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IPAGE 12I's written

coverage of the


National Sports 

Collectors Convention

Cleveland Ohio 

July 29th - August 2nd





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Next we come to the booth of John and Judy Burke of Collectible Classics Auctions from Irwin PA, John and Judy had a very impressive "wall" of eighteen vintage leather helmets all very nicely displayed and easy to view. They were all good ones, but there was a red knit cap among them I spotted as I was walking towards the booth that made me ignore and forget everything else in the booth. I looked it over carefully and it appeared to have the right look and wear to have been  worn by pre-1890 college football players. Football players started wearing head gear starting around 1890 beginning with strap harness'. Prior to then tasseled knit caps were worn starting in the early 1870's. Of the six billion eight hundred million plus population of the world today, probably only a dozen people would recognize one of these caps, and probably less than half of those would have precise knowledge and reference on them. I fell in the former; enough knowledge to be dangerous, but fortunately enough contacts to get fast answers. 



Booth of John and Judy Burke of Collectible Classics

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I asked John how much he was asking for it and he told me he was selling the entire collection of helmets as a whole for $10,000. We discussed the cap and I pressed him a little to expunge the cap. John graciously told me if he didn't sell the whole collection that day I could buy the cap by it's self for $1,000.00 which I estimated was a very fair price. That sounded great...or almost great...Of course the only concern was losing it if he sold the whole collection. But I was only half concerned since I wasn't completely sure I wanted it for $1,000.00. That is, I wasn't completely sold on it. First of all, I wanted to be sure it was a football cap, and even then I need time to sort it out a little as it all came on so quick. I wasn't looking for one and it caught me off guard. In a nut shell I guess I wasn't familiar enough with it to drop a G-note without thinking it thru and getting some advise.


Fortunately I had "1890 knit football caps'rus" on speed dial, i.e. John Gennantonio. The person I half joke has been responsible for raising the prices of pre-1900 football gear over the last twenty years on account of the prices he'll pay! After a few excited calls to John and only getting his voice mail, I figured I'd break thru and call his dental office direct. Of course I got the standard "who's calling please and what is this in regards to". Finally I just resigned myself to waiting for him to return my call and it took almost an hour. I described the cap and John listened. I described the wear and told him I thought it might be right. I was edging toward walking back and counting out ten $100.00 bills to see if that worked to close the deal that day. John could only go by my verbal description over the phone. He summed it all up with, if it was real, he felt it would have a market value in the $2,500.00 range no problem. Then it just got down to who in the tight knit community of advanced collectors walking around the show would spot it.


I walked back over to look at it again and John assured me it was mine if no one bought the whole collection. I chickened out on the counting out the $100.00 bills and left, feeling the need to think thru it a little more. You have to understand the overload you experience at a National the first're head is spinning from everything you're's exciting! And gathering this story on top of all the excitement...sort of a numbness comes over you. what happened on the cap?...I went my way covering the show and kind of forgot about it. I did my thing that day, then went out for dinner that night with friends. 


The next morning I forgot all about the cap. I wanted to get to the National and get back to my coverage, but felt it important to post an initial group of photos on my site of what I'd seen the day before. So there I sat in my hotel room tediously sorting out and posting photos while the National was in full swing just miles away. By the time I got to the convention center it was almost noon. And by the time I remembered the cap it was after noon. I went back and John told me he held it for me till noon and sold it. Someone later told me who got it, which was someone I know of and have met briefly and I believe has a high profile with advanced dealers. The buyer had given me his business card at some point during the show so that was comforting to at least know where it was. I can't say I'm bowled over from not getting it. After twenty two years collecting I guess I'm just a little out of gas trying to cover every base and am not worried about it. But...try to find another! It was the only one I've ever seen for sale and they've got to be extremely rare. John G latter told me that cap had once been sold by John Kanuit.











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