There’s an ancient autographed Celtics team photo in SCP Auctions’ upcoming catalog but if you’re thinking Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, you’re a few decades off.
In fact, it pre-dates the Boston Celtics franchise. The 7 ½ x 9 ½” image signed in fountain pen features the “Original Celtics,” a squad considered the world’s greatest pro basketball team of the post-World War I era. It’s a bit like seeing 1921 Chicago Staleys signed photo—or maybe one inked by the 1872 Boston Red Stockings. A unicorn in the realm of historic hoops memorabilia, it carries a pre-sale estimate of $20,000+.
The photo was consigned to auction by a family in Wisconsin, who had owned it for many years.
Cobbled together from the remnants of the New York Celtics basketball team following the War, the Originals played in some long-forgotten leagues but were best known for their barnstorming efforts. They were the Globetrotters before the Globetrotters, logging up to 150,000 miles per year and playing a ridiculously exhausting 150-200 game schedule.
Team members included 6’ 1” forward/center Henry “Dutch” Dehnert (credited with inventing the pivot), point guard and ballhandling wizard Nat Holman (the legendary CCNY coach), dominant center Joe Lapchick, sharpshooter John Beckman (called the “Babe Ruth of basketball”), John “Pete” Barry, Nat Hickey and “Speedy” Davey Banks.
The Celtics won an estimated 90% of the games they played during their 20+ years of existence. In 1922–23, they played 205 games—and won 193 of them.
The Original Celtics were inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a team in 1959, while Lapchick and Dehnert were also elected individually as players.
Snapped by notable New York photographer, Joseph Burt, most likely in the early 1930s, the photo measures 7.5” by 9.5” and shows the players in their “World Champion” leather jackets.
Dehnert and Lapchick’s signatures are highly desirable. Both have signed the photo along with with Hickey, Barry, Banks and Manny Burns. The signatures on the photo have been graded PSA/DNA 8.
Having been held by a private collector for many years, the photo is generally in good condition except for a neatly torn upper right corner, a few minor creases and surface scratches.
Also part of the same consignment is a Celtics Christmas card from 1931, signed by Lapchick . It comes with the original mailing envelope.
Bidding is set to open September 11 and runs through the 28th at SCPAuctions.com.