Thursday, May 21, 2009

Auction Gold - Items From the Golden Boy

Two very nice specimens from Paul Hornung's playing days recently hit the auction block. Hornung ought not need an introduction - his list of accomplishments include the 1956 Heisman Trophy, the 1961 NFL MVP, the 1961 Bert Bell Award. He was also named to the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team, and was a two-time Pro Bowler (1959 and 1960). Hornung is a member of three Halls of Fame: Pro Football, College Football and the Green Bay Packers.

First up is this early 1960s helmet, from Grey Flannel's recently-concluded Summer Games 2009 auction:

Lot #388: Circa 1963 Paul Hornung Green Bay Packers Game-Used Helmet

Paul Hornung was one of the most versatile players ever to play the game, playing Halfback, Quarterback, and Place Kicker for the Green Bay Packers. Not only could he run, he was a excellent passer, receiver, and blocker. Paul Hornung was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, won the 1956 Heisman Trophy and the NFL MVP award in 1961. On the back of this Yellow helmet with green and white center stripes in player number “5” stenciled in black. The inner suspension is fully intact with “RIDDELL” stamped. The facemask and chin strap are fully intact. The helmet shows good game-use with light scuffing to the outer dome and sweat staining inside.

Nice piece. It went for $5,317.20, including Buyer's Premium.

I'm interested in the 1963 attribution. I'm still working on a study of the various forms of the "G" logo, specifically when the Packers moved away from the original incarnation, which its thinner green outline and more pronounced football-shape. It was right about 1963 or 64.

I love the squared-off shape of the Riddell helmet. This one appears to be a JR-6. I'm not sure when the model was introduced, but I had thought it was after 1963.

Here's the six-loop, twelve-point, multi-crown suspension.

Very nice.

Update 6/10/09: I've learned a little bit more about the helmet's history. The very same helmet was sold at auction in 2005 by American Memorabilia. Sure enough, they attributed it at the time as being from no earlier than 1964.

The description from that auction gives us some great identifiers for the helmet style:

1964-66 Paul Hornung Game-Worn Packers Suspension Helmet

Certainly among the choicest game-used helmets ever offered is this mid-1960's Paul Hornung relic. The shell was made by Riddell and it's the RK-4 style that featured the mildly protruding ear contours. Hornung wore this style only sporadically early in his career. In fact, from 1957 through '62, most photos show him wearing the spherical TK-2 model. After a year involuntary 'sabbatical' in 1963, he returned to the Packers, and from 1964 to 1966 his preference was the RK-4 or RK-2 model. During this period, most photos show him wearing this model, although on brief occasions, he can be seen wearing the TK-2 sphere helmet. The outer shell is painted classic Green Bay yellow. The double-layered "G" decals are correct for the decade in terms of font style, mil depth and layered white-on-forest-green lettering. The low positioning of the "G" (well into the protrusion of the mold surrounding the top portion of the ear hole) is correct. As a matter of course, placement was inconsistent on Green Bay's decals and some actually abutted the top edge of the ear hole. The traditional Packer striping - green-white-green - is painted onto the shell, which was standard for the team prior to the middle '60's when bolt-on cages were forbidden, and vinyl striping came into practical use. The striping demonstrates the correct widths and color hues. As should be the case, the bolts located within the center striping were not painted over. The Packers were meticulous about this clean look for all of the exterior bolts, unlike other teams such as the Bears or Lions, who simply painted over them. The interior of the shell sports the RK-4, six-point suspension system (which preceded the twelve-point system) and was exclusive to all helmets prior to 1964. The back left suspension bolt has detached from the shell, and this may have been the reason for the helmet being withdrawn from active play. The leather jaw pads are intact and are vintage early '60's (based on double-sided dark leather), as is the earlier '60's version of the rubber crown donut, which is thicker. The gray snubber is present in the center of the helmet under the front lip; Hornung almost always can be seen wearing the snubber. Another interesting feature is the presence of the heavy-duty cushioned leather headband often worn by players who had large foreheads, or those who were prone to concussions or forehead bruising. Many Packers helmets of the period incorporated this feature, or sponge concussion padding which ringed the entire crown and upper extremities of the inner shell. Hornung was not necessarily concussion prone, but the shape of his forehead and vulnerability as a running back, made his a likely candidate for usage. There is a markered "5" in proper position on the shell's gray interior and remnants of an RK-4 rectangular sticker is still present in the lower back inner shell. There are other features linking this helmet to Hornung. It has the two-bar BD-9 facemask with the cursive "ell" Riddell stamp on its right base (which is standard for the early/mid '60's). Second, the interior boltage, support pad and slotted screws are all original and consistent with this period. As well, the angle of the mask is tilted slightly upward, and this was unique to Hornung. As a matter of policy, the Packers once stenciled a player's uniform number on the lower back of the outer shell. In Hornung's case, his number was a single digit, and it was stenciled only on the center stripe. Numerous photos exist of this placement - sometimes nearer the upper bolt, sometimes nearer the lower bolt; sometimes quite dark, sometimes lighter; but nearly always in black. The helmet is accompanied by a mid-'60's chin strap which is vintage Packers with remnants of green paint on the inside. Overall, an outstanding survivor of the Golden Boy from his glory days with Green Bay. It comes from the collection of a long-time restaurateur who obtained it from the Packers in the early 1970's.

The final bid in the original auction, including premium, was $10,178. Ouch. In three years, the helmet has lost nearly half its value. Of course, a deep recession can severely impact the collectibles market.

It's also interesting to trace the provenance of an item. In this case, we know of at least two owners since the helmet left the team: the original, who held it from "the early 1970s" through 2005, and the person who bought it then, who may or not be the seller in last April's auction.

I'll be watching to see if it surfaces again.

The second Hornung item of interest is this gem from American Memorabilia:

1965-66 Paul Hornung Game-Worn Packers Durene Jersey w/4 Repairs (First Hornung Jersey Auctioned)

Men loved him, women wanted to be with him. Paul Hornung has lived a charmed life. Blessed with signature dimples and that curly hair, he was a Saturday matinée idol at Notre Dame and Sunday delight in Green Bay and was one of football's first heartthrobs. The likes of Jim Brown, Bert Jones, Troy Aikman and Tom Brady made women's knees wobble. But the true original was Paul Hornung.

Green Bay Packers game-worn jerseys from the 1960s are some of the most coveted in the football industry. It was Lombardi's Packers which forged football's first true dynasty and helped put the sport on the map. Hornung was Lombardi's go-to guy. If a yard or touchdown was needed, even an option pass or long field goal, the Golden Boy could be counted on.

This size "46" jersey, the first Hornung Green Bay representation offered on the auction block, was worn by Hornung upon his return from his 1963 suspension. Four team repairs appear on the upper front and back shoulder area. The jersey was secured following a Packers' contest at Wrigley Field against the Bears circa '64-65. Teams didn't go through jerseys like they currently do. Most teams used a home and away set for an entire season and preseason and often carried jerseys over from year to year depending on the condition. There are no alterations whatsoever on the white durene garment which shows significant toning but has aged gracefully i.e. durene is still consistent throughout with minimal nylon fiber surface degradation and still exhibits wonderful sheened qualities.

Of special note is the classic green/gold/green trim (3/4") which surrounds the neckline and the Packers specific red size "46" mini-flag tag within the inner collar line. The numbers are created in single-color forest green tackle twill with diamond-point #5's on front and back and horizontally dominant sleeve numbers featuring "flat top 1's and straight 5's."

The sleeve striping pattern is embedded and correct in color hues, while the width of stripes feature 1/2" gold between three larger 1" green stripes.

Naturally, elliptical elbow reinforcements are present on the standard 3/4 sleeve length. A Sand-Knit period size label is sewn in the lower left tail. There is slight staining on the white durene but it is almost unnoticeable. Score it a 10+ with regards to rarity, beauty and wear -- what else would you expect from pro football's Golden Boy, Paul Hornung.
One of the little things I love about this jersey style is the complimenting (but not identical) number forms. The diamond-point "5" just wouldn't look right on the sleeves. It's the small quirks, the deviation from the norm, that makes the design work, like the Yankees' different cap and jersey logos. It speaks to an old-fashioned design school, created by hand. You'd never see this kind of quirk on a uniform designed on a computer.

The Packers still use the same basic set of number styles today, including the two different "5"s:

The Hornung jersey also gives us a great look at the Sand-Knit tag:

Under a new name (Ripon Athletic), the same plant still produces jerseys for the Packers.

There's still time to get in on this one - the auction ends on 5/28. Current bid is $14,266.

UPDATE 5/29: The jersey auction has concluded. Final price: $22,976 (plus Buyer's Premium).

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