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Friday, June 3, 2016

So You Want To Do Some NFL Jersey / Uniform Research...

Greetings!

This entire blog is called “Heritage Uniforms and Jerseys – a celebration of historic NFL, MLB, NHL, NCAA football and CFL uniforms and stadiums/ballparks/arenas”, and when it comes to NFL uniforms and jerseys, it seems to me that people have one of three primary reasons for visiting this site - all at least somehow related to doing research:


1. Someone is trying to find out what a particular team’s uniform looked like in a particular year or era. This might go something like “I loved the Steelers in the early 80’s, what did their uniform look like?”

2. Someone is trying to find out what year a particular uniform is from. This might be someone who has found, or bought, or is thinking of buying a particular NFL team jersey (authentic or reproduction) and they want to know what year it’s from and in the case of reproduction jerseys, how accurate it is.

3. Someone is simply a huge fan of a particular NFL team and they’d like to see how the uniform, particularly the jersey, has evolved over the history of the franchise.

As fun as this site is, I’m not sure it’s the best for answering the questions above – by all means I encourage everyone who wiggles their way to this site to view our “Menu of Previous Blog Postings” and have a look at the entries related to their NFL team - but I also wanted to share several “go-to” sites that you should be aware of.


Source of info #1: Mecca – The Definitive Source

For NFL uniforms, the definitive uniform history site is The Gridiron Uniform Database.


This website is an incredible labor of love put together by sports historians Tim Brulia, Bill Schaefer and Rob Holecko, and is an amazing resource for anyone interested in NFL uniform history. The website presents graphical representations of every uniform that has been worn in the NFL since 1920, and in some more recent years, it even shows what uniforms various teams wore EACH WEEK! I can’t say enough about the massive, super-human effort that Tim and Bill put into this website (and continue to do) – well done gentlemen!


Source of info #2: A Daily Gusher of Info

If you love sports uniforms and great attention to detail, then you need to be aware of Uniwatch.

Every day since May 2006 - and I do mean EVERY DAY - Uniwatch has featured a daily blog posting about sports uniforms. They aren’t always about NFL uniforms, but as the premier sports league in North America it certainly gets a lot of coverage over the course of a month. Uniwatch is the brainchild of Brooklyn NY based Paul Lukas  (more info here about Paul),  and if you read Uniwatch on a regular or semi-regular basis you’ll end up feeling like you know Paul – his likes and dislikes including meat, colors (especially the color purple) and things found in old desks.

 
Source of info #3: Auctions

Every so often people contact me because they have come into possession of a vintage jersey and they are trying to determine if it’s authentic, when it may have been worn and/or what it might be worth – either for the purpose of selling, general curiosity or for insurance purposes. This is very hard for me to answer and I am not an expert in this field, so let me share where I’d turn if I was trying to get to the bottom of a great vintage jersey.


A. Lelands

Lelands is based in Long Island NY and one of the most respected Sports Auction Houses in the world. They have handled such landmark collections as The Mickey Mantle Auction of the Greer Johnson Collection ($1.3M), The Harry M. Stevens Auction ($1.8M), the famed Boston Garden Auction ($2M total sales) and a personal favorite of mine, the Jim Craig 1980 Miracle On Ice Collection. Every year Lelands sells $10+ million worth of vintage sports memorabilia and cards. That may or may not make them the biggest, but they are certainly one of the best.

The founder and owner of Lelands is Josh Leland Evans. He is a child of the antiques business though his parents Maxine and Stuart Evans, he started dealing in 1969 when he was eight years old. I like the fact that Mr. Evans comes from an antiques background and that he’s been in the sports memorabilia business for decades. If I had a great vintage NFL jersey (or other piece of NFL football equipment) and I was trying to get a handle on what it’s worth or if it’s the genuine article, one of my first stops would be Lelands.

Lelands
130 Knickerbocker Ave, Suite E
Bohemia, NY 11716
Phone1: 631-244-0077
Phone2: 631-244-3604


B. Some other auction sites that deal, among things, with NFL jerseys are:






Some of these companies, particularly Grey Flannel Auctions, keep catalogues and online records of the prices realized in previous sales. This can be a very valuable resource for gauging the approximate value of vintage NFL jerseys if put up for auction.

C. If you are fairly certain that you know what you own, a much simpler route for finding out what it’s worth is good old Ebay. You could search Ebay’s archives of items that have been sold or posted for sale over the years, or you could actually put your item up for sale. One idea would be to put your item up for sale with a quite high reserve price – that way you wouldn’t risk selling it for a price lower than you expected it was worth, while at the same time learning what a going price seems to be. To me it’s an incredibly efficient way of determining the current value, and very hard to argue with the result even if you might be somewhat unpleasantly surprised.


Source of info #4: Official NFL Jersey Supplier History

Sometimes it’s helpful/useful for people to know who the “official” manufacturer of NFL jerseys was in a given year/era in terms of being able to determine what season their jersey is from. The following list is far from perfect, but it’s a start of an “Official NFL Jersey Supplier History”. If you have additional information or conflicting info, please share it with me and I’d be happy to continually update this “list”.

Please note: Most of this history came from this Dec 2007 Sports Collector’s Digest article

I have been hoping that our friends from Wikipedia would take on the task of creating a Wikipedia entry on the Official NFL Jersey Supplier History, much like they have for the NHL uniform, but no-one seems to have yet tackled this project. Any takers?

Here's a start:

Prior to 1970: Different NFL teams had contracts with different manufacturers for their jerseys – no league-wide agreements.

1970-ish - 1990-ish: Sand-Knit (Medalist Sand-Knit until 1984 and then MacGregor Sand-Knit starting in 1985)

1991-ish - 2000:  Largely Sand-Knit and Russell Athletic, but the 1990’s saw a wide array of suppliers and tagging styles where NFL jerseys were concerned. Depending on the team and year, the list of NFL jersey suppliers was not exclusive to Sand-Knit and Russell Athletic. Other providers on an individual team basis were: Champion, Starter, Logo Athletic, Wilson, Puma, Nike, Reebok, adidas and Apex.

2001 - 2011: Reebok (Keep in mind that Adidas bought Reebok in 2005)

2012 - Present: Nike NFL ($1.1 billion over 5 years, an average of $220m/year)

2015 - 2019: On March 16 2015 we learned that Nike and the NFL have extended their contract through 2019.


Source of info #5: Logos

- Sometimes the key to identifying a jersey or other piece of NFL equipment is to know what logo was in use in a particular season. An amazing source of information in this regard is Chris Creamer's Sports Logos - the NFL section of this incredible site can be found here.


Sports Logos has been painstakingly researched and maintained since 1997 by Chris Creamer, who is from the Greater Toronto (Canada) area. It is a remarkable effort and does a great job showing each NFL team’s primary, secondary/alternative logos and does a great job identifying the years various logos were used. Chris’ site also has some information on NFL uniform history, but I would suggest that the above mentioned Gridiron Uniform Database would be the better site to go to for uniform info.

I also find it amazing how Chris has been able to get the cooperation of most of the leagues, the NFL included – that is not an easy task and it is a testament to his hard work and dedication to doing a great, encyclopedic job. As Chris says right on his site “This site is maintained for research and historical purposes only, do not abuse it.”

The aforementioned Paul Lucas (see #2 above) wrote a nice profile piece on Chris in 2013 – find it here.



Many thanks for reading and please offer any feedback either in the Comments below or directly to me at ssillcox@rogers.com .

Thanks and happy researching!

Scott

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