pictures many years from now.

On the left are the actual Burris base card and the actual Venable OPC Subset card and on the right are the mockups from the Upper Deck website. At the present time I have no idea if this practice had also occurred for the prior two seasons.

The Good: The OPC Retro subset is one of the most popular & funky components of the product and strikes a nice balance between being slightly scarce (1:3, 8 per box) but still eminently completable. The blank backed variations are also back.

The Bad: The retro subset team logos (except for Calgary and Ottawa) look kind of strange all surrounded by a red background and the card fronts tend to pick up a certain amount of black marking from the backs of the printed subset cards, On the other hand these sorts of characteristics perhaps make them a more authentic throwback to the OPC designs and card quality issues of yore.

The Ugly: none.

Once again copious amounts of memorabilia swatch inserts and autograph inserts as well as the pretty rare Grey Cup Champion insert (1:384 packs!) are represented in the set. Oh, and each pack but the ones with the special cards still comes with it's very own blank slug...

The Good: You still get on average two jersey cards in every box, it never seems to be the players I want, but you generally get two either way. On top of that you normally score at least one of the other types of limited insert cards in a box as well.

The Bad: It's hard to checklist these subsets to know what is available as Upper Deck only has the 2014 CFL set checklisted on their website, Which is actually a slight improvement over the attention the CFL often gets on other vendor websites who sell CFL licensed products, but you wouldn't know it from the complete absence of mention on their product web portals.

The Ugly: The return of the slugs, see my post on Upper Deck Take Two - (Volume 1 Addition) for more on this topic.

This year's new feature is short-print parallel limited numbered  (# of 10) High-Gloss cards, for every base card (although the box bottom fails to mention that the All-Stars are included). There are also short-print parallel autographed cards for the base Offensive and Defensive/Special teams cards and short-print parallel autographed limited numbered (# of 25) cards for the All-Stars,
yes it's that easy...

The Good: This largely depends on your outlook on a bewildering profusion of very limited chase cards, if you like that sort of thing its good. At the very least Upper Deck is not scrimping on the details for the CFL product and it does provide me with a challenge to checklist it all properly.

The Bad: While I typically believe the more CFL collectibles produced the better, this amount of card variations seems to me to be too many, completing a team set even would be a considerable undertaking, never mind a complete master set.

The Ugly: The cost associated with the short printed cards on the secondary market (ebay) means it would take hundreds or even thousands of dollars to put a dent in a substantial want list of high-gloss and autographed cards. Or you could buy cases of product and spend the same amount that way.

The OPC short print logo patch cards are back this year, and for the first time redemption cards for rookie and veteran update sets were inserted in packs. Finally another separate All-Star limited printing small set was made available late in the season. 

The Good: Great to see redemption cards that were stated on boxes since 2014 actually appear, also I got one in one of my boxes. These have been trending on ebay for over $100 lately so there is clearly strong interest.  

The Bad: The redemption fulfillment time period is 12-16 weeks, so that puts us well into the current year and seems like a long time to wait. The logo patches look like they might be starting to get recycled which is a shame, because there are a ton of logo variations from days gone by that could potentially be rendered.

The Ugly: If I don't get my Rookie set, it will be ugly, but after 123 days (which is more than 17 weeks), the image below at least gives me some hope:

Overall I'm going to rate Upper Deck's 3rd CFL effort 3.5 "Tuco"s out of 5, (...sorry shorty).

Long time collectors may be unimpressed with the glut of special inserts but there is no denying that the potential to score a valuable insert card and then flip it on ebay for a decent return is partially responsible for the popularity that these cards enjoy. If that helps to promote the players, the league and the sport then it has to be viewed positively.