Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Return of Something Good! - (Volume 1 Addition)

So I am walking along last Friday exiting the stadium after the Stampeders managed a last play 50 yard field goal victory over their prior season Grey Cup opponent Hamilton Tiger-Cats (in what has to be rated as a pretty unconvincing offensive performance). When I spot something hanging on the wall in the under-concourse souvenir stand with a familiar look. Sure enough there were some Frameworth style cardboard packages with 8x10 glossy photos of Stampeder players.

Bo Levi Mitchell                                                            Jon Cornish

But the Frameworth line of licensed action photos were issued ten years ago in 2005-2006, (as detailed in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 1) and the players in the sleeves were Jon Cornish and Bo Levi Mitchell, so there was no way these were old stock put out to clearance. I resolved to visit the Stamp Store the next day to see what was up. Sure enough there were twelve brand spanking new action photos of Stampeders in Frameworth holders from the current season (prior to the last round of pre-season cuts, judging by the existence of a photo of no longer with the team Jabari Arthur).

Rob Cote showing the CFL & CFLPA logos and square hologram on this edition of the photos.
Paper type used for the photos is the same as the original issue with different format identification information printed on the back.

At the present time I have no way of knowing if photos of players from each team have been produced, but it would seem highly likely that they will also be available. The last time these items were produced they were available framed in multiple configurations as well, so far no sign of that this time around. The whole collection was detailed on the Frameworth website originally but there is no sign of these items on the site as of June 27th, hopefully a complete list appears eventually.

Original Milt Stegall Frameworth Photo from 2005 and the back of the cardboard sleeve 

Note the different issuer, league and CFLPA Pro Players marketing organization logos on the original items from a decade ago, as well as no hologram sticker.  The cardboard sleeves housing the photos today are identical to those used initially and still feature photos of then star players Dave Dickenson, Troy Davis and Damon Allen (there is no copyright date printed anywhere on the sleeve).

Brendon Labatte                                                        Anthony Calvillo

Actually Pro Players has issued a series of autographed glossy 8X10 photos over the past few years (starting around late 2010 with some still available on the CFLPA Store website today). These featured prominent players from those years as well as some vintage images ranging from fairly recent seasons to classic players from decades ago, sometimes in Black & White as displayed below. These were fairly pricey because of the autographs running anywhere from $30.00 to $60.00 originally. They also come with holographs but it might belong to a memorabilia dealer who helped facilitate the autograph sessions. Many of these were marketed on eBay as well.

One thing is for sure, these new Frameworth items will be stocked for a short while at team stores and possibly at local sports retailers depending on the city, and after that they will vanish into the great void of previously released CFL items that are never seen again. Remember the credo of CFL collecting, if you see something you want better buy it right then and there, or you stand a really good chance of never seeing it again. If any blog readers from other CFL cities can collect information on which photos have been issued for their teams, I would love to hear from you.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Canadian Football for Americans!

No, not the ultimately spectacularly unsuccessful mass infiltration of CFL franchises into various non-NFL markets in the mid-nineties. This post is about some of the earlier attempts to popularize the Canadian game in the United States and of course the related memorabilia that resulted.

First up we have two fascinating press photos issued by NBC Television, the first on July 30, 1954 (above) and the second on August 3, 1954, both advertising the NBC series of Canadian Football broadcasts that were to begin on August 28, 1954. Thirteen weeks of Saturday games were televised culminating in the 1954 Grey Cup game. Why was NBC televising Canadian football in 1954? Because as American football began its rise to sports supremacy along with the development of television sports broadcasting in the early fifties, the American networks began to compete for the rights to broadcast the games. In 1954 NBC was the odd man out for both professional and college American football, hence the look to the north.

The network played up the angle of previous U.S. college stars who at that time played in Canada, including eventual Hall of Famers Dick Shatto (Toronto) and Sam Etcheverry (Montreal), as well as J.D. Roberts (Hamilton) and Tom McHugh (Ottawa) who had much shorter careers in the Big Four. Note that three of the four images appear to be from the player's college days, with Etcheverry probably the exception since he was already established in Montreal. Perhaps more of these press photos exist but in any case the broadcasts by NBC only lasted the one season.

Because of the increasingly heavy reliance on American players coming out of the college ranks, the CFL started to produce information to promote the league in the U.S. to relevant organizations. The above booklet aimed at the 1961 N.C.A.A. coaches convention is a good example of this and also has the absolute coolest and most unusual vintage Tiger-Cat logo I've ever come across.

By 1962 ABC appears to have been the odd-man-out in U.S. television networks competing now for broadcast rights to both the NFL and the AFL professional leagues. Once again the solution seemed to be providing the Canadian game to American audiences and the above multi-page booklet was issued to help provide some insight into the CFL. This time the Stampeders logo was a throwback to one that the team did occasionally use prior to the more familiar cowboy and bucking bronc over a football logo, but was more often associated with the Stampeders Western League hockey team.

In order to further popularize the championship game broadcast these quirky postcards were printed and mailed to various media people in the U.S.  Judging from the obscure small town Wisconsin newspaper this one was addressed to, the league must have mailed out quite a few of these to cover the gamut of cities and towns where presumably future college players could be sourced from.

ABC followed up the 1962 broadcast again in 1963 and the the CFL issued an updated pamphlet once again. For 1964 the CFL went all out and produce a slick full-size 40 page magazine that explained the game and the advantages and amenities in the Canadian cities so that potential American players could be convinced that a career in Canada was a great idea.The properly current full colour logos on the back cover look great as well.

Further published efforts to describe the Canadian game for American audiences into the seventies were done on a much smaller budget. Multiple different versions of the below illustrated pamphlets were issued in different colours with or without logos over the years.

Periodic efforts to demystify the northern game for non-Canadians would continue throughout the eighties as the booklet below illustrates. Once the actual U.S. expansion happened so that the game was being played live in front of U.S. Audiences, a whole new series of publications and even VHS video tapes were produced in order to help American audiences grasp the differences from the game they were so intimately familiar with, but these I will save for a future blog post.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Spread the News

As you might imagine there were an astonishing variety of publications related to Canadian Football produced over the decades and one category of particular interest is the team issued newsletter, which could vary from a one page sheet to a small magazine (which were often on newsprint paper but not always). I believe that all of the nine classic CFL franchises issued these at one time or another although I do not have decent scans for every team, and some teams seem to have issued them a lot more frequently than others.

Above and below are four examples from the B.C. Lions. As you can see the names of the publications were often changed as they typically were initiated as a way to try and encourage and maintain fan interest, would be produced for a short while and then be discontinued.

These publications were normally distinct from pre-season prospectuses, annual team retrospectives and occasional newspaper supplements although sometimes there was some overlap.

The larger magazine format type of newsletters, such as those shown above tended to be issued in the seventies and eighties. Thanks to Stadan Collectibles for the scan of the Eskimo news magazine. These tend to come up on ebay from time to time and are usually pretty affordable,

As league and team finances wavered, the newsletters were usually scaled down (like the above Calgary examples) to keep the cost in check. Often these were automatically issued to team season ticket holders.

Of course the older the newsletter, the more difficult it is to acquire and the higher the price will be. The two examples above are both from Winnipeg which seemed to get on the newsletter bandwagon a fair bit earlier than most of the other teams, although that might just be the random luck of what has survived to the present.

The Roughriders are known to have issued newsletters but the only one I have a scan of was a special edition issued for the 1951 Grey Cup qualifying team. The other image is a very poor quality scan of a late fifties edition of the Double Blue News put out by the Argonauts.

One thing that is generally pretty constant about these magazines is that they did not usually last long, so most items you come across have early volume and issue numbers. This makes it difficult to establish how many of each publication were produced. But both the Argo News and the Alouette's Blitz newsletters were exceptions in that they were issued over several years.

The Rough Riders of course had their versions of the newsletters as well. The only Hamilton scan that I have is the very poor one shown below which probably dates from the nineties.

Finally here are two differently named issues from the Baltimore Colts/Stallions/Football Club for both years of the franchise's existence.

As digital and social media are exploited more and more by the teams to communicate with the fan base, the days of a physical printed newsletter are almost certainly behind us. I am not aware of any regular digital team issued newsletters currently being produced today, but certain related alumni organizations are producing PDF electronic newsletters available from their websites. Two of these are pictured below.

The tracking down and investigating these sorts of poorly documented CFL collectible items is definitely an interesting challenge and the vintage information each contains is historically significant. Ironically the collecting and preserving of team produced digital artifacts is probably practiced by hardly any collectors and it is those exact sorts of non-physical information repositories that might prove to be even harder to recover once they are taken out of regular digital circulation.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Post Variety - (Volume 1 Update)

As explained in detail in the write up for the 1963 Post CFL set in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 1, there were a couple of different variations for some cards because of the types of cereal that the cards were issued on. Certain cards were issued on cereal boxes that are traditionally designated white backs (although they are actually grey) as opposed to the normal brown backed cards and certain cards were issued on cereal boxes with black coloured borders on the card fronts as opposed to the normal blue bordered cards.

Brown Back normal card on left, White back short print card on right
(Note that scans are not particularly reliable to accurately assess border colours because of a variety of imaging factors)

Nine of these variant cards had both the variant type (five white backs, four black borders) and the normal type of cards and there were typically differences in the photo cropping used (sometimes just slight differences) of each player on each different card. Only one of these pairs of cards (Bernie Faloney, pictured above) was illustrated in the guide and three more players photo differences were mentioned in the text. So I thought it might be useful for obsessive collectors to see exactly how each of the nine player's cards differed from each other (some don't).

Brown Back normal card on left - both feet touch bottom picture frame edge
Black border short print card on right - foot on left side of card does not touch bottom picture frame edge 

(Note that differences in scan intensity, colour and clarity are not necessarily accurate depictions of  actual card images)

Each pair of illustrated cards shows the normal, more plentiful card on the left and the variant short printed card on the right. The easiest noticeable photo difference is stated where necessary, some differences are quite inconsequential.

Brown Back normal card on left - eight full red fence panels to the right of player's leg
White back short print card on right - four full red fence panels to the right of player's leg 

You can tell by the fact that a lot of the short print cards on the right are beat up damaged or miscut examples, that the short print cards are usually much harder to come by, especially in prime condition.

Brown Back normal card on left - player's outstretched hand close to right picture frame edge
White back short print card on right - player's outstretched hand not close to right picture frame edge

Because a lot of ebay vendors, or even relatively knowledgeable dealers don't know the specifics of the set's short printed varieties, sometimes they can be found listed as just regular cards and without a back image. These comparisons will allow you to identify if a particular card is the much harder to get variety, just by looking at the card front picture (in most cases). Even with the black border (and black card text) cards often times the scan colour registration is so poor that you can't tell for sure whether it is black or blue.

Brown Back normal card on left - shoes completely visible, head far from top photo frame edge
White back short print card on right - shoes cutoff, head near top photo frame edge

Now of course the 1963 set featured the factory cut cards with no borders as well and while I believe that the factory cut cards use the same images as the regular blue border brown back cards (where they exist, and same images as the variant cards otherwise) I have not verified this (would need a complete master set of all cards in all varieties to confirm this, not very likely).

Brown Back normal card on left - 3/4 of ball visible, shoulder numbers do not touch right photo frame edge
Black border short print card on right - 1/2 of ball visible, shoulder numbers do touch right photo frame edge

These last three pairs of cards use pretty much the identical photo cropping for each version.

Factory Set no border card on left (was unable to locate a blue bordered version), Black border short print card on right

Brown Back normal card on left, Black border short print card on right

Brown Back normal card on left, Black border short print card on right
Thanks to super CFL collector Larry Oleskiw for providing a couple of the pictures used in this post.