The hobby is hyped for this moment. All roads lead to Cleveland—and to Jim Brown.
Subject of a new best-selling biography, the 82-year-old Brown remains as world-famous and influential as ever. He's a lightning rod for controversy, both personally and politically. More than a mere football hero, he's an icon of the silver screen, the civil-rights movement and, now, the Trump train. Like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown transcends sports. And his collectibles are universally red hot, with a 1960s game-used jersey recently selling for almost $100,000, and a PSA 9 example of his 1958 Topps rookie card reaching over $350,000.
Brown himself will join the hordes of hobbyists attending this year's National Sports Collectors Convention in, yes, Cleveland. But while he's drawing crowds to the Autograph Pavilion, another spotlight will be on him over at the Huggins & Scott booth, where we will proudly showcase the actual original photo from that most important football card of the 1950s. Brown's 1958 Topps rookie is the gridiron equivalent of Mantle's 1952 Topps card in that they're the pinnacle cardboard creations of the post-war Golden Age. In 2012, the only known Type I photo for the '52 Topps Mantle set a then-record of $60,000. Given that Joe Namath's 1965 Topps rookie photo realized $66,000 in our auction just one year ago, this beyond-belief Brown offering may well eclipse both.
It was captured, developed and printed by legendary Cleveland photographer Henry M. Barr, who served as the Browns' official cameraman from 1957 through 1984. Barr's seminal photo shoot took place during the team's training camp at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio. That's where young Jim Brown demonstrated such poise and power in this dynamic action pose, his body juking an invisible defender, his eyes trained on the camera with laser focus, his hand clutching the pigskin mid-stride. The full-length portrait is even more striking in its original, full-dimension, black-and-white state than in the mass-produced, cropped, colorized version seen on card #62. What's more, being the only known "contact print" produced directly from Barr's negative in the exact size of that negative, the image focus here is absolutely crystal clear—mind-bogglingly so, from Brown's facial features to the folds in his padded pants to the laces on his planted cleat. Factor in the dramatic landscape/skyscape and, indeed, one can't help but think of the beauty in Ansel Adams' illustrious body of work.
Measures 4x5 with Barr's stamping on reverse. Routine minor peripheral wear. For more information on Barr and his historic 1957 training-camp photo shoot, please view the research article (linked on our website) that was prepared by the consignor. Full LOA for Type I from PSA/DNA.