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SPORTS ANTIQUE 

OF THE WEEK

FEB. 26TH- 

MARCH 4TH 2011

Standout items 

by SportsAntiques.com

 

 

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1StraightOnTiffany_900x1200.jpg (190292 bytes)
C1890 

Sterling Silver

FOOTBALL FLASK
BY TIFFANY & CO.

5 3/4" tall x 3 1/2" wide

spirited scrimmage scene in relief

only known example

 

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  On duty in Collection  

 

 

 

Sports Antique of the Week

Feb. 26th- March 4th 2011

 

 PAGE 1 

 

c1890 Tiffany & Co.

FOOTBALL FLASK

 

By Carlton Hendricks

 

A two page story

go to page 2

 

Feb. 14, 2011 

 

That may have been the shortest time a BIN had been up in the history of eBay. I hung up from speaking to the seller and just kept refreshing the browser. Within just a minute or two the page reloaded with the BIN....I looked at the screen, checked reality for a second, took a gulp, and hit the buy button....

 

I got this c1890 flask on eBay a couple months back. It's sterling silver marked Tiffany & Co., and measures 5 3/4" tall by 3 1/2" wide. The seller had it poorly listed. As I recall he had it in a silver category only, no sports section. And he used poor key words. The word "antique" wasn't in the title. Had it been, along with the word "football", I may not have been writing this. As I recall, when I found it, it had five days left, a scare the twinkies out'a ya starting price, and zero bids. 

 

I consulted John Gennantonio for his opinion. He green lighted it and expressed interest if I didn't try for it. We concluded it was an incredible find and tried to put together a game plan how I should proceed. John felt sellers often put high prices on stuff on eBay with the hope someone will make an offer. That made sense, but in the end I backed off making an offer and took the simpler route of asking the seller if he had a BIN (buy it now/stop the auction price). 

 

SCRUTINIZED

I also enquired about the condition. It looked really good in the photos he posted, but I was a little concerned about the definition of the relief work of the scrimmage scene. It looked a little like it might have been worn from sliding in and out of a pocket back in the day. For the kind of money we were talking, I wanted all the data. That's so typical of some sculpture and relief pieces like this one; it can be very hard to capture details in photos. Understanding this can help grasp an item remotely. Sure enough, when I finally got it in hand, the photos didn't do it justice; the definition was much better in person. Take a look below at how much better it looks in photos I took after I got it, than the ones the seller took. Be sure to click on it to enlarge.

 

EbayShotsCompare.jpg (768322 bytes)

 

Back to the action...the seller assured me it wasn't worn and I proceeded on intuition, since I understood the tricky nuances of eBay photos....figuring and hoping it would look better in person....a little bit of a gamble, but we spoke on the phone and seller said I could return if I wasn't satisfied, and he was certain I would be. 

 

 

PULLING THE TRIGGER

That did it, with the return privilege I felt I was in the drivers seat...He had shot me a BIN of only $250.00 over his opening bid....which was $250.00 lower than John had suggested I offer....and I was thinking if it caught fire it could go much higher. So I pulled the trigger with the stipulation he post the BIN on the listing and phone me immediately when it was up. Processing the sale thru eBay and Paypal gave me recourse in case anything went wrong, Otherwise I'd have been very reluctant to send a check to someone I didn't know.

 

That may have been the shortest time a BIN had been up in the history of eBay. I hung up from speaking to the seller and just kept refreshing the browser. Within just a minute or two the page reloaded with the BIN....I looked at the screen, checked reality for a second, took a gulp, and hit the buy button....

 

It was a lot of money for this little Mexican boy, but I felt it was the right move. I've been shaking down the planet for items like this twenty two plus years and have never seen another or anything quite like it. To put it in perspective, It's one of only three 19th century works in the silver genera done in relief that I know of. I have a spectacular box by Reed and Barton with a football scene in relief, same period, but it's silver plate. The other was a c1891 sterling match safe shaped like a football, also by Tiffany & Co....And that's it...three relief silver football pieces known......John shared a mental picture...he jested,  now all you need is a raccoon skin coat and I could see you with that flask rooting in the stands....

 

MAKING SURE IT'S REAL

It's got a couple of small dents, one in the cap the other on a back shoulder area...and there is a little scuffing if you look very close. Those are all imperfections I actually prefer though. These days with the way they're making repro stuff; wear, patina, or what ever you want to call it is one of the most sure ways of identifying items as original. Without such authentic wear you have to be very careful and look very close to make sure it's old. Especially involving high ticket items. Basically only advanced collectors like myself, and seasoned specialized dealers would have the expertise to qualify items as "from the period original". 

 

Not to leave our flask story, but while we're on the subject; if it will benefit anyone. In theory, that's one of the biggest benefits of buying from an established professional dealer. I say in theory, as I've heard plenty of stories of even pro dealers making mistakes for one reason or another. But that's part of the benefit. If they make a mistake, you have recourse. Say you buy something from a reputable dealer and later learn it's not original and have proof, the dealer will return your money. Notice I said "reputable" dealer". Plus I should add, one that is successful enough to absorb a roll back. I personally know of an instance in which a very old $60,000.00 sports item was refunded after many years. It took a little persistence by the buyer/owner, and the dealer didn't just open his safe and toss him $60,000 wrapped in rubber bands...but eventually the dealer did the right thing and he got his money back....with interest...which was only right. Anyway, enough on the principles of safe buying ...back to our flask...

 

 

The flask was made by Tiffany & Co., I estimate about 1890. Tiffany and company may well have records that could supply background info such as the designer, date and number produced. I contacted them but they charge $1,000.00 to research items. 

 

SEEN IT SOMEWHERE

The image of the scrimmage scene is rendered in low relief. Though I couldn't pinpoint it, almost immediately I recognized the image from somewhere....initially I was thinking maybe a woodcut illustration out of an 1890's Harpers Weekly. However, once I got it in hand it came to me....There is a c1890 chromolithograph print of a football scrimmage that has a remarkable  resemblance to the relief image on the flask. 

 

click photos

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1893, 27 3/4" x 20" lithograph reproduction of 1887 painting titled "England v  Scotland", painted by William Haysham Overend, and Lionel Percy Smythe, 

Photographed on location, 2007 National Sports 

Collectors Convention, Booth of Tony Bussineau

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The print is a story in it's self, Originally it was a reproduction of a painting of a rugby match titled "England v  Scotland", dated 1887 and painted jointly by William Haysham Overend, and Lionel Percy Smythe. Both Overend and Smythe were illustrators for the Illustrated London News and it's believed the painting may have been commissioned by that paper. Somehow the image made it's way to the United States; specifically the Knapp Lithographic concern in New York city. At that point AmFlagCircled.jpg (131020 bytes) I speculate Knapp reworked the illustration to add the American flag to the background of the scene, copyrighted it 1893, changed the title from "England v  Scotland" to "FOOT BALL", and added their name "THE KNAPP CO. LITH. , N.Y." in the border, see photos above. To reiterate, this is speculation which would require deeper research than practical here. Nevertheless, however it went down; because of the American flag most everyone thinks for sure it's American. 

 

CONTINUE TO PAGE 2

 

 

 

 

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