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Bert Bell Signed Check Collection (100)
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $1,185
Collection of 100 Philadelphia Eagles business checks, spanning the years 1937-1940, each signed by De Benneville Bell (known as "Bert" Bell) in his capacity as president and owner of the club. Each check, drawn on the Tradesman's National Bank and Trust Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been signed by "De Benneville Bell" in either blue or black fountain pen on the front. Checks have long been a favorite of autograph collectors due to their inherent authenticity and the fact that the signatures on them are almost always very well executed. This group is no exception, as the signatures range in grade from "8" to "10," averaging "9/10." The club's official corporate name, "Philadelphia Eagles Pro Football Club, Inc.," is printed along the top of each check.
De Benneville Bell, known as "Bert" Bell, was one of the most important figures in NFL history, first as an owner and later as league commissioner. Bell, who was a former college quarterback at Penn, co-founded the Philadelphia Eagles in 1933 with two of his college friends. In 1936 he took a more active role with the team by assuming the duties of head coach. The following year he purchased the team outright, but in December 1940, financial woes resulted in his switching franchises to become part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers with Art Rooney. In 1946 he sold his interest in the Steelers and became NFL Commissioner, a position he held until his death in 1959. As an owner, Bell was instrumental in establishing the NFL draft in 1937, the same year in which he established the Maxwell Football Club, which to this day continues to recognize the nation's top college football player with its issuance of the Maxwell Award. As commissioner, he oversaw the merger with the AAFC and negotiated the first television rights for the league. He's also famous for coining the phrase "On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team." In 1963 Bell received his highest honor, albeit posthumously, when he joined sixteen other players and executives in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's inaugural election class.
This is the largest offering of Bert Bell signed checks at public auction that we have seen. Ideally, all are vintage examples dating from his days as owner/president/coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The year breakdown is as follows: 1937 (50 checks); 1939 (14 checks); and 1940 (36 checks). Thirty-eight of the checks feature one or more vertical folds, and five display spindle holes. All display normal bank cancellation stamps and perforations, with thirteen Bell signatures affected by the perforations. Without regard to the folds and spindle holes, the vast majority of the checks are in either Excellent or Excellent to Mint condition, with approximately thirty percent grading Vg or Vg-Ex (mainly due to small border tears or a few light stains). Note: In light of quantities of Bell checks that have been released in recent times (including this large lot), the current $200 SMR list price per check is simply too high. We do not believe the SMR has adjusted for the recent increased supply. While the $20,000 total SMR value is not realistic, the lot does represent an interesting investment vehicle and offers a potentially significant "break value." This is an unprecedented offering of Bert Bell checks. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,185
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