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Sports Antique of the Week Archive Page




Dec. 13th-19th 2009

Standout items 

by SportsAntiques.com




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18" wide x 15 tall 

c1888 Sterling Silver Plaque

By Bailey Banks & Biddle, Philadelphia PA.

Twenty Three Portraits of Athletic Endeavor

Awarded by the Amateur Athletic Union of the U.S., National championship perpetual  trophy 1888-1891

Likely the world's finest example of it's genera 


collection of author

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.…anyway…I see this plaque and the relief work is so fine I had to study it hard. The title “Bailey Championship Prize” was in high relief and very c1890 art nouveau. It had about twenty…actually twenty three individual portraits done in low relief, of athletes in various athletic endeavor and it was incredible......


I’ve been going to the Alameda Point Antiques fair for years, it’s a once a month outdoor affair directly across the bay from San Francisco, Crowds SF in back.jpg (350472 bytes)you can clearly see the SF city skyline as you walk the show, comes first Sunday of every month. Actually I wrote a story on the show a long time ago that you can read here


In all the years I’ve been going to the show, up till the plaque we’re about to look at, I’d never found anything really ground shaking in sports, at least in my area of antique display pieces. As much footwork as I’ve put in, that is amazing. So last month I dutifully trudged thru it once more….but this time I hit the mother load! 


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Towards the back of the show I came to a booth that put my radar on full alert leaning against a black pickup was a 18” wide by 15” tall silver plaque that really caught me by surprise…You know how it is when you’ve been looking long and hard....and when you see something great you have to sort of stop and try to think clearly about what you’re seeing….kind of like you’re dreaming it…anyway…I see this plaque and the relief work is so fine I had to study it hard. The title “Bailey Championship Prize” was in high relief and very c1890 art nouveau. It had about twenty…actually twenty three individual portraits done in low relief, of athletes in various athletic endeavor and it was incredible. I thought it was silver plate. There wasn’t a price tag but from the looks of the booth I basically figured it would be under priced…partly because it looked like it would be worth what ever you had to pay. 


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So the seller is talking away to customers big time. Finally I got tired of waiting and sort of interrupted. Pointing to it I asked, how much for the plaque….$__________ he said….top retail…enough to choke a herd of reindeer. I was kind of stunned. I thought for a second. Now usually if I think a guy’s way out of line I never say a thing…just thanks and walk away…it’s their piece, people have a right to ask what ever they want. However in this case I was very seriously interested. I figured if I was going to grind him I’d give it everything I had….the guy's fishing I thought, I'll knock him out of his tree.....
$__________? I'll show you $__________.......this guy's going down...this shouldn't take long I figured...

So without hesitating….about two seconds after he gave me the price I shot back….I repeated his price loud and clear with mock shock. The guy looks at me and didn’t even flinch. With complete confidence he goes to me…“Is there some reason I shouldn’t get $_________?”….My plan didn’t work…as a matter of fact it backfired…I actually semi alienated him. He says to me….I know you….you’re the guy that never buys anything…you just take a bunch of photos. Boy did he have me pegged…he was right…I never buy anything…..unless it’s what I want…and let’s face it….how many dealers are gonna have what I want?…..


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So….we discuss the piece….he gives me what he knows pretty straight up. I told him I think it might be English. I came on it so fast I hadn’t had time to sort it out…that is…what it was, how much I would pay, who made it, etc. He said he thought it might be English too. I sort of thought it was; particularly since there wasn’t a baseball player in it…but on the other hand no cricket. So I couldn’t quite get a handle what I was looking at. Anyway….the guy was completely adamant on the $__________ He said he would not come down at all and if he didn‘t sell it would just go back home with him…And I could tell it wasn’t because of what I said…he just wasn’t interested in taking less…said it would go back on his wall…(right…it didn’t even have away to hang it). Anyway….he actually seemed pretty straight forward about everything. I asked him where he’d gotten it and he said in San Francisco (I think he said)..and that he’d gotten it as payment for doing an art appraisal…and that his fee for doing the appraisal was $1,000.00. And he went on…that Heritage wanted it but he didn’t like auction house fees…but that they wanted it…and something about the $figure$ they thought they could get for it yada yada. Which of course I could have construed as a threat but I just ignored it….So finally I said something to the effect I might make an offer….the guy goes to me again…that he wouldn’t take less than what he quoted me…


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Now I found that almost confusing. I mean, what dealer doesn’t at least listen to an offer. It really didn’t add up….just didn’t really make sense to me….but he was serious..so…I walked. Of course I mended the fence before leaving and admitted I was just trying to shake him out with the initial pony show …that I just had to see where he was. He seemed ok with it, and we parted amicably. But I did go back several times over the course of the morning to look at it again. Each time there was no indication he would come off the $____________ . The guy was tough as nails. So anyway... I left. The following Sunday was the Sacramento Antiques Fair and I knew the dealer sets up there. I went hoping to see the plaque again but he wasn’t there.


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As the month wore on I couldn’t find much at all on the internet about a Bailey Championship Prize plaque, so I emailed my friend Tom Cardiopoli in Cape Cod…



c1890 Multi Sport Relief Plaque

18" wide x 15" tall 
Bailey Championship Prize in HIGH RELIEF....athlete portraits in low relief


Tom, FYI, Check out the attached photos plus the inkwell in this link above....about the plaque, silver plate, ...found last Sunday at a large outdoor show (Alameda Point)...wanted $__________ ...said got for doing an art appraisal??...said $__________ was it...I was thinking maybe $__________ as it's probably English..(no baseball)...but on the other hand no cricket either...but the guy wasn't open to offers so walked...after kept coming back and looking at it 5 times!...photographs terrible...plus needs polishing bad...because of the high wheel bike it could be as early as 1880.....your opinion? -Carlton



Carleton - the Plaque is FANTASTIC - it is solid silver I believe - and DEFINITELY American. Here is a short notice about the "Bailey Championship Prize" from the front page of "Sporting Life":

From the Sept 9th, 1888 “Sporting Life”

(headline)The A. A. U. Championship.
A solid silver prize in the shape of n plaque handsomely mounted and framed, has been presented by Bailey, Bunks & Diddle, through the Athletic Club of the Schuylkill Navy, to the Amateur Athletic Union of the U. S. The Prize represents players engaged in the twenty three varieties of sports under the jurisdiction
of the Union and is to be awarded each year to
the club making the best average in all of them. It is known us "The Bailey
Championship Prize," and will be competed for September 19th at Detroit for the first time.

I am sure you know that Bailey, Banks & Biddle was a major Silver and Silver Plate manufacture - made stuff that was almost as good as Tiffany.

The Plaque must not have been given for very many years - the above reference is the only one I can find and it is likely that once high wheel bikes went out of style, this particular trophy was retired. It's American, its sterling silver, its beautiful - my guess is if the inkwell was worth $__________ , the plaque has to be worth $__________ !!

Good luck!!






So….after learning all that it was a different ball game. First of all it was American which was all important, and if that wasn’t cool enough it was sterling silver not silver plate. But even so, the price was still tough for me to chew. Nevertheless, I was beginning to take the plaque a lot more serious. I emailed him to let him know I was still interested, but never heard back.


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So…this last Sunday Dec. 6th , a full month after I initially found it, I went back to the Alameda Point show with $_______ in green folding cash, the full amount he was asking. Though I didn‘t want or expect to have to spend it all. I got there late around 1:00PM and it was a miserable freezing cold day. The dealers were already starting to pack up at 1:00PM. I headed back to the dealer with the plaque towards the back of the show. I didn’t see the plaque out, but he looked like he had just starting packing up….Hi how’s it going I said….Do you still have the plaque I asked….yes he said…still had it....did you get my email I asked…no, computer blew up he said....so have you softened up on the price I asked….no, I’ll just take it home if I don’t get it he said and launched into the same longstanding platitudes about keeping it. After a little chit chat I started to leave. As I did I said to him…how about giving me some wiggle room on this thing…..the guy says to me in a demanding way......Alright.... ….what’s wiggle room? Then he had me on the spot. As difficult to deal with as he’d been I couldn't take a chance of  lowballing him into oblivion…So I knew I had to cough up a number that was at least respectable….like I say he really had me on the spot….$_________ I said, which was $1,000.00 less than he what he was asking….three seconds later he shot back with a $500.00 discount. Now he had my attention, it was a crack in the wall. It was significant but I still just couldn’t get behind the new discounted price. I himmed a minute and said let me think it over, I’ll take a walk, he said OK. 


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In the mean time I found a commercial meat slicer I’d always wanted for $130.00. After I wrapped up that deal for a practical item, I walked back by the plaque dealer. I thanked him for the discount and asked him if he still had my card in case he decides to take my offer. He said yes. Then I told him….you know I have green folding cash on me and we could do the deal right now! Today’s the day I told him, we can make it happen!...He thanked me and said he’d already come off a lot. I had kind of been convincing myself with all my talk about today’s the day etc….so I said…alright how about $_________, and I offered $200.00 over my initial offer….he shot back almost immediately with $__________ …$100.00 off his last offer, which put us at $200.00 apart….I tried the " I’m here now" card again…and he wouldn’t budge. So almost from fatigue I said OK $__________ which then made us $100 apart….and he immediately shot back with $__________ $50.00 over my last offer….so we were $50.00 apart…and I started to cave. I said bring it out let me take a look at it again…and I paid the $__________ 


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Obviously it’s tarnished and needs polishing but I was concerned about doing it right…I got a hold of a silver repair guy in Southern Calif. I know and will take it to him for him to polish, he says it will look fantastic when it‘s done….then….I think I’ve decided on a cherry wood/deep dark red stained wood plaque to mount it on…and I think I’ll trace the outline to match the silver plaque with a nice routered edge….I’ll find a wood working shop to do make it.

All the info Tom supplied about the AAU awarding it in 1888 took a new turn also. I've now learned the AAU was founded in 1888...which probably makes this their first trophy. At the very least it’s very early and a significant piece of American history since the AAU was the most prominent athletic governing body in the United States in the late 19th century….I’m now in Contact with John Apostal Lucas, below a link to his writings:



Lucas has written about the history of the AAU, and I hope to learn more about my plaque from him. As well, Lucas is the official historian of the AOC (American Olympic Committee)….so it’s getting interesting! I‘ll keep you up on what I learn, plus I‘ll post photos after it’s polished and mounted. -Carlton


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See this April 5, 1890 N.Y. Times clipping below

that purports the plaque cost $2,000 in 1890. 

A different March 18, 1888 N.Y. Times story 

here claims the value was $500.00...which is true?

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Please et us know what you think of 

this feature, and what kinds of things you 

would like to see on Sports Antique of the Week

[email protected] 


go to Bailey Chamionship Prize plaque page





I bought an 1895 Outing Magazine poster at the Alameda Point Antiques 

Fair Sunday Jan. 3rd 2010

which has a tie in to the Bailey plaque. 


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