It did its duty for 100 years, stuffed into the wall of an old cigar store in Michigan, providing a measure of insulation in the days before cellulose and fiberglass. Hidden away from view for over a century, a relic of the marriage of baseball and tobacco has been uncovered and consigned to Heritage Auctions where it could fetch more than $50,000.
The tri-fold cardboard advertising sign had to have been quite an eye-catcher then as it is now, even though it has separated into three pieces at the seams. Measuring just over five feet wide and over three feet tall, the sign depicts an early 20th century baseball game while promoting Piedmont cigarettes. One of only two known examples, it will be among the featured attractions in the Platinum Night Auction in Dallas Feb. 25 and 26.
Auction officials say the three pieces that make up the sign were uncovered during the recent demolition of the building that was once a cigar store. At one point decades ago, the sign was among paper items stuffed into the wall to provide a measure of insulation from the cold Upper Midwest winters as was often done at a time when few other materials may have been available.
The imagery is focused on a panoramic view of a Dead Ball Era game with fans in a packed grandstand wearing straw hats, many smoking. A photographer kneels on the ground in foul territory while a white-clad vendor hawks nickel packs of Piedmonts, “the cigarette of quality.”
The colors survived very well and despite some water damage, small amounts of paper loss and gouging of the surface in spots, the overall appearance has remained strong. A paper conservator could likely reunite the three pieces and repair some of the damage.
The back contains a large advertising slogan.
While an exact date of issue isn’t really known, the packs of cigarettes shown in the outfield match those which contained the iconic T206 tobacco cards of 1909-1911. Given its size, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest the sign may have once been placed in the store’s window as part of a campaign that promoted the sale of cigarettes which contained the cards.