Today the franchise is worth a shade under $3 billion, but the only community owned team in major professional sports had humble beginnings. Now, a relic from its earliest days—one that speaks to those fly by the seat of your pants days—is on the auction block.
Heritage Auctions is offering what it calls “one of the most significant early Green Bay Packers artifacts to surface on the hobby’s auction block.”
It’s hard to argue considering the Packers’ historical importance to the National Football League and the club’s unique status untethered to any individual owner.
Up for grabs in the company’s October auction is an original 1923 Packers stock certificate, a bit tattered but with quite a story to tell.
The 96-year-old relic is expected to sell for $30,000 or more when the auction wraps up later this month.
Originally formed by former Green Bay high school standout Earl “Curly” Lambeau in 1919 and sponsored by Indian Packing Company, which supplied its blue and gold uniforms, the “Packers” had a rough ride those first few years. In trouble with the fledgling American Professional Football League in 1921 for using illegal college players in an exhibition game, Lambeau took over sole proprietorship but didn’t have much money. The Green Bay community rallied, thanks to input from the local newspaper, and a group of five community leaders pieced together a public stock offering in an attempt to raise money to keep the team afloat. “The Hungry Five,” as they became known, were critical to the survival of the Packers.
“Professional football has put Green Bay on the nation’s sport map in capital letters and we must keep it there,” the Press-Gazette stated to its readership in an editorial backing the stock sale.
One thousand shares were sold at five dollars each, with the stipulation that the buyer would also purchase at least six season tickets. The sale was a success and the Packers were in business.
According to Heritage, it’s believed most of the certificates from that first stock sale were replaced in 1935 when a second stock sale took place to fund a $5,000 court settlement in favor of a fan badly injured from a fall from the stands of City Stadium. Others were likely lost, destroyed or contributed to World War II paper drives.
The Packers conducted a couple of other stock sales in later years to fund various projects, including the fairly recent renovation of Lambeau Field, but the certificates don’t really have any investment component. In the highly unlikely event the Packers would ever be sold, proceeds would be turned back over to the community.
The 5 ½ x 9 1/2 inch certificate in the Heritage auction has three vertical fold lines and has been reinforced with tape to address separation. Signed by team president A.B. Turnbull and “Hungry Five” member Leland H. Joannes (the latter had faded), the certificate doesn’t entitle the bearer to any ownership of the franchise, but will certainly give the new owner something to brag about.