Wednesday, 29 September 2021

100th Post - A few of my favorite things

When I started this blog I never expected to reach this number of posts before completion of some sort of further release of the Collecting Canadian Football series of catalogues. While progress inches along towards the implementation of a new digital version of CCF, this month I will just be highlighting some of the wide range of Canadian football collectibles that I personally think are among the coolest items I have come across, so far (that I haven't previously featured in earlier posts).

Of all of the thousands of program covers that were issued over many decades, these fabulous cartoon covers from Ottawa in 1934 are easily my favorites. From the white horned helmets of the Rough Riders to the whimsical portrayal of the opponent Tigers and Argonauts across the line of scrimmage, absolute gems of art and sport fused together. A third cover featuring the Montreal Winged Wheelers should also exist although I have never seen it.


There are an innumerable number of season schedules out there for collectors to choose from, one of the easiest things to collect and they were all initially given away free! These choice examples were issued specifically for the western teams in the case of the 1956 Shell items. The implication is that the linemen are hard as steel on the schedules from Hectors Steel in 1968 and 1972. Of course these vintage pieces will set you back a few dollars if you are looking to buy them today. 

Out east some of the most attractive vintage schedules come from the University ranks where the Canadian college game was much more prevalent in the minds of the fans up through at least the fifties, than it became in modern times. These facemask-less graphics are reminiscent of the art-deco stylings of the last mid-century and convey a sense of a simpler world. Interesting also to see the exhibition games Varsity was playing against western squads almost twenty years before the first Vanier Cup.



Everybody knows the Post name when it comes to football collecting in Canada, but here we have the rare 1964 cereal box for the plastic Action Football Players that came in the box. The players were issued in the US in the same boxes that the NFL cards were printed on in 1962, but in Canada they were a totally separate issue two years later.


Above are the passer and kicker figures still on the plastic tree, the complete unopened package with the even rarer instruction sheet inside (plus the rubber band), and the reverse of the figures once assembled. They came in red and blue and possibly yellow too. Thanks to Bobby Burrell for the box images and probably most of the player images too.

I sure wish I had had one of these kitschy team themed light switch plate covers for my room, probably issued sometimes in the seventies. Or I'd settle for a Calgary one in the original pack today, except these are the only three teams that I have ever seen for this delightfully oddball set.

But items don't have to be super rare to be distinctly attractive pieces of memorabilia. These league record manuals are fairly easy to obtain and the 1966 booklet has the wonderfully evocative old team logos, while the 1967 booklet is an inventive nod to the confederation symbol for Canada's centennial year.


Some teams that had a lot of on field success, also seem to have produced a lot of innovative memorabilia during that time period. An earlier blog post illustrated Edmonton Eskimo Grey Cup cartoon pamphlets from 1954 and 1956, and here are a cartoon booklet (1952) and pamphlet (1955) on the same theme. Eskimo fans can thus collect a separate commemorative publication for all of their fifties Grey Cup trips! They sure don't make 'em like this anymore.

A great source of nostalgic colour photos from the golden age of Canadian Football are the various newsprint weekly magazines that were delivered to just about every home in Canada back in the day. Here are two of my personal favorite Stampeder images from 1962 and 1963 magazines respectively.


The significance of the left photo (an exhibition matchup between the Rough Riders and the Stampeders in Calgary on  July 25, 1962) is that it is the only game in Stampeder history where the team wore the white star on their helmets. It just so happened that Weekend Magazine photographers were there to capture it in colour for posterity. The inset shows Wayne Harris during the same game with the star helmet.

The other cover photo shows the team with their short lived khaki pants and Tony Pajaczkowski about to bulldoze a path for ball carrier Jim Dillard while Hal Krebs knocks the Argo player out of the way. It would be great to compile a listing of these covers and stories one day.


These early 70's helmet sets would have been sold at discount department stores (Woolco, K-Mart) or possibly local convenience stores, but definitely for cheap. The helmets themselves were made in Hong Kong and were of a lesser quality than those issued in the sixties and come with painted stripes and decals that tended to dry up and fall off and float around in the package. 

They were cheap then, but a decent shape package today is going to set you back at least $100. The cardboard backing has everybody's favorite CFL posters reproduced in miniature too.

Lastly, here is a great little paper lapel tag that was issued for some important University of Saskatchewan  Huskies versus University of Alberta Golden Bears football game. Probably late fifties or early sixties. I picked this up in a little shop on Queen Street in the Leslieville district of Toronto one day, showing that if you keep your eyes open there is no telling what sort of Canadian football small treasure you can stumble upon anywhere in the country.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Rough Rider Revisions - Volume 2 Updates

In order to launch a digital version of the Collecting Canadian Football series of guides, information regarding newly issued sets and single items covering the full decade+ (2010 - 2021) for league wide issues, and most of a decade (2013 - 2021) for team specific issues have to be added. In addition all newly discovered older sets and single items for either scope need to also be added to the system. And finally when there were changes to already catalogued sets those also need to be updated to match the latest available information. So there is a lot of data to process.

Here I will illustrate a few of the interesting changes to already listed Ottawa Rough Rider sets as this will give a general idea of what sorts of updates can be required across all of the existing data, and some numbers that will hopefully convey some of the extent of the new info that will be available once the digital version goes live.

First up there is some clarification of a fairly well-known issue of Ottawa Rough Rider photographs and printed pictures that were issued in 1950 and 1951 respectively. These are fairly easy to come by considering their age and the reason is that the promotion to distribute them was very successful and thousands were sent out to fans for the asking.

The Evening Citizen (later the Ottawa Citizen) ran this promotion to distribute pictures of Rough Rider stars starting in September and for every home game. The fans would have to look for the specific coupon, fill it out and send it in and the lucky draw winner would win tickets to the game AND the jersey off of the back of the player featured that week, hand delivered by the player after the game!

Pictured above is the Howie Turner photo from week #2 in 1950 and the envelope that the pictures were mailed out in to the fans. Besides the football pictures the Citizen also produced pictures of Hockey players and celebrities of the day (like Roy Rogers). 

A previously separately catalogued team picture of the 1950 Riders it turns out was also part of this promotion. Late in the year fans were advised they could also have it for free but they had to pick it up in person at the newspaper's offices. So it has now been moved to this listing as a promotional item.  

When 1951 rolled around the Citizen was at it again, this year with a set of printed pictures that once again required the fans to clip the specific coupon and send it in, this year covering the mailing costs as well. The prize was changes to 6 tickets to the football game and no jersey. Different graphic illustrations were used from week to week for the various coupons. Thanks to Bobby Burrell for the tip off of the mailing envelope which led to all of these details.

When it came to the early 1960's Rough Rider team issued Action and Portrait photographs a considerable number had been catalogued, but specifications of exact year of issue were then (and remain now) unavailable. What was known is that some of these Action and a couple of these Portrait photos were used for the 1961 British American service station printed picture giveaway promotion. Shown above are the Portrait Kay Vaughn team issued photo and the B/A printed picture using the same image.

But additionally it was determined that some of these photos were also made available available in 8" X 10" printed picture format without the bottom identifying info or team logo and in 5" X 7" cardstock format. Which means that for some players 4 different variations of the same image were made available during this time period. Note however that there are slight cropping differences in each of the four items above.

One of the better known Ottawa Rough Rider team issue sets is the 1967 Rideau Trust set that features three players to each panel. The Rideau Trust corporate logo typically appears below each player on the panel. What was probably a test print sheet has surfaced where there is only one logo per panel under the middle player normally, but on the far right for the coaches card. Of course if somebody was to cut the individual players from such a panel, only the two end fragments would then be different from the regularly issued panel cut fragments.

The Royal bank had B&W cards of Ottawa Rough Riders available one per week at their branches for their customers to take for free. The original listing of 1971 had 11 cards identified but another 12 cards have been discovered, bringing the total known to 23. Because that is a lot of cards this listing has been modified to 1971 - 1972 as there were likely 12 cards per season but the format is identical so they are all still grouped together. One unidentified card is probably still out there somewhere.

So that is a good cross-section of some of the types of updates that needed to be processed, which affects the total number of items listed, the set total prices, sometimes new associated items and new images that need to be sized and placed properly for the system to have access to them.

Now for some numbers. Unfortunately the process of trying to catalogue a gazillion things issued in an unending array of different manners results in unavoidable complexity. As a refresher on what these distinctions mean :

Base - The normal listing of a Set, Series (1 item per year over multiple years) or Single item

Variant - A set wide variation such as parallels or French versions

Format - The same items in a different physical configuration, such as Post panels 

Volume I  - League Wide Issues

Base ListingsVariant ListingsFormat Listings

As you can see there are as many new listings as there were original listings, part of this is attributable to the fact the a year's worth of Upper Deck resolves into between 15 and 20 different types of sets, Jogo puts out 3 to 4 sets of Alumni cards each year, and so forth. In some cases with formats and variants the listings are just more explicit than were originally captured in the first volume.

This information is complete, except by the time this whole exercise is done Upper Deck & Jogo will have issued more 2021 cards and those will need to be accounted for.

Volume II  - Team Specific Issues

Now to present the same information for the Team Specific Issues is a problem because we get the matrix above for each team and that gets messy in a two dimensional presentation. So to make it a little easier to comprehend I will leave out the Unchanged numbers which in total are Base = 1051, Variant = 85, Format = 20

Base ListingsVariant ListingsFormat Listings


































The green numbers are done and the red portions have yet to be done, so while a great deal of progress has been made there remains still a fair bit of work to do, although the USA teams will be minimal and the OTHER is mostly for pre-WWII teams and generic football items that might be postponed until a later time. A change generally means that there are more items discovered than were originally listed for a set or sometimes new additional items have been added. Once again a lot of the variant and format changes and new listings here are from more explicit treatment of the season ticket sets.

Volume III  - Novelties & Souvenirs

Finally what was originally going to be a print Volume III (and still might be one day) will also be included as a work in progress so some categories of items (Games, Coins, Pennants, Stickers/Decals) have significant content. With much more to come as time permits once the system is launched.

Base ListingsVariant ListingsFormat Listings

All told there are about 2,600 separate Set/Series/Single listings, each of which has related representational images, average about 6 per listing counting thumbnails = over 15,000 pictures that need to be converted to the right format, sized appropriately, named properly and put in the correct final location, for the system to work. This applies to unchanged set listings, as well as new set listings, so that image work still needs to be done for the Volume III sets.

On top of that anytime you take 6 months to update content, when you get back to the technical side of things Google and Apple will have changed terms and conditions for Apps on you and probably made things that you did before illegal now in their never ending quest to make using their platforms as difficult as humanly possible. So technical changes and then final testing comes after all the listings are done.  

Now, that is a lot of numbers to digest, what good do they do and why would any collector care? The answer is that identifying the changes and additions made allows for those that are familiar with the printed guides, to use an option (for subscribers) to search with a flag where you can specify just show you the changed sets, or just show you the new sets. Then you can easily browse the results to get a handle on the information that is value added from the old printed catalogues. 

If you were wondering why this promised digital version of the catalogue never seems to become a reality, this post explains why that is. Target date is still sometime this year.  


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.