Monday, 26 July 2021

The GOAT of CFL Games

As I am completely occupied with trying to get all of the team specific material that has been uncovered since the publication of Collecting Canadian Football V2 in 2013, updated for eventual release of the digital version : instead of a custom blog post this month I am just going to display the information that has been collated on the greatest CFL game of all time. 

These particular pages were exported to PDF, then converted to individual images for each page for ease of inclusion here. You probably will need to select each page to view in larger size to read the text.
Thanks to super CFL collector Garry Hlady of Edmonton for most of the images for this listing.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Two Dominions, Two Endemic Sports


Something a little different this month as I will be comparing and contrasting a quick overview of the histories of Australian Rules Football and Canadian Football. Both sports developed in British Dominions and both are basically played solely in their countries of origin at a professional level.

I began watching Australian Rules football about seven years ago and as I learned more about the game, the teams and their history I was struck by how similar their development timelines were to Canadian Football in a lot of respects. I'll touch on some relevant collectibles too, of course.

Football in Richmond, Illustrated Melbourne Post 1866 &
McGill introduces Canadian rules to Harvard, McGill Archives 1874

From the late 1850's began as a new game to use the cricket fields in winter, but with a significant influence from British Rugby. 

From the early 1860's began as British Rugby that was continually being modified with local rules variants until a different game emerged. 
First Teams
Teams were founded in cities in various states across Australia, some of which still operate today - for example Melbourne 1859, Carlton 1864.

Teams were founded in cities in Eastern Canada, some of which still operate today - for example Hamilton 1869, Toronto 1873.
First Leagues
The Victorian Football Association and the South Australian Football Association formed in 1877. Interstate matches begin in 1879.

The Ontario Rugby Football Union and the Quebec Rugby Football Union formed in 1883. First interprovincial championship game played 1884.


A large number of leagues and teams are formed at various levels of competition including the Western Australian Football Association (1885). The Victorian Football League is formed in 1897 after a rift between teams in the VFA and is later renamed to the AFL.  

A large number of leagues and teams are formed at various levels of competition across Canada. The Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (1907) and the Western Canada Rugby Football Union (1911) are the precursor predominant leagues that eventually become the CFL. 

1886 Geelong (pronounced Jeh-long) VFA Champions Cabinet Card &
1888 Ottawa College Football Club Dominion Champions Cabinet Card 

The image on the left was borrowed from the astounding site Aussie Rules Collectibles which has got to be the most comprehensive hoard of information on Australian Rules Football collectibles in existence. Perhaps because of the influence of British Tobacco Manufacturer's habit of including cards with their products back into the late 19th century, the amount of Australian Football collectibles that pre-date World War II is incredible.

The image on the right is of course from Collecting Canadian Football V2 and is the oldest collectible currently known for Canadian Football.

The battle for the Premiership of each separate league was the paramount achievement for teams. Interleague play did occasionally occur but not for a National title.

Each league champion would typically compete against other league champions in knockout games  eventually culminating with one Grey Cup National Champion. 
League Rivalry 

During much of the period from the late 19th century through to when the  VFL expanded out of the state of Victoria, other leagues were considered peers of the VFL, although the VFL was recognized as the strongest. 

During much of the period from the late 19th century through the 1930's teams from leagues other than those that would become the CFL, were competitive and won numerous national championships. 
Eventually the VFL became fully professional, was able to recruit the best players from other leagues and dominated the sport. The competing leagues still exist but at a lower level of play.  

Eventually the strongest leagues merged to form the CFL, became fully professional and dominated the sport. The competing leagues either dissolved completely or transitioned to lower levels of play.


From 1925 through 1981, a period of 57 years, the VFL consisted of the same 12 teams. All were from Melbourne or cities from its metropolitan area.  

From 1936 through 1986, a period of 51 years (excepting WWII), 7 teams were based in the same cities, 8 from 1949 and 9 from 1954. These became the 9 classic CFL franchises.  

1963 Scanlens VFL Geelong Graham Farmer &
1959 Topps CFL Hamilton Angelo Mosca

Hey these look familiar! A company called Scanlens made classic era VFL Footy cards about the same time frame that Topps/O-Pee-Chee were making classic era CFL cards. Perhaps they were affiliated with the AB & C company from England that also had very similar designs to Topps, so similar in fact that they ended up losing a lawsuit over it in the seventies. Graham "Polly" Farmer was an All-Time Great of Australian Football, of the same relative caliber that Angelo Mosca was in Canadian Football. 

1969 Scanlens VFL Collingwood Wayne Richardson &
1968 O-Pee-Chee CFL Toronto Wally Gabler

Most Successful Franchises
VFL / AFL Premierships
Essendon Bombers - 16
Carlton Blues - 16
Collingwood Magpies - 15 

Grey Cups
Toronto Argonauts - 17
Edmonton Eskimos - 14
Hamilton Tigers / Tiger-Cats - 14 
Least Successful Franchise 

St. Kilda Saints joined the VFL in 1897. It took 70 seasons for them to win their first Premiership in 1966.
They still have just the one win.

Saskatchewan Roughriders were founded in 1910. It took 57 seasons for them to win their first Grey Cup in 1966. They have since won 3 more.
Modern Expansion
In the 1980's with some clubs facing financial difficulty the VFL started to transfer teams and/or expand into other states. The name was changed to the AFL after 1989. By 2012 there were 18 teams in 5 of the 7 states.  

 In the 1990's with some clubs facing financial difficulties the CFL expanded into the United States. The league reached a maximum of 13 teams in 1995 before contracting back to its current 9 teams in 6 of 10 provinces.

Current Status

In some states AFL is the dominant and most popular sport. In others Rugby is still more popular. Being seasonal it does not directly compete with Cricket which is also very popular.   

CFL Football will always be second to Hockey as Canada's favorite sport. It is most popular in the prairie provinces and least popular in Atlantic Canada which has no franchises. 


St. Kilda Fans & Roughrider Fans

Being the least successful franchises in terms of winning championships does not deter either fanbase from rabid support for their team.  

Exhibitions in Other Countries
The first foreign exhibition game matches were played by Australian Soldiers in London in 1916 during WWI and in Europe and Asian countries during WWII.

The first foreign Canadian Football exhibition game took place in New York in 1909. Military exhibition matches during both World Wars were played in Europe. 
Growing the Game Internationally

The VFL began exhibition matches in  North America in 1963. In 1987 a game in Vancouver remains the largest attended Australian Rules Football exhibition match outside of Australia. The AFL continues regular exhibition games outside Australia today in many different countries.
The CFL played numerous games in the United States in the fifties and sixties as well as Inter-League games against American Football Teams. After the failure of the American expansion of the nineties the CFL no longer schedules any exhibition games in other countries.
Channel Islands
In Australia the AFL jumpers are also called Guernseys. This is because the sleeveless shirts at one time were traditionally from the Isle of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands.  

In North America sports uniforms are typically called Jerseys. This is because the shirts at one time were traditionally from the Isle of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. 
Indigenous Players
All AFL teams have some Indigenous  players on their rosters and some are among the biggest stars in the league. The sport is very popular with the Aborigines and resembles some of their traditional ancestral games.  

At one time star quarterbacks such as "Indian" Jack Jacobs and Herman "Eagle" Day were at the forefront of Canadian Football. Nowadays Indigenous players are few and far between.

Nationals Switching Games

The most famous Canadian to have played in the AFL is Mike Pyke who helped Sydney win the 2012 Premiership. Mike played Rugby Union for Canada before switching to the AFL.    

Josh Bartel played for Wodonga in one of the minor Australian rules football leagues before coming to the CFL in 2012 where he punted for Hamilton, Saskatchewan and B.C. over a seven year career. 

I was unable to find a program image for any AFL game played in Canada
but above left is the program from the first ever game in North America

Military teams stationed in Europe continued the tradition of hosting
their own version of the Grey Cup for more years than many would expect,
as the 1960 program above shows

1987 Mark "Jocko" Jackson Ad reproduced in a newspaper &
Medallion handed out to the losing side of the AFL Exhibition
Melbourne versus Sydney match at B.C. Place October 9th, 1987

In the mid to late 1980s AFL footballer wingnut Mark "Jacko" Jackson did promotional work in Canada, including some official representation for the CFL at the 1987 Grey Cup in Vancouver. He was also a well known spokesman for Eveready batteries. I can remember seeing these adds and other things related to the CFL material but internet searches to uncover any surviving digital or paper memorabilia have come up empty. 

2015 Select Mike Pyke Game Milestone card &
2017 Upper Deck Josh Bartel Base card

Currently in Australia two companies dominate the Footy card market. Select is the premiere brand and includes numerous parallels and subsets in every year's issue. Team Coach also produce cards that are part of a collectible card game system where you can play out simulated AFL matches with the player ratings on the cards. Their card market is a lot more whimsical than in North American as they often have cards with graphics depicting the players with super powers and so forth.   

In Canada Upper Deck rules the current player CFL card market and Jogo continues to supply collectors with cards featuring veteran retired players. Jersey and memorabilia cards are the sweet spot for collectors chasing hits. As far as I know the AFL does not produce Guernsey memorabilia cards but there are plenty of other types of chase cards.

The AFL has made a lot of inroads promoting its game worldwide. There are active leagues in many countries including Canada, but all at an amateur level. Canadian Football on the other hand suffers from the fact that it is very similar to American Football, and any foreign countries that play North American football play the American version.

As you might expect from both games that have been stirring the emotions of the nation's fans for well over 150 years, the amount of historic tradition accumulated over the decades is immense. The heated team rivalries, the fantastic victories, the brutal disappointments, the dynasties, the triumphant underdogs, the parade of hundreds if not thousands of star and fan favorite players and on-field fantastic moments - all combine to make these "unique to the world national games" incredible cultural treasures for their countries sporting legacies.  

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Marquee Player Merch - (Volume 2 Additions)

In early 2019 there was a bit of a bidding war for quarterback Mike Reilly between the Edmonton Eskimos and the B.C. Lions who eventually landed the QB for 4 years at 2.9 Million dollars. At the same time Bo Levi Mitchell was evaluating his potential NFL options and offers from other CFL teams before resigning with the Calgary Stampeders for 4 years at 2.8 Million dollars. As a result of these deals both players were making a lot more money than any other CFL athletes, and in some cases many multiples of what other stars could command.

2019 Mustang Repositionable Decals of Mike Reilly and Bo Levi Mitchell

Traditionally when one player is paid disproportionately more than any other player on their clubs they are termed Marquee players, because it is their presence and ability to lead the team to wins that engages the fans to buy tickets and support the team financially. Both quarterbacks had that sort of bargaining power because of their on field achievements and as a direct result of their popularity, something of a minor cottage industry arose featuring the two stars on oddball memorabilia.

2018 Team Issue Reilly card given to season ticket holders &
2018 Subway Table Point of Sale Display with Reilly and teammates

Mike Reilly joined the B.C. Lions as third string quarterback in 2010 and was a member of their 2011 Grey Cup winning team. In 2013 he moved to Edmonton to become the starter and proceeded to light up the statistical totals and develop a reputation as the toughest quarterback in the country. He led the league in passing yards for three consecutive seasons from 2016 through 2018, was a divisional All-Star in 2014, All-Canadian All-Star in 2017 as well as CFLPA (chosen by the players) All-Star in 2017.

Reilly was the Eskimos' Most Outstanding Player Award nominee for four consecutive years (2015 - 2018) winning the award in 2017. But the one achievement that cemented his Marquee status more than all of those accolades was leading his team to the 2015 Grey Cup championship ending the Eskimos 10 year championship drought. Reilly was named the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player.

2018 Subway Reilly Wall Point of Sale Display &
2019 7-11 Reilly Cash Register Point of Sale Display

Of course being a Marquee player is transferable between teams as the athlete's proven winning capability and ticket selling potential is a major reason that other teams are willing to open the vault to land the prize. The 7-11 item above was designed to slide into the top of the cash register facing the customer and shows that (at least in Western Canada) you can still find obscure CFL collectibles in unexpected everyday places.


2019 Stampeder Team Issue Mitchell Thank You Greeting Card &
2016 Stampeder Team Issue Mitchell Postcard &
2018 Skip The Dishes Mitchell Coupon

Bo Levi Mitchell joined the Stampeders in 2012 as the third string quarterback and after impressive play in limited appearances during 2013, he became the team's starter in 2014. He then promptly led the Stampeders to the 2014 Grey Cup title and was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Mitchell was a divisional All-Star in 2015, 2016 and 2018, All Canadian All-Star in 2016 & 2018 and CFLPA All-Star in 2016.

Mitchell was the Stampeder's Most Outstanding Player Award nominee in 2015, 2016 and 2018 winning the award in both 2016 and 2018, in both of those years he led the league in touchdown passes. For a stretch of five years between 2014 and 2018 Mitchell and Reilly alternated almost all of the Western All-Star and MOP achievements and the only reason either of them didn't win even more was the presence of the other one in the same division.


2019 Alberta Treasury Branch Mitchell Poster
2019 Alberta Treasury Branch Mitchell Coloring Contest Page

As of the completion of the 2019 season Mitchell held the best quarterback regular season game won-loss percentage in CFL history at 77-18-2 or 80.4%. He led his team to three more consecutive Grey Cup appearances in 2016, 2017 and 2018 winning his second championship and second Grey Cup MVP award in 2018. Becoming the first QB in Stampeder franchise history to win more than one title just solidified his marquee status in the eyes of Calgary fans.

The items illustrated in this post are just a few of the things these two player's images are on, more traditional photographs, canvas prints and framed pieces for both were commonly available online and in team stores.  

2011 Jogo Rookie Subset Mike Reilly Rookie (150 copies exist)
2011 Jogo Rookie Subset Mike Reilly Rookie Players Edition Variant ( ~50 copies exist)
2012 Jogo Rookie Subset Bo Levi Mitchell Rookie (175 copies exist)
 2012 Jogo Rookie Subset Bo Levi Mitchell Rookie Corrected Variant (~ ? copies exist)

So both Reilly's and Mitchell's CFL rookie cards came at the tail end of the Jogo era, Reilly in 2011 within the Rookie subset and a Players Edition variant and Mitchell in 2012 within the Rookie subset and a corrected variant. All of the items above had quite a low number of cards produced although the numbers don't include whatever cards were given directly to the players themselves.  

For reference the four rookie cards of these marquee players from left to right above will be listed at $15.40, $30.80, $19.00 and $38.00 in the new digital version update of Collecting Canadian Football that will be released this year. The multipliers used for these two stars for pricing are the same but the values differ mostly because of the card population differences.    

Fast forward to the Upper Deck era and as you might expect these two marquee players feature significantly in the output. Pictured below are two of the most common items (foil wrappers) and two of the scarcest (Logo Patch cards) for the two quarterbacks. Since I have just recently completed cataloguing all of the Upper Deck sets from 2013 through 2020 I can now offer some relative statistics on items per player over that time span.

2016 Upper Deck Reilly Foil Pack Wrapper &
2017 Upper Deck Mitchell Foil Pack Wrapper &
2019 Upper Deck Mitchell Logo Patch 1 of 1 &
2019 Upper Deck Reilly Logo Patch 1 of 1

Here are the number of items that each player appears on for a particular group of Issuers (not including any of the oddball items shown earlier in this post). The Upper Deck numbers include all the chase cards, variants, printing plates, etc. but not the Display Boxes (Reilly 1, Mitchell 2) or the foil pack wrappers (Reilly 1 , Mitchell 3):

                  JOGO    CO-OP    OYO     POST      SHAW      UPPER DECK

Reilly            3             7             2            1               2                   88

Mitchell        2             2             3            1               1                   96

Note that a lot of the Upper Deck rare chase cards for Reilly and Mitchell easily exceed the cost of their respective rookie cards. Many of them are few in number and the demand for these cards as Upper Deck product drives the CFL card collecting world is there.  

As a comparison here are the 3rd through 11th next top Upper Deck players by number of issued items:

Brandon Banks 80, Trevor Harris78, Andrew Harris 74, Rene Parades 66, Charleston Hughes 66, S.J. Green 65, Brad Sinopoli 62, Simoni Lawrence 62, Zach Collaros 62

Naturally some of these other players are pretty big stars in their own right, even if their salaries aren't quite up to marquee player level. Their teams are busy marketing these players to their own fan bases with a variety of promotional and oddball items as well. 

2020 Blue Bombers Team Issue Grey Cup Championship Book with Andrew Harris on cover &
2020 Blue Bombers Team Issue Andrew Harris Colorable Wall Decal &
2021 M&G Collections Brandon Banks Non Fungible Token

Non Fungible Tokens are all the rage in collecting circles today and Brandon Banks is the first ever CFL player to be featured on one. NFT's are basically digital art or visual media secured through Blockchain that are defined as unique. So if you you believe that unique means something that anybody can copy or use or see so long as we all agree that one person "owns" it, then - Wow! what a great idea ...  personally I wouldn't give 10 cents for one but it does look cool  

Now achieving marquee status as a player does not guarantee that success will continue indefinitely. In fact Bo Levi Mitchell had what would be considered an unsuccessful 2019 as the Stampeders failed to win the Western Semi-Final at home and Reilly had a disastrous season in B.C. posting a 5-13 record and finishing dead last in the west. Some people believe that when you pay one player a hugely  disproportionate amount in a salary cap world, your team is bound to suffer at other positions and consequently struggle on the field.

In fact an even greater concern is that having too much money allocated to marquee players can destabilize a league, especially one as financially vulnerable as the CFL. The last time a couple of marquee players (Doug Flutie, Raghib Ismail) were paid humongous amounts by team owners it almost contributed to the collapse of the league. Both Larry Ryckman of the Stampeders and Bruce McNall of the Argonauts did some good things for the CFL but both were also later convicted on white collar criminal fraud charges and their financial shady dealings threatened the viability of their professional sports franchises.


Mid 2010's Richard Flutie (Doug's Photographer Father) Stampeders Flutie Photograph & 
Early 1990's Sportscard Boom Era Publication featuring Toronto Argonaut Raghib Ismail
with owners Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and John Candy  

I would be surprised if either Reilly or Mitchell or both don't make additional appearances in Grey Cup games before their careers are over. So if you are done chasing down those almost 100 Upper Deck items each for these two, there are always more oddball items that can be added to your collection.   

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Canadian Football Lineup Sheets Come Full Circle

CFL game programs appear to have been first produced sometime in the first decade of the 20th century and depending on the level of business and community support, they were either a single folded sheet  affairs (resulting in four pages) or could be a few pages stapled into a cover if enough advertising was sold to warrant it. One of the main pieces of information in the program for the fan was the lineups of players contesting that day's game.

1909 O.R.F.U. Intermediates Hamilton Tigers versus Dundas  

When a team couldn't justify the expense of printing a program (or hadn't finished the preparation process), then just a single sheet of paper with the player lineups on it would have to suffice. But note the promoting of the full scale souvenir program that was to be made available for the next game on the Tiger lineup sheet below right.

1923 O.R.F.U. Hamilton Rowing Club versus Parkdale &
1925 I.R.F.U. Toronto Argonauts versus Hamilton Tigers

Because of the lag time for print work (or the cost of multiple printings) sometimes the program lineups were left blank and two small lists of players pasted in once the roster was finalized for the match. Sometimes these pasted in lists would come loose or sometimes they were never applied as must be the case with the program below. 

1926 I.R.F.U. Hamilton Tigers versus ?

Besides Hamilton who normally had fantastic multi page vintage programs from this early era, the other Eastern clubs seem to have alternated between multi-page programs with lineups and single sheet programs with lineups throughout the thirties, probably depending on their financial status and fan support in any given year.

1932 I.R.F.U. Ottawa Rough Riders versus Hamilton Tigers

1939 I.R.F.U. Toronto Argonauts versus Ottawa Rough Riders

If the top Senior teams had to scrimp to print lineup sheets you can imagine that unions that operated on a break-even basis such as the Intermediate and Junior teams usually also had to settle for austere lineup sheets, and then normally only for playoff games. During the war years paper and resources in general were scarce so single sheet programs predominated in this era for both the I.R.F.U. and the O.R.F.U Senior Eastern leagues. 

1944 O.R.F.U. Hamilton Wildcats versus Ottawa Trojans

After the war you start to occasionally see individual lineup cards introduced as separate items from the regular game programs which of course also featured the lineups, almost always in the center stapled page. The unusual Football Score Card below might be somewhat similar to Baseball score cards where the fan would keep track of the game's statistics and scoring for fun. The small lineup card bottom right must have been handed out for reasons unknown either Sep. 11 or Sep. 30, 1950 when Winnipeg was in Calgary. 

1946 I.R.F.U. Ottawa Rough Rider versus Toronto Argonauts Score Card &
1950 Calgary Stampeders versus Winnipeg Blue Bombers Lineup Card

Ironically one of the most famous games in CFL history, the 1948 Grey Cup has only a lineup sheet that surfaced a few years back as commemoration of the event. Apparently (as I have heard it explained) since the Argonauts had hosted (and won) the Grey Cup in Varsity Stadium in 1945, 1946 and 1947 they had just used another edition of their regular season programs for the championship matches, although I don't believe that I have ever actually seen one of these programs. So when it came to 1948 and Calgary and Ottawa in Toronto for the game, there was no established process in place to produce a specific Grey Cup program. 


1948 C.R.U. Calgary Stampeders versus Ottawa Rough Riders Lineup Sheet &
1951 W.I.F.U. Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Edmonton Eskimos Lineup Sheet

The fifties and sixties were the golden age for CFL programs packed with photos and information. There is literally no collectible you can buy that will so readily transport you back to a particular week in CFL history and bring those teams and players back to life while you are reading it. However there were still occasions where single sheet lineups were used such as the 1951 CJCA sponsored example above right, which interestingly has the team still labeled as the Regina Roughriders. 

Special events or special circumstances could still result in single sheet lineups, such as the All-Star game or the sheet below which I believe was the result of a printers strike in B.C. and the union provided this alternative to the full program to solicit support for their labour position.

1955 C.R.U. All-Star Game Single Sheet Program with lineup 

1965 B.C. Lions versus Calgary Stampeders Lineup Sheet

I am not aware of separate lineup sheets being produced in the seventies or eighties nor do I remember ever getting one at the regular season or playoff games, but there was still the odd single sheet lineup made for things like intrasquad games.

By the time the nineties rolled around it started to become the fashion to have a separate lineup sheet distinct from the programs in many cities, sometimes a folded sheet of paper and sometimes on cardstock, sometimes free and sometimes for a small amount. These were usually pretty drab affairs with minimal graphics and somewhat hard to get today as not many people bothered to save these.

1993 Sacramento Gold Miners versus B.C. Lions Lineup Sheet &
1997 Calgary Stampeders versus Edmonton Eskimos Lineup Sheet

During this time period traditional programs were shrinking smaller and smaller as the trend to online information accelerated and the cost of printing started to outweigh the benefits of advertising. Once programs started being discontinued altogether the lineup sheets that took their places started getting upgraded to the point where they were attractive collectibles in their own right, often focusing on particular players. Some of these examples may be transitional as it is not always easy to tell how many pages a particular document contains. 

1998 Edmonton Eskimos versus Calgary Stampeders Lineup Sheet &
2001 Edmonton Eskimos versus Montreal Alouettes Lineup Sheet

2002 Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus B.C. Lions  &
2011 Toronto Argonauts versus Winnipeg Blue Bombers Lineup Sheet

2012 Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus B.C. Lions Lineup Sheet &
2016 Edmonton Eskimos versus B.C. Lions Lineup Sheet

2013 Calgary Stampeders versus Saskatchewan Roughriders &
2014 Calgary Stampeders versus Toronto Argonauts

As you can see a lot of these modern lineup sheets are really nice and show that often times the best place to get cool CFL collectibles is still at the games themselves. Almost none of these types of items have been catalogued, it is hard to do unless you have a source that attends all of the games and saves all of the ephemera from each city.

As far as I know the Roughriders do not issue paper lineup sheets and the Redblacks I seem to recall had the ability to generate a PDF of a particular games' lineups from their website but I can't locate any that I downloaded. Like a lot of digital artifacts it is here today and gone tomorrow, maybe gone forever.

So the 2018 Grey Cup game was the 70th anniversary of the 1948 matchup between Calgary and Ottawa and coincidentally Calgary and Ottawa were back in the game again. Ironically the CFL decided this was year that they would no longer produce a physical game program for their showcase event, reprising the situation from 1948. Except this time there was no physical lineup sheet either, just a downloadable version.

Luckily an enterprising individual took matters into his own hands and produced an unofficial collectible commemorative single sheet folded cardstock lineup, and then did the same for the 2019 Grey Cup in Calgary. 

How long teams continue to produce paper lineups for their games is anybody's guess but when you get to the point where dedicated league supporters have to step in and do what the league no longer feels the need to do, you know the prognosis for the future of these types of collectibles is not good.   


Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Mini Trophys Can Mean Mega Moolah

The Grey Cup is a distinctively shaped trophy that all Canadian football fans are familiar with as the icon of championship supremacy. So it is no surprise that making mini replicas of the cup is almost as old as the cup itself. Initially miniature versions of the cup could be made and given to the winning team as a whole. These early cups are some of the most valuable when they come to auction.

1911 Mini Trophy University of Toronto Grey Cup Champions  9"
1922 Mini Trophy Dave Harding Queen's Grey Cup Champions  5 3/4"   

The cup at top left has a plaque with all of the players names inscribed on it. It went for auction for almost $3,500 before fees and taxes so while these sorts of relics of the game's tradition do not come cheaply, they are still an order of magnitude cheaper than similar hockey trophies would cost. 

The smaller cup at right was given to Halfback D.A. Harding of the Queen's Golden Gaels first of three in a row Grey Cup champions team and his name is engraved on the back of the chalice. This item went for about a third of the cost of the older team trophy.

Now here next I was going to display two miniature trophies given to Calgary's Bob Wusyk in 1946 for winning the Western Interprovincial Football Union Most Valuable Player award and I think maybe the other one was for being the top league scorer. But unfortunately the rule is that the more obscure, interesting and rare an image is, the greater the chance that no matter how many directories I look in, I can't find where I stored the pictures eons ago. But they must be there somewhere ...

1964 Mini Trophy B.C. Lions Grey Cup Champions  ?"
1970 Mini Trophy Montreal Alouettes Grey Cup Champions  4 1/2"   

So we have to jump all the way to 1964 when apparently the league decided it was time to start providing players from the winning team with miniature keepsakes of their championship again. The Lions 1964 item is mentioned derisively in LaVerne Barne's anti CFL screed publication "The Plastic Orgasm" as being "Not worth stealing and impossible to hock". Hey, all she had to do was wait 50 years and it would sell today for a very tidy sum!

The 2nd trophy above was given to Peter Dalla Riva after the Alouettes 1970 triumph although it is not personalized to him but it is engraved "Montreal 1970" on the front plate. This item brought a whopping  $2,300 before fees and taxes which is pretty impressive.

1974 Mini Trophy Montreal Alouettes Grey Cup Champions  4 1/2"
1972 Mini Trophy Hamilton Tiger-Cats Grey Cup Champions back side  4 5/8"   

In the same vein and time period are the two above trophies, the first again given to Peter Dalla Riva for his 1974 Grey Cup victory and it brought over $1,900 at auction. Its hard to read but the 1972 trophy above right has Toby Gabriel's name engraved on a plate on the back and Hamilton 1972 engraved on the plate on the front. This brought almost $3,400 at auction so name recognition of a more recent Hall of Fame caliber player can increase desirability of an object to the equivalent of a similar item that is much older.

1950's? Silver Plated Teaspoon with molded Mini Grey Cup on handle  4", cup portion  11/16"
1980 Mini Grey Cup pin  3/4"   

Sometimes you encounter much smaller three dimensional renditions of the Grey Cup such as the two examples above. It is possible that the teaspoon was specially made to go with the 1955 Royal Stafford football series of teacups which are discussed at this older blog post, although there is no concrete evidence for this. The teaspoon was also made in Great Britain and the tea set features the Grey Cup prominently on each saucer. If so then the spoon would be worth considerably more than if it was just a random single item.

The small pin from 1980 would only be worth a couple of dollars or so. There is an undecipherable silversmiths mark on the bottom of the trophy.

1971 Coleco Plastic Grey Cup Trophy, front and back  ?" 

Many of us fondly remember playing with the Coleco vibrating football games when we were kids and in 1971 Coleco had a special treat for their consumers, a plastic made in Portugal realistic looking Grey Cup! The trophy is thought to have been a mail away premium offered with the 1971 Command Control Electric Action Football version of the game and not included in the Electric Action CFL Grey Cup Football version of the game, but research into these specifics is ongoing. 

The cup actually had "engraved" on it the accurate names of all the Grey Cup winning teams from the beginning to 1970 and really is an impressive work of toy art. This baby will set you back probably $100 if you can find one in good shape today. I don't have the exact size but I'm pretty sure it is smaller than 4" tall.

1972 Birks? Hamilton Tiger-Cats Grey Cup Champions Gold & Silver Charms  3/4"

Around about the same time that Coleco players were going in all of the wrong directions for the called play, the Tiger-Cats were defeating the Roughriders at Ivor Wynne Stadium to win the Grey Cup in 1972. Subsequently a jewelry company, possibly Birks but again unconfirmed, decided to immortalize the achievement with gold and silver charm bracelet mini Grey Cups. These would be worth more for their gold content today probably than any residual collectible value, an interesting oddity nonetheless.   

1992 Mini Trophy Doug Flutie Grey Cup MVP  14"
1999 Mini Trophy Hamilton Tiger-Cats Grey Cup Champions  12 1/2"  

During the nineties the league (or team owners, perhaps) were once again handing out replicas of the fabled mug. This particular 1992 trophy looks to have been specific to Doug Flutie as his MVP award achievement is engraved near the base. It has oxidization damage that is so bad that it is a historical curiosity at this point but not much else, and yet it still brought over $850 at auction in an unknown year. At 14" this is a considerably sized replica.

Apparently the 1999 cup replicas were handed out to Ti-Cat players and staff although I'm not sure that some of these are not being resold multiple times. These are all over the map from as low as about $580 almost a decade ago, to over $2,200 just a couple of years ago. These are also nice and large and would make a great presentation piece if you have a couple of extra grand laying around that you aren't using for anything else.     

1994 AMK Replica Grey Cup Box and Trophy  5 3/4"
2008 Hunter Replica 2004 Grey Cup Trophy Advertisement  ?"

If your Grey Cup replica budget was closer to $20 then AMK, one of the league's licensee partners to produce souvenirs and novelties in the nineties, had just the thing. You could buy this whether your team ever got a sniff at the trophy during these years or not! However you didn't get any engraving for this bargain basement price.

By the 2000's decade Hunter had taken over producing CFL knickknacks and their replicas were a little more detailed and could have the specific Grey Cup year logo affixed to it. Still no engraving.

2014 Hunter 2013 Grey Cup Trophy in Box
2018 TSV Advertisement for a variety of Grey Cup replicas

These sports memorabilia trinket companies tend to come and go, or possibly just morph from one corporate name to the next because often times the item number for these products is the same regardless of which year or which companies catalogue it was in. Once your team wins the cup, a commemorative replica with your team's logo attached makes for a more satisfying ownership experience.

If your team doesn't win, or hasn't won in ages you can now just order a smaller cup with your team's logo cemented in where it should have been in the first place. Still no engraving at this price point.   

2012 Canada Post Ultimate CFL Fan set  Grey Cup Trophy  7 1/2"
& Engraved Presentation Box

Finally if you really want a fan targeted Grey Cup replica with engraving you can splurge for the 2012 Canada Post box set that came with a numbered trophy out of 8000. The top bowl is engraved and so is the nice box it comes in with the same wording and design as on the real Grey Cup.

These retailed for $199.99 in 2012 so I would have thought they could be bought for considerably less today, since I think 8,000 sets is probably a bit much for the CFL collecting community to absorb. But most sites seem to be charging more than $200 and the cheapest I could see one online was $175.00.

Thanks to Joe Gill for providing many of the pictures used in this blog post. Most of the auction results were from Classic Auctions, a few were from stateside, all sales values were in USD.