Friday, 31 July 2015

Love Those Esks!

Well as a lifelong Calgary fan, the title of this blog post is an absolutely heinous lie. But one thing that I actually do love about the Eskimos is the range and uniqueness of some of their vintage memorabilia. Not sure if the success that the team had with their mid-fifties dynasty is the reason but it sure seems like there were a lot of fabulous items produced by the club during that era to help popularize them with the local fans. Of course three consecutive Grey Cup Championships in 1954, 1955 & 1956 made it pretty easy for the fans to get excited about their team and want to buy novelties and souvenirs commemorating the achievements.

Fifties Eskimo pinback

After struggling through their first few seasons as an expansion club from 1949, the Eskimos progressed to their first modern Grey Cup game in 1952 and that appears to be when the interesting paper place mat below was produced.

Very few place mats are known to exist with Canadian football themes,
but those that do (especially the vintage fifties ones) are pretty spectacular collectibles

In 1954 the team again went east to the Grey Cup and the wonderful folded paper commemorative illustrated story shown below was produced to dramatize the events in a humorous way. The "Trek to the Grey Cup" recounted the teams seasonal journey and represented the players as husky sled dogs on the long run to the east through the other CFL cities.

The story was obviously produced before the game took place because all of the verbiage around what will happen is in future tense. The full story is on 4 folded pages printed on both sides giving 8 different panes of cartoon drawings plus text. This particular item looks to have been partially cut on one of the top corners.

 This type of oddball obscure vintage collectible is really fascinating and acquiring these sorts of historically evocative pieces will really make a CFL collection something unique and noteworthy. I can't actually think of a similar type of cartoon seasonal item produced for any other team, but some other unusual historical CFL gem is inevitably going to pop up soon to rival these.

Of course the team went on to win that 1954 Grey Cup in stunning fashion, and the 1955 championship and was on it's way to the 1956 match up when another colourful cartoon story was published to commemorate the event.


Once again the same 4 page, 8 panel format was used to predict that the Eskimos would emerge victorious, and as everybody knows they did. Both of these items recently came up on Ebay and if I recall correctly they went for between $75 and $150 USD each (actually I am not positive about those prices and in fact they might have gone significantly higher).

The 1956 version illustrated each of the players on the team roster as well as the coaches and even the water boy George Matsuba. Of course readers of Collecting Canadian Football Volume I will already know that Matsuba made his "rookie" appearance on the 1953 Northern Photo Edmonton Eskimo colour team postcard. Information on the product sponsors and the artist is also provided. It would seem pretty likely that a 1955 edition of these illustrated stories would also have been produced, it just hasn't surfaced yet probably.

The result of all of that on field success was reflected in the number of different Eskimo promotional products produced (besides the regular pennants, pinbacks, pins and so forth). It is reasonable to assume that more varied items can be found for the Eskimos of that era than any other team.

Two die cut Eskimo collectibles, possibly both air fresheners. The flower definitively dated to 1955

Fifties Eskimo License Plate (thanks to Stadan Collectibles for this image)

Eskimo Stationary

From car accessories to office supplies, vintage Eskimo memorabilia with the great graphics of that time period can still be found without too much difficulty in flea markets and antique malls across Alberta and beyond into the adjoining provinces. From my experience you will see considerably more Eskimo material from the fifties decade than any other team.

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