Just a couple of ballplayers sitting around enjoying a libation after a hard day on the diamond.
It was a low-key marketing pitch from Guinness Brewery some 129 years ago but it’s also a very significant piece of sports marketing history; one that’s expected to bring a six-figure price in Heritage Auctions’ February Platinum Night sale.
The 24×18” poster pictures 19th century baseball stars William “Buck” Ewing and Adrian “Cap” Anson relaxing in the shade of a canvas retiring tent. Just the second example to be sold at public auction in the last ten years, this piece is being offered publicly for the first time, having been owned by an upstate New York family for decades.
The poster represents just the second time professional athletes were used to endorse products, the first having been an 1874 cigar ad featuring baseball pioneer George Wright.
While Anson and Ewing are shown together, they weren’t teammates in 1899. Anson was a player and part owner of the Chicago White Stockings (later the Cubs) while Ewing was a New York Giants star.
The beer promoted on the poster features the E. & J. Burke label, a brand under the umbrella of the Guinness name. Anson and Ewing are shown enjoying some “Finest Pale Ale” and “Extra Foreign Stout”.
The poster was created by Wagner & Co. Lithographers, which was “the nation’s leading practitioner of the field” according to Heritage. It includes a letter of provenance from the owner, who originally received it as a gift by a neighbor. Held in a frame until recently, it has become brittle with some cracking and staining on the back but professional restoration using Japanese “Oka” paper has returned it to its sturdy self.
The poster is expected to sell for $150,000 or more. Ten years ago, another example sold at auction for $188,000.
Bidding will begin on February 1 with the auction set to close February 23-24.