Curly Lambeau didn’t invent football, but if you try to locate a more influential figure from the dawn of the NFL, he’s on a very short list. Memorabilia from the earliest days of the Green Bay Packers is rare enough and Lambeau is often featured, but a new discovery pre-dates his days as a Packers player or coach. What may be the earliest original football image of the godfather of Packer football was recently purchased by a long-time collector.
Chris Nerat, a consignment director for Heritage Auctions and an avid Packers fan who grew up little more than a stone’s throw from Lambeau Field, uncovered a real photo postcard (RPPC) of the 1915 Green Bay East High School football team on which Lambeau starred. The team photo card includes a head shot of Lambeau at the top, a sophomore nattily dressed in a football sweater, smiling. Just four years later, after a short stint at Notre Dame, Lambeau and a group of other men would establish the Packers franchise.
It may not be the equivalent of a Babe Ruth rookie card, but it’s a remarkable piece of football history.
Nerat is always on the prowl for undiscovered Packers treasures and he located the 5 ½” wide postcard on eBay with a Buy it Now price of $400. He quickly pulled the trigger and considering the number of collectors of vintage Packers memorabilia, it likely wouldn’t have lasted much longer. The photo has some scratches, wear and a bit of staining but overall, presents better than you might expect from something that’s 98 years-old .
There were other early Packers who learned the game at East High and Nerat believes some of them may also be pictured on the postcard.
“Any serious Packers collector or enthusiast has got to realize the strong connection between East High School and the Green Bay Packers,” he explained. “But not limited to the Packers, multiple important football players went to school at East, including Curly Lambeau, Nate Abrams, who played on the Packers inaugural team in 1919, in addition to one of Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen” Jim Crowley. “
The postcard was originally in a scrapbook but remains in outstanding condition. Its authenticity as an original period piece can be verified by the stamping on the back. Why it was produced has been lost to history but Nerat has some theories.
“Similar to pinback buttons or t-shirts picturing youth players of today that are usually worn by the players’ parents, this piece may have been issued by a booster club, book store, or they possibly were even sold at Green Bay’s historic tobacco store Bosse’s, which was established in 1898.”
While its value may be difficult to determine, Nerat is more interested in the history behind the postcard. It’s not something he’s looking to move for a quick profit and is still pumped up about adding it to his collection.
“Absolutely. Whenever you can get the chance to purchase something that is historically significant, possibly one-of-a-kind and featuring one of your favorite franchises, how can you even put a price on that? I want to research the other players in the image a bit more, but other than that it will remain in my collection with many other early Lambeau and Green Bay Packers pieces that I’ve been able to obtain through the years.”
See more Curly Lambeau items on eBay here.