from Jack Johnson’s Era Packs Quite a Punch
Francisco Chronicle, January 31, 2005
By Dwight Chapin, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Unforgivable Blackness,” filmmaker Ken Burns’
superlative PBS documentary on Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight
champion, has revived interest not only in Johnson, but in boxing in the early
decades of the 20th century.
Memorabilia from that time is not going to be easy to
find, because so many years have passed since the heyday of Johnson and the
men he fought, notably one-time champ James J. Jeffries and the man who
dethroned Johnson, Jess Willard.
The best bets for collectibles of that era probably are
autographs, but they’re not going to come cheaply, according to the two
magazines that most often price boxing signatures.
According to Sports Market Report, a Johnson-signed 3x5
index card is worth $350, a letter $850, an autographed photo $2,500 and a
signed boxing glove $5,500. Tuff Stuff magazine has a Johnson photo priced at
$2,000 and a glove at $7,500.
Jeffries’ prices in Sports Market Report are $350 for
an index card, $750 for a letter, $1,500 for a photo and $8,000 for a glove,
and Tuff Stuff lists an autographed Jeffries photo at $900 and a glove at
Willard is at $375 for an index card, $600 for a photo
and $2,250 for a glove (no price is listed for a signed letter) in Sports
Market Report, $600 for a photo and $2,400 for a glove in Tuff Stuff.
The most accurate barometer for current sales prices,
however, probably is Internet auctions on sites such as EBay and Yahoo.
A rare Johnson artifact will hit the market in the
That’s a letter he wrote in 1916 in which he confesses
to throwing his title bout against Willard in Havana a few months earlier. The
five-page document, dictated by Johnson to his wife, is typed, but includes
hand-written notations by Johnson. The letter was sold to Ring Magazine
founder Nat Fleischer and later acquired by onetime boxer artist and publisher
Many experts, including Fleischer, have contended over
the years that Johnson didn’t fix the Willard fight, but wrote the
“confession” so he could sell it because he needed money.
By any measure, it’s a remarkable document, and it will
be offered at a still undetermined date in an auction by the new company,
Memorabilia Road Show. Other items include the gloves Johnson used to train
for the 1910 Jeffries fight, his punching bag and an original ticket from the
49ers’ redux: This might be a perfect time for another
book about the 49ers’ past, because the present is so bad and the future so
Historian Martin Jacobs of San Francisco, who has had an
affinity for the team since he was a kid in the 49ers’ early days at Kezar
Stadium, is out with his latest book on the team.
This one, titled simply “San Francisco 49ers”
(Arcadia Publishing, $19. 99), is based around vintage photographs, many from
the collection of ultra- fan Jan Boehm, and there are some dandies, including
shots of most of the team’s stars and many of its coaches over the years.
Two personal favorites: a shot of Hugh McElhenny,
Jacobs’ all-time favorite player, posing and laughing it up with Lions
quarterback Bobby Layne before a Pro Bowl practice, and one showing the eyes
of another 49ers running back, Roger Craig. Did any football player ever have
more intense eyes than Craig?
Jacobs could have used a better proofreader in a few
spots, particularly in team-photo identification, in which a name occasionally
is missing, but the book, overall, is a loving, appealing and breezy tribute
to a team with a rich history.
Jacobs will be signing copies of the book at 2 p.m. Feb.
19 at the Barnes and Noble outlet on Taylor Street in downtown San Francisco.
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