Saturday, 24 March 2018

Grocery Store Score on the Prairies - (Volume 2 Update & Volume 1 Addition)

Gameday Approved was the name of the multi year promotion sponsored by Federated Coop, a large agricultural and retail conglomerate based in Saskatoon. Co-op is one of the major grocery retailers in Western Canada, especially in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Beginning in 2010 in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the Roughriders Co-op issued two commemorative Andy Fantuz cereal boxes although the Game Day Approved slogan was not used in the first year of the promotion.

2012 Saskatchewan Roughriders Getzlaf Waggle Cereal Box (French Side) 

 Subsequently A Darian Durant commemorative cereal box was produced in 2011 and the Getzlaf pictured above in 2012. These items as well as two Weston Dressler themed potato chip branded packages were all catalogued and illustrated in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 2, because they were team specific to the Roughriders. A large number of other grocery product items were also branded with the Rider's logo but this blog post will concentrate (mostly) on only those that also contain a specific player image.

2013 Geroy Simon Chips & Weston Dressler Fruit Snacks 

Subsequent to the publication of CCF V2 Co-op produced two more Rider player themed packages in 2013 and there does not seem to have been a special cereal produced for this season. Life sized cardboard standups of Simon were produced, unsure if new Dressler ones were also made (a Dressler standup was produced in 2011).

Edmonton & Winnipeg promotional posters featuring the Mike Reilly and Nick Moore branded Chips and multiple other non-player specific products 

After four seasons featuring just Saskatchewan Co-op decided to expand the promotion to the 3 other prairie teams with their own branded and player sponsored grocery items. The result was a lot more things to collect as well as more associated advertising pieces that will eventually find their way into an update for Volume I as they are no longer specific to just one team.

2014 Special Stampeders Cornish autograph poster at left and Cornish Flakes Cereal from the same year, the only non-Saskatchewan player to be featured on their own cereal  

Besides what is pictured here there were Cornish RB-Q Chips, a Durant Quarterback Quench drink (which I have not been able to find a picture of), Getzlaf Chris-py Dill Chips and a generic Roughriders Kickoff Krunch Cereal to keep consumers busy buying and eating. It is not known if similar special autograph session posters were created for any of the other players in the other cities, but it would seem probable.  

2014 introduced prairie wide everybody's favorite damn hard to store player item, the life size cardboard standup (it is possible the Durant on the left is from a previous year). Standups of Cornish and Moore were also made.  

Also to celebrate the Rider's 4th cup win in 2013 the special cola cans  below were produced, each one specific to the year with the final score and a player image on them, including George Reed '66, Glenn Suitor & Dave Ridgway '89, <cant make it out> '07 & Kory Sheets '13.

Don't forget to save the box too, player images are on it as well as the cans 

2015 saw the promotion scaled back somewhat and as far as I can tell there was one chip bag issued for each of the four teams. There may have been new standups issued as well, but this is unconfirmed. Information on line seems to be scarce for this year, and pretty soon it will likely all be gone, highlighting the importance of capturing the details on dates and items while it is still just a click away.

All four 2015 Quarterback themed Chip Packages 

One of the players above is particularly not like the others, while Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly & Darian Durant have either led or probably still will lead their teams to multiple Grey Cups and all have brought home a championship to their franchise, Drew Willy's time in Winnipeg was a bust, so you know which bag will probably be the rarest a couple of decades from now.

All four 2016 Quarterback themed Chip Packages 


The seventh and final year of the program came in 2016 after hundreds of thousands of dollars had been raised for the various Children's Hospitals in each province. Once again four different types of chips with player endorsement were issued with the same three quarterbacks for Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan but with Weston Dressler appearing for Winnipeg, making him the only player who was featured on products for two different teams.

Grocery store items are a great way to score basically "free" collectibles while getting your moneys worth on the actual product itself. They typically are very easy to get while the promotion is active and then rapidly become very difficult to locate afterwards. Commemorative cereal boxes are something that people tend to pack away so those will likely remain relatively easy to find, but if you didn't grab all the chip bags you needed over the last few years for your team, well good luck finding them in the future. At least you now have the info to know what to look for.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Illustrating the CFL

Magazines with the title "Canadian Football Illustrated" or "Canadian Football League Illustrated" have a very long affiliation with professional football in Canada over three distinct eras. All of them make for great collectibles filled with period information and photos that are not commonly seen elsewhere. This blog post will examine these cool and desirable items.

Billy Vessels of the Edmonton Eskimos on the cover of the 1953 edition and
Eddie Bevan of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on the cover of the 1954 edition. 

The first era spanned five seasons beginning before the two primary Canadian leagues (Eastern "Big Four" I.R.F.U. - Interprovincial Rugby Football Union and Western W.I.F.U. - Western Interprovincial Football Union) had merged to form the CFC - Canadian Football Council in 1956). The last edition of the yearly magazine came out in 1957.

1956 edition Table of Contents page as well as one of the article pages 

The magazines were published before each season with prognostications on the upcoming year as well as pictorial features and coverage of Canadian college football. These magazines are not super rare although acquiring a complete set of five would probably take some patience, with prices ranging from about $30 to $60 per copy depending on condition, the older ones obviously at a bit of a premium over the later ones.  

1955 cover featuring a beautiful full colour picture of Ottawa playing in Hamilton and Hal Patterson of the Montreal Alouettes on the cover of the 1957 edition.

The CFC would rename itself to the CFL - Canadian Football League in 1958 and for their 13th season in 1970 the name Canadian Football League Illustrated was resurrected for a series of magazines that were available for separate purchase but also functioned as "outer" programs at games in each city.

1970 Volume I No. 1 Saskatchewan Roughriders and
Volume I No. 8 Montreal Alouettes 

The publications feature gorgeous colour photographs of each team in action on both the front and back covers at a time when colour pictures of CFL games were definitely not the easiest thing to come by. These are large format magazines measuring roughly 8 3/4" X 11 3/4".

Inside page of the Roughriders album detailing some of their history

Each magazine, one per team, was like a mini history of the franchise detailing their championships and most famous all-time players as well as some of their current crop of budding stars.

Inside page of the Alouettes album showcasing some of their current players

Because of their in depth team history studies these 1970 mags make great keepsakes and since they were printed in large quantities to supply fans at the games in every city they are fairly easy to come by, sometimes for as little as $3 or $4 each at antique malls or thrift shops, and sometimes they show up on Ebay at significantly higher asking prices.

1971 Volume II No. 2 Hamilton Tiger-Cats with poster and watch offer inside page

The 1971 editions remained large format and contained a little historical information along with more stories on the team's active players and  multiple offers for cool CFL Properties merchandise, some catalogued and some yet to be catalogued.

Finest plastic "Wood Grain" binder that contained a full set of 1970 magazines and
a 1971 "Internal" game program that came stapled inside the "Outer" magazine

When you bought the CFL Illustrated at the game it typically contained a smaller (but still as many pages as a regular program) local insert with local advertising and the usual lineup pages and team photos and sportswriter columns. Great value for $1. 

1972 Volume III No. 5 Toronto Argonauts and 1973 Volume IV No. 7 B.C. Lions

Starting in 1972 the magazines were shrunk to a more standard program size of roughly 8 1/4" X 11". These publications served to chronicle the history of the CFL during these years with great colour images of some of the biggest stars in the league and in depth reporting in the stories within.

1974 Volume V No. 9 Ottawa Rough Riders and 1978 Volume IX No. ? Superstars

Initially there were nine magazines for every season, one for each team but eventually others titled "Outstanding Players", "Superstars" or "CFL Action" were added to various season's sets. Eventually the game local inserts ceased being different magazines but instead were just additional pages of the same paper stock collated into the magazine for each city.

1980 Volume XI No. 5 Winnipeg Blue Bombers and 1984 Volume XV No. 16? Stampeders

The CFL Illustrated name continued into the eighties and by mid decade the occasional colour photo accompanied the stories or features inside. The magazines could still be ordered separately but this was no longer promoted in large advertisements, just in the tiny print on the letterhead page. Perhaps for this reason or perhaps because crowds were somewhat less numerous in the eighties, these seasons are definitely harder to complete than the seventies issues.   

1986 Volume XVII No. 5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats French and 1988 No. 5 Offence

After 19 consecutive seasons the second era of CFL Illustrated finally came to an end in 1988, during which season the issue per team theme was finally retired for different topics. While bilingual covers started way back in 1973 during the eighties full French language covers (and many French language articles inside) were being produced, meaning there can be double the magazines to collect for many seasons as well. 

1991 Volume 1 No. 4 Edmonton Eskimos and 1995 Volume 5 No. 5 Birmingham Barracudas

After just a two year break the third and final (so far) CFL Illustrated era started in 1991 and ran to 1996 with the Volume numbering being restarted in regular numerals. The team theme returned to the covers although not always explicitly named. This era included the American CFL teams for posterity.
So there you have it, 30 years of magazines spanning 43 years of Canadian Football action. Probably in excess of 250 magazines (including French versions) that chronicle the sport like no other resource. This should keep a dedicated collector busy for a little while.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Flat-out Fugly Football Figures

Sometime beginning in the mid seventies a very large number of ceramic designs of what looks like the same character engaged in numerous pursuits including sporting activities were created. These characters are typically called Smileys because of their facial expression which was obviously intended to be cute but in hindsight they sort of resemble trolls (another seventies toy fad) and the effect is not particularly attractive.

A figure custom decorated to resemble the Stampeder's Gerry Shaw,
this one likely dates to the mid seventies. The numbers are decals stuck to the figure. 

These were never officially licensed products nor is it likely that they were ever issued in any pre-finished team color designs, rather ceramic hobbyists would buy the figures already fired and then they would decorate them however they wanted to. Because of this when you come across one of these the possible variations in style, utility and finishing touches are endless.

Yikes, above left is a quarterback figure somewhat crudely painted as seventies B.C. Lions QB Jerry Tagge, along with the related cheerleader figure above right  

There are however at least two different football poses available and an unknown number of actual small figure styling changes on the base molded ceramic designs that further adds to the variability of the items. The figures were uncommonly large (at least 12" tall) making them difficult to store and the available vintage teams and or players are limited to what particular hobbyists or craftsmen decided to make.

B.C. Lions lamp figure variant with integrated base above left.
Examples of two molded number styles and no-number style crudely painted above right.  

Should anybody want to put together a collection of these somewhat unnerving dolls, they are not particularly rare and random examples tend to be available from time to time online or in thrift and second hand stores, but finding an exact figure for a specific team or player is likely going to be fairly challenging. The other issue is that the molds still exist (or were recreated) and blanks of the figures are commonly available, so there are people decorating these dolls today complicating determining a reasonable age estimate for a given figure.

George Reed figure on a wooden base above left and
an unpainted blank figure (called bisque) that you can buy today  

Moving on to some other examples of dubious artistic merit we see below two ghastly cloth figures of Rider legends Ron Lancaster and George Reed. Both are sporting nifty Dairy Queen plastic helmets as detailed in this earlier blog post here so the figures probably date to the late seventies or early eighties. Cloth is not a particularly good material to model human figures in. 

Lancaster's face looks like he just got a peek into the Ark of the Covenant and is about to melt away, while the Reed figure ... well if you tried to market something like this today you would probably get a visit from the progressive politically correct thought police. 

Items that are made by individuals such as the Smiley figures and the cloth dolls will not be catalogued in the eventual Collecting Canadian Football Volume 3 - Novelties and Souvenirs because they are unlicensed and because there is no way to come up with a list of what was available. That would include the alien headed abomination below.

Either some Rider fan was snorting wheat chaff when he thought this Ron Lancaster doll was a good idea, or it was supposed to function as a voodoo doll where an opposing fan could stick pins into it during the games

Just so you don`t think the Riders have cornered the market on ugly figures, there are a few more examples below from other teams.

This Ti-Cat figure probably dates from the early sixties 
(although late fifties might also be possible) 

The toy above was described (on Ebay) as one of those rubbery squeezable figures, meaning it probably was factory produced since most individuals would not have had rubber molding equipment available to them. The ashen faced doll strikes me as fairly creepy.

The figure at left may be an Argo but it also could be anything and looks like it was a sewing kit project. The figure on the right is definitely an Argo, and doesn't it just scream "Take me home!"

Lastly we have the Ralph the Dog Stampeder mascot travesty below, mid seventies probably. Not sure if that is a modified Dairy Queen helmet or not, maybe not as it looks to have a molded center stripe but hard to tell in this scan.

I have left out a number of well know (and not so well known) other CFL dolls that could also be described as not very attractive. But those are licensed (or pre-license era manufactured) issues, are considerable older than most of the items shown in this post and I think have arguably a lot more collectible cachet to them and consequently they would deserve their own specific future post.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Road Trip! - All-Canadian Contests in the U.S.A.

From time to time over the previous century those responsible for promoting the Canadian game have found it expedient to schedule games pitting two teams from Canadian cities on foreign soil, specifically in the United States. The motivations for the contests varied and the reception to the alternate brand of football by the local fans ranged from polite curiosity to ambivalent disregard. Memorabilia from these match ups is mostly rare, fairly unique and historically interesting. 

One of the best known games was between the B.C. Lions and the Edmonton Eskimos held in San Francisco in pre-season 1957 at the iconic home of the San Francisco 49'ers, Kezar Stadium.

Game program from the Lions versus Eskimos exhibition match in San Francisco
and the back cover promoting the attractions of visiting Canada 

All of the games examined in this blog post are between regular Canadian teams playing at international neutral sites, as opposed to games that featured match ups between Canadian clubs and American teams from other leagues, which obviously is also a good topic for a future post.

The first such contest was held way back in 1909 New York City, no less, where an exhibition game of Canadian Football was hosted between the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Hamilton Tigers, won by the Tigers 11-6. This game happened after the Grey Cup had already been contested in Toronto.

The game was held at Van Cortlandt Park sponsored by the New York Herald magazine and apparently among the 15,000 or so attendees were many of the most prominent college officials in U.S. football at the time including Walter Camp and Amos Alonzo Stagg. According to newspaper accounts the high injury and death rate in the American college game at the time was one reason for the contest, in case there might be some aspect of the Canadian game that could possibly be adopted locally to mitigate some of the risk to the players. 

The game attracted enough attention to be featured in a local New York magazine story although there are some mistakes identifying the participating teams in the accompanying text 

Reproduction photos of the two teams have occasionally been available on Ebay from time to time, so presumably the original newspaper negatives have survived. Actual period photographic prints from 1909 would of course command a pretty high price if they still exist. Hamilton is at top right and Ottawa at bottom right.

The next such game was not until forty-two years later in 1951 in Buffalo, NY between the Tiger-Cats and the Argonauts but I have not been able to locate any memorabilia for that contest.

There was even some thought of making the Canadian exhibition game a recurring event as detailed in the San Francisco 1957 program. 
Team portraits were helpful for the fans unfamiliar with the players. 

Six years later beginning in 1957 CFL teams played six games in the next five years at neutral site American cities. The Lions and Eskimos put on a two game series on the US west coast in 1957 and check out that sauntering African lion logo used in the Kezar Stadium program above right. One would have to assume that there is a good chance that local game promoters came up with that logo on their own when the programs were graphically prepared. 

Attendance for these late fifties - early sixties games ranged from about 7,000 in the smaller centers up to about 28,000 in Seattle, with the norm being in the mid-teens for most events.   

1957 Portland, Oregon program above left  and 1960 Cedar Rapids, Iowa program above right

The San Francisco program is probably one of the easier (but not real easy) programs to come by and most of the others are pretty infrequently seen. Copies in rough shape with normal wear and tear and probably folded would run around $25 and copies in better condition would be closer to $50 if you can find one. 

Game program for Philadelphia contest at left and the respective game ticket top right.
Game ticket for 1961 Seattle exhibition bottom right.

The only regular season game ever played at a neutral site American city was the benefit game for the Children's hospital in Philadelphia in 1958. The idea was to popularize the game and raise funds for charity but the plan did not work out as the stadium sat 102,000 and only about 15,000 attended. The Tiger-Cats were apparently guaranteed about $10,000 more than they could have grossed with a sold out game at home, hence the motivation to agree to a regular season neutral game. Having thirty one punts in the game did not endear the sport to the few Americans that bothered to attend.

The program is pretty hard to come by but the excess tickets have survived in droves so they are common and only worth a couple of dollars each at most. Tickets for any of the other neutral site games are definitely way rarer and almost never encountered (even the 1961 Seattle ticket pictured above) whose game had the highest attendance (28,000) of any of the American events. The owner of this ticket stub has it offered at $100 US which is pretty pricey. 

1967 Everett, Washington game program above left and
1992 Portland, Oregon game program above right

The last of the exhibitions in the sixties was held in Everett, Washington in 1967 with the lowest attendance (slightly over 6,000) for any of the games. Another 25 years would pass before the CFL would once again attempt the promotion with a game featuring a Grey Cup rematch in early 1992 in Portland Oregon. This game was something of a precursor to judging interest for American expansion in the early nineties and Portland was considered a likely potential franchise site.

Of course eventually the league did expand in 1993 to Sacramento and then to five other American cities over the course of the next two seasons. The expansion resulted in a kind of illogical corollary of the curiosity of two Canadian teams playing Canadian football in American cities - which was two American teams playing Canadian football in American cities.    

More information on neutral site games (including those played in Canada) can be found at this Wikipedia link.

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.