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Saturday, April 11, 2020

The NFL Throwbacks Collection of Products

I wanted to share some quick, big picture information about the NFL Throwbacks Collection.

What is the Throwbacks Collection?

Most of the North American pro sports leagues celebrate their history with a family of licensed products that the leagues market under a separate name/brand – a set within a set. So if a league has 250 licensees, maybe a subset of 15-20 licensees might be given permission to sell products using logos and names and images from the "historical archive" of that league.

The league's various heritage/vintage/throwback programs are known as:

1. MLB - Cooperstown Collection
2. NHL – Vintage Collection (formerly Legacy + Heritage)
3. NFL – No formal name, but it used to be the Throwbacks Collection and is sometimes now Throwback Authentics
4. NBA – Hardwood Classics
5. NCAA – College Vault (schools that work with CLC as their licensing partner)

1. MLB Properties began their vintage line, The Cooperstown Collection, in 1988-ish.
MLB Cooperstown Collection logo

2. NHL Enterprises began their vintage line, initially conceived as the Legacy Collection but changed pre-launch to the Heritage Collection, in 1991-ish to coincide with the NHL’s 75th anniversary. The line was renamed the Vintage Collection in 2002 and is still going strong. The first seven NHL Heritage Licensees in 1991-ish were:
- American Needle & Novelty
- CCM/Sport Maska
- DeLong Sportswear
- Mirage Elliot & Kastle Inc.
- Nutmeg Mills
- The Roman Company
- Woody Sports
NHL Vintage logo and NHL Heritage logo

3. NFL Properties launched their vintage line, NFL Throwbacks, in 1991, well ahead of the NFL’s 75th anniversary in 1994. The “Throwback” line of products gradually disappeared in the late 1990’s. The NFL does not have a current formal vintage/heritage program but they do have a collection of vintage logos and only select licensees are allowed to access those logos, so in a sense they do have a subset of licensees that operate in the vintage space. In 2012 the NFL was calling it "NFL Legacy", but that expression seems to have come and gone much like The Throwback Collection.
NFL Throwbacks Collection logo

NFL Legacy logo

NFL Legacy team logos

The first seven NFL Throwbacks licensees in 1991 were:
Nutmeg Mills
Roman Pro
Tiedman & Co.

4. NBA Properties launched their vintage line, NBA Hardwood Classics, in 1998. (Don’t confuse the vintage product line with the TV show - in 1999 the NBA launched a TV show on NBA TV called “NBA’s Greatest Games” and in 2004 renamed it “NBA TV: Hardwood Classics presented by The History Channel”.) The NBA’s Hardwoods Classics line of products is still going strong.
NBA Hardwood Classics logo

5. The NCAA licensing group “CLC" launched a vintage program in 2007 called “The College Vault”. Some of the early College Vault licensees included:
- adidas
- Artehouse
- ASC (American Stamp Collectibles)
- Asgard Press
- Banner Supply
- Boelter Brands
- Mitchell & Ness
- Nike
- Original Retro Brand
- Tailgate Clothing Company
- Whitman Publishing
- WinCraft
- Winning Streak Sports
US colleges College Vault logo by CLC

Ok, let's focus on the NFL and the history of their Throwbacks Collection...

NFL Throwbacks Collection logo

In 1990 the NFL announced the NFL Throwbacks Collection and products began to be sold to consumers by select licensees in 1991.

In 1990 or 1991 the NFL published the ad below that indicated the following seven companies were the first Throwbacks licensees (see the bottom line of the ad for the company names). It's interesting to note that the ad itself is very skimpy on product details in terms of photos - they are hiding the sweatshirt with a framed photo. This suggests to me that they were almost certainly putting the cart before the horse - my guess is the licensees hadn't even created product but the NFL wanted to shake the trees and promote the line.
DeLong (jackets)
Mirage (outerwear)
Nutmeg Mills (sweatshirts)
Riddell (helmets)
Roman Pro (ball caps)
Starter (ball caps)
Tiedman & Co. (jerseys)

NFL Throwbacks Collection promotional ad

In 1993 (perhaps 1992), the NFL published these three ads promoting the NFL Throwbacks Collection and they reference the following nine licensees. Here's a link to Bruce Burke who created the ads.
American Needle (ball caps)
Champion (jerseys)
DeLong (jackets)
Long Gone (sweatshirts)
Mirage (outerwear)
Nutmeg Mills (sweatshirts)
Riddell (helmets)
Roman Pro (ball caps)
Starter (ball caps)

NFL Throwbacks Collection Ad #1

NFL Throwbacks Collection Ad #2

NFL Throwbacks Collection Ad #3

In 1994 the NFL published an amazing 260+ page NFL Merchandise Catalog that I have a copy of, but by 1994 they don't even identify who their NFL Throwbacks licensees are. I can tell you that of the nine Throwbacks licensees in 1993, by 1994 two are no longer even NFL licensees (gone are Long Gone and Roman Pro), so perhaps the list of Throwbacks licensees looked like this in 1994:
American Needle (ball caps)
Champion (jerseys)
DeLong (jackets)
Mirage (outerwear)
Nutmeg Mills (sweatshirts)
Riddell (helmets)
Starter (ball caps, jackets)

Please note: If you'd like to read about the NFL first Throwbacks Collection jersey licensee, Tiedman & Co. - click here.

Between the mid 1990's and the present, the Throwbacks name comes up here and there, but it's clear the NFL lost their enthusiasm for the brand. As mentioned above, the NFL toyed with the NFL Legacy line in 2012-ish. But the only licensee who has taken the Throwbacks name and run with it are the great folks at Mitchell & Ness, makers of terrific vintage style jerseys, t-shirts and ballcaps and a few other products. On the NFL side of things, they have created their own logo that incorporates the Throwbacks name and they have used this logo with their jersey product line for some time and it currently looks like this. But keep in mind this isn't an NFL initiative - it's Mitchell & Ness' doing.

Mitchell & Ness NFL Throwbacks Collection logo

Mitchell & Ness NFL Throwbacks Collection logo

Turning the hands of time to 2020, the NFL does not publish a list of heritage / vintage / legacy / Throwback Authentics licensees. But here are at least some of the current NFL licensees who have a vintage line:
5th and Ocean by New Era
Ebbets Field Flannels
Fanatics Authentic (signed collectible)
Majestic (Polo's and t-shirts)
Majestic Threads (T-shirts)
Mitchell & Ness
New Era
NFL Pro Line
NFL Pro Line by Fanatics
Vineyard Vines
Winning Streak Sports

Thanks for reading and as always, let me know if you have any questions or new information for me to incorporate into this posting.


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Thank you for taking the time to add a comment - all input is welcome, especially the constructive kind! All the best - Scott