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Complete Set of Five 1928 Lucky Strike Large-Format Advertising Signs - Five Feet by Two Feet!
Starting Bid - $20,000, Sold For - $35,250
Extraordinarily rare complete set of all five Lucky Strike large-format baseball advertising signs issued in 1928 featuring, respectively, five of the greatest players from that era: Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, Lefty Grove, Tony Lazzeri, and Harry Heilmann. This collection of five display pieces should not be confused with the near-identical, but much smaller, Lucky Strike trolley car baseball signs issued in that same year! These gigantic signs (measuring more than five feet across and over two feet in height) were intended for outdoor display and are among the largest and most majestic baseball advertising displays ever created. They are also exceedingly rare, so much so that most collectors are not even aware of their existence. Fewer than ten of these large-format Lucky Strike signs are known to exist, five of which are offered here as a complete set. Each of the five offered signs is similar in design to its corresponding trolley-car example with two notable exceptions: the background color on the large-format signs is gold, as opposed to green, and each large-format display is presented on canvas instead of printed on cardboard (a necessity for outdoor use).
Since most collectors are seeing these displays here in this catalog for the first time, it might appear that this set constitutes a new find. While this is the first time this complete set has been seen or offered to the public, and while they were found together, their remarkable discovery is not new. This complete set of five Lucky Strike signs has been the cornerstone of our consignor's advanced baseball-related advertising collection for over two decades! Approximately twenty years ago, our consignor, who already owned a large-format Lucky Strike baseball sign (at the time, it was one of only two known), was notified of an amazing discovery of a complete set of all five signs. Incredibly, they were unearthed during a house renovation in Walla Walla, Washington, where the offered signs had been serving as insulation within one of the walls of the house being renovated. Our consignor eventually purchased the signs, leaving him with six total: the newly discovered set of five and one duplicate (the example he already owned). Approximately ten years ago he sold his duplicate and now feels it is finally time to part with the set. Because it is the only set in existence and in the hopes that all five signs will continue to remain together, he has requested that the signs be offered together.
Each sign measures approximately 61 x 28 inches (image area) and each represents one of the largest and highest-quality baseball-advertising signs ever produced. Obviously, it is difficult to convey scale with photos in a catalog or on the web, but these pieces dwarf the standard trolley-car signs and would be most appropriate in a museum or gallery setting. (Note: we have provided an image of a large-format sign with a smaller trolley-car sign for scale.) One of the reasons for the quality of their manufacture and their size is timing. The year 1928 was both the height of Lucky Strike's cigarette advertising blitz and the beginning of what is now an advertising staple: the celebrity endorsement. Lucky Strike launched the most aggressive tobacco advertising campaign ever seen in 1928 and, according to Allan M. Brandt in his authoritative work The Cigarette Century (Basic Books, New York, 2007), its campaign took full advantage "of the 'cult of personality' that emerged in the 1920s as a force in advertising." As a result, the American public was bombarded with testimonials by athletes, celebrities, entertainers, and socialites as to the benefits of smoking Lucky Strikes. In their choice of ballplayers, the company certainly recruited the cream of the crop, as all five players featured in their advertisements were later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The 1928 Lucky Strike baseball trolley-car signs are universally recognized as one of the all-time classics in the hobby. Their stunning graphics and aesthetic appeal aside, the signs are also among the very few advertising display pieces dating from the 1920s which are in full color. These larger outdoor signs command even greater attention and represent the apex of Lucky Strike's historic 1928 advertising campaign.
The extreme rarity of these pieces is probably twofold. Since these large-format signs were displayed outdoors, where they were constantly exposed to the elements, it stands to reason that nearly all were damaged to some extent, with most probably relegated to the trash bin after their period of use. Distribution was probably another important factor in explaining their scarcity today. It seems certain, given their immense size, canvas material, and the expense of their manufacture, that far, far fewer of these large-format displays were issued compared to their cardboard trolley sign counterparts (which are scarce in their own right). While anything is possible, and finds of old material still occur on a regular basis, it seems highly unlikely that a complete set of these signs will ever surface again. This will probably always remain the only complete set of all five large-format Lucky Strike advertising signs known to exist.
As noted earlier, because these were intended for outdoor use, these signs were naturally exposed to the elements. Related to this, all of these pieces (except one) have had professional restoration in the form of in-painting. (This is also the case with all other examples we have seen offered over the years.) Though not easily seen, three of the offered examples (Grove, Lazzeri, and P. Waner) have had their original white-canvas borders trimmed away and were then subsequently reaffixed to a new, heavier, white-canvas backing which provides a new white border. As can be seen, in person or in images, this has no impact on display value. The Lloyd Waner sign has been affixed to a cardboard backing and is framed to total dimensions of 65 x 30.5 inches. Since these were outdoor pieces, all of the signs display evidence of their former use, including tack and/or nail holes, light staining, minor tears and/or abrasions, and general surface wear. As noted, all except Lloyd Waner have undergone varying degrees of restoration in repair of some or all of the aforementioned flaws. Because they are so large, these flaws have little or no impact on their outstanding display value, and each piece displays beautifully and projects an overall Excellent appearance. Large display pieces in general and outdoor display pieces in particular, are the most worthy candidates for restoration to enhance display value. This can often be a very expensive and time-consuming process. In this case, the work has been done, and this unique set of five spectacular large Lucky Strike signs is ready for display in any private or public museum setting. Reserve $20,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $35,250
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