OFFERED BY: Lelands.com Sports and Americana Auction, Seaford, N.Y.
AUCTION DATE: December 6th 2002
LOT NUMBER: #1999
SOLD FOR: $2,357.95 + 15% Buyers Premium
It’s been my opinion a long time that overall, Athletic Display Antiques are very undervalued, particularly compared to prices paid for contemporary sports memorabilia. This circa 1889 tobacco advertising sign featuring the great American boxer John L. Sullivan serves as the perfect illustration of that. The sports antiques world is full of great and important piece, but this poster commands special attention. When I saw it only brought $2,357.95 plus buyer’s premium, in Leland’s December 2002 auction, I had to shake my head. Whoever got it, scored an easy knockout.
To begin with it’s extremely rare, maybe the only example extant. I’ve never seen it before, boxing poster aficionado John Buonaguidi has never seen it, Josh Evans owner of Leland’s who auctioned it had never seen it; though he once had a similar one.…. deduction ….it’s rare !
Who was John L. Sullivan you may ask ?…A lot more than just an archaic symbol of old time boxing! John L. Sullivan was the first-ever American super-star athlete. He held the official heavyweight championship title from 1882 to 1892, losing it to James J. Corbet of San Francisco in the first championship bout requiring gloves be worn. Boxing was a much rougher sport in that era, brutal
really, with little emphasis on ring safety.
Sullivan is credited with being most responsible for popularizing the sport of boxing in the United States. He also traveled with the circus, and performed in vaudeville. Even without television and radio he was known worldwide, and was mobbed by fans continually throughout his life. In short, he was one of the most notable figures in American history; and he initiated the boxing phenomena of today.
Having one of the cards the poster advertises would be cool but, the poster that advertises
them ?…that somehow managed to survive intact all these years ?…and the image….what more classic representation of the sport and the man could there be ? The costume with those archaic tights, and the overall look is incredible. The dark blue advertising text leaves no room for improvement. Although it’s supposed to have been trimmed and undergone a little bit of restoration, it appears essentially perfect.
So I ask; other than it’s 17” X 12” dimensions being a little on the small side, what more could anyone want in an antique boxing poster?
Now I’m very aware $2,357.95 isn’t chump change to the average bear, but when you look at the astronomical prices paid today for modern sports memorabilia and collectibles that are much less rare…compared to a chunk of American history like this ? Comprende ? But that’s good….we like bargains ! And that my friends, is the nature of collecting….there are still deals out there !