Fred Kail is now in the Hall of Fame.
The man who produced the instantly recognizable Joe Jolter football statues, recently drove to Canton, Ohio to present what was the NFL’s first officially licensed collectible product.
Kail, as a 19-year-old art student in Maryland during the 1956 season, created a Baltimore Colts statue that showed off the burly side of the cartoon-like figures who donned the pads. The Colts players liked it and business took off. Kail hand-painted his creations on his mother’s kitchen table.
Eventually, they were mass-produced in Japan and licensed by the league in 1961, but they retain enough scarcity and popularity to sell in the hundreds of dollars on today’s open market.
Kail’s “Jolter” and “Canton Bull Dog” football player figurines returned for this year’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Kail presented the Hall with his statue–and a newer, limited edition copy of the 9-foot-tall Johnny Unitas statue that the highly regarded sculptor created a few years ago.
His new line, celebrating its 50th anniversary, will be out soon. It starts with the Canton Bull Dogs and features various football player positions in their original team NFL jerseys.
The 73-year-old Kail talked about his trip to Canton and his place in football collectibles history with Larry Harris of Press Box online.