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Boxing Postcards
During the first three decades of the 20th century boxing postcards were the dominant form of boxing card.  Thousands were issued ranging from personal cards made by boxers themselves to mass produced images of the biggest fights.  The 1910 Fight Of The Century between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries gave rise to hundreds of cards, everything from whimsical cartoons to very ugly racist cards.  Boxers also used postcards as promotional media for their side businesses and for answering fan mail.  They are found with vintage autographs as a result of the latter practice, though sometimes secretarial.  While postcards continue to be produced even today, the true heyday was in the 1920s, when cheap photographic processes made it economical for anyone who wanted to have real photo postcards made.  I will be offering as wide a range of different boxing PCs as I can on this site for your edification and amusement.  Please enjoy.
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This 1906 postally used card commemorates the 42 round war between Joe Gans [HOF] and Battling Nelson [HOF].

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1906 or earlier Joe Gans by Ben Michaels, San Francisco.  On thick stock.

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The next three images depict another Gans-Nelson card, this one has a slider that moves vertical black lines across the image opening resulting in a changing image of the two fighting.

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Mailed in May 1907

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1906 PC promoting the Gans-Herman bout

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Postcard history is in part dictated by Federal law.  In the latter part of the 19th century the US legalized private mailing cards.  As legalized, the cards had to have one side reserved for address only.  Any message had to be on the front.  The law was changed effective 1907 to allow for the modern, split-back format.  

The Max Stein company issued a series of athlete and other celebrity postcards.  Their earliest efforts, ca. 1904, have two known subjects.  Hugo Kelly and Jack Beausholte.


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Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of boxing,  This mailing card-backed picture of the second [1890-1925] stadium of that name caught my eye because of the lower corner of the building, which plainly shows advertising for the Jim Corbett-Charlie McCoy bout on August 30, 1900.  See the next image for a close-up.

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1906 Winthrop Moving Pictures Post Card of George Dixon vs. Chester Leon.  Surely one of the most creative PC formats ever, it is essentially a flip book.  Winhrops are known with baseball subjects but this is the only known boxer.  Measures 3 5/8” x 2 1/4"

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Tom Sharkey, a heavyweight contender in the 19th century, owned a bar in New York and used this PC to promote it.

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Another Sharkey PC, this one signed.  It is from San Francisco rather than New York and post-dates the New York card.

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This version of the card is signed and inscribed by former manager of the Jim Jeffries Barn boxing venue, Bill Aiton.  From the estate of Jeffries friend George Stewart

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A PC depicting a Battle Royal in Watongah, OK.  Antebellum battles royal often appeared on the undercard of boxing matches with several blindfolded slaves fighting a last man standing format with the owner of the winner receiving a prize.  After abolition, battles royal remained in the cards at Jim Crow events, albeit with gloves and the winner keeping his prize.  Jack Johnson, Beau Jack and Joe Gans all fought them.

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Starting around 1907 and continuing for at least several years, Jim Jeffries issued a set of postcards devoted to him and his business ventures in Los Angeles, primarily his bar on Spring Street downtown.  This image is typical of the handsome cards produced by the Benham Indian Publishing Company (a Los Angeles publisher) for Jeff's use.  Note that the swastika is a Native American good luck symbol.

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This photo montage shows all but one of the Benham Jeffries cards, though there are multiple printing variations on the card of the bar.  The top right is my favorite--It shows Jeff at work on his farm in Burbank, California.

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Close up of the On The Farm PC

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A 1908 Jeffries bar PC

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One of many anonymous Jeffries-related PCs from the run up to his fight with Johnson

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A typical anonymously issued real photo PC of Jeff from the era of the Johnson fight.

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Dana was perhaps the pre-eminent boxing PC publisher on the West Coast; they made hundreds of cards from the Jeffries-Johnson fight, including a series showing the two men working out.  Ironically, for all the racial animus floating around calling Johnson an ape, Jeffries looked far more ape-like than Johnson did.

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One of the more whimsical cards issued for the Jeffries-Johnson battle.

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Great bit of history here.  The card shows Jim Jeffries sharpening a tool with three onlookers.  The card is labeled "Rowardennan" which was the Jeffries training camp in Santa Cruz CA.  It is initially postmarked in June 1910 and recites how Jeff looked great and how they charged everyone $10 at the camp.  The card is addressed to the brother of boxer Billy Papke [IBHOF].

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RPPC from the Jeffries training camp.  Shown from left Bob Armstrong, unknown, Joe Choynski, Farmer Burns, Jim Jeffries, Jim Corbett.  Likely one of a kind; from the estate of Jeffries friend George Stewart.

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Johnson-Jeffries and Johnson-Willard PCs are routine; but this one of Johnson v. O'Cotton is a one-of. It was actually George "Kid" Cotton, and they fought two exhibitions in 1910, one in Reno and one in San Franisco. Cotton worked as a sparring partner to Johnson and fought most of the great black heavyweights of the era. Postmarked 1910 from San Francisco.

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This card and the next 2 are from the Janssen Litho. series of PCs issued in conjunction with the Jeffries-Johnson fight.  Still not fully catalogued.

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This card is particularly prescient in that Johnson died behind the wheel years later.

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A new card to checklist from the 1910 Janssen Litho "Rob Roy" series devoted to the Johnson-Jeffries fight.  Of particular interest is the image of Bob Armstrong, a black fighter known as "King of the Battle Royal".  His in-ring career spanned roughly 1893-1912 and he worked into the 1930s as a sparring partner.  In 1896 he won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship.  He fought a number of HOFers, including Joe Choynski and Jim Jeffries, and worked as a sparring partner for them and also for Bob Fitzsimmons and Tom Sharkey.  Card #A-13

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2014 brings a new addition to the Rob Roy checklist, this card of Jeffries playing handball

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This card and the next three cards are from a series issued by a still-unnamed issuer who used "ST" as a hallmark.  The fellow holding Jeff's right leg is Sam Berger, 1904 Olympic heavyweight champ.

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Another pose of Jeffries

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A British card circa 1911

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A typical Johnson PC from the 1910 Battle Of The Century.

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Another typical JJ, this one from a California publisher

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And another

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Jeffries looking old and spent after his workout.  Poor man had to sweat off 100# to get ready for the fight.

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One of a multitude of postcards created to profit off the Jack Johnson v. Jim Jeffries bout set for July 4, 1910 in Reno, Nevada.  This particular card was postmarked from Reno the day before the fight.  One of a popular format of the day, different colored pieces of cellophane were to be held to the card to isolate the image of Jack or Jim.  The same principle was later used to make 3-D movies.

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Three examples of the Jeffries-Johnson fight postcards using Dana photos.  There are many cards, perhaps hundreds, chronicling every aspect of the day.  The top PC has Jeffries being introduced by Billy Jordan, with Jim Corbett [IBHOF] and Joe Choynski [IBHOF] looking on.  The one on the left is Jordan introducing Bob Fitzsimmons [IBHOF].  On the right is William Muldoon [IBHOF].

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Scene from Jeffries-Johnson.

I am going to post more of these as I get interesting images as I get them.


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Scene from Jeffries-Johnson.

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"ELD" brand of French PC of Jim Jeffries, mailed in August 1910.

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Postally used 1911 PC of Carl Morris, a great white hope from the Jack Johnson era.

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Dana Studio PC of Abe Attell and Eddie Kelly.  Interesting back, Letol made in California.  Appears to be used as a promo piece by the studio in 1911.

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"Dumb" Dan Morgan is a HOF boxing manager and matchmaker.  He picked up the nickname from columnist Tad Dorgan, who was making fun of Morgan's motor-mouthed loquacuiousness.  Only card of him I've ever seen.

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ca. 1911 French PC of Jack Johnson.  The same publisher made two sets of cards, one captioned La Boxe and one captioned Les Sports.  Thus far the cards found in both sets have had identical numbers.

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This French PC of Carpentier is an advertising piece for bath salts that was issued in 1911 shortly after HOFers Harry Lewis and Georges Carpentier fought.

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ca 1911 postally used French card of Frank Klaus.

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Harry Lewis, another Jewish HOFer, ca. 1911 French PC

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Stanley Ketchel RPPC

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This 1914 French PC of Johnson is postmarked 1914 and references a fight in Paris with Frank Moran. It took place June 27, 1914 with Moran losing in 20 rounds.

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This PC of Johnny Coulon is the same image used to create his T227 card.

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Frank Moran by Max Stein ca. 1915.

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Stein PC of Jess Willard, who defeated Jack Johnson and reigned as heavyweight champ until Jack Dempsey demolished him in 1919.

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A card of heavyweight champ Jess Willard issued in Spain ca. 1915-1918

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Jess Willard in Havana training for the title fight against Jack Johnson.

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Willard KO's Jack Johnson, 1915.  Many postcards exist of the iconic image.

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This Willard-Johnson is notable because it was sold as a souvenir at a wild west show that Willard toured with.  It is scarce because Willard left the show after a short stint to open his own touring show.

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M.L. Zercher from Topeka, KS, issued a number of cards in tribute to Kansas native son Jess Willard's victory over Jack Johnson.

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Another Zercher PC from Topeka, this impressive card of Willard at his physical peak as champion was mailed several weeks after Willard took the title.

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A fairly common WWI era card showing a pro boxer training the troops.  Boxing training led to the mass popularization of the sport and its acceptance by "respectable" society, which resulted in its legalization in many places.

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Another popular fighter training troops for the war.

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Bennie Leonard entertains the troops at Camp Kearny, California in 1918.

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RPPC circa WWI showing Jess Willard fighting an exhibition with Jack Phelan at a military base in Florida

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Jack Dempsey sparring with Big Bill Tate in training for the Willard Fight, 1919.  Tate was 6'6" and had victories over Harry Wills, Sam Langford and Gunboat Smith.  Lost in 20 rounds to Kid Norfolk and lost to Joe Jeannette, Wills, Langford and George Godfrey, all HOFers.

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Dempsey shadow boxing during his 1919 camp.

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Dempsey and his training staff.  Note Big Bill Tate in the middle there.

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Willard sparring in preparation for the Dempsey bout

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Willard sparring with Jack Hemple in preparation for the Dempsey fight.  Note the July 6, 1919 postmark.

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This striking postcard is a 1919 issued commemorative of the Willard-Dempsey title fight in Ohio.  Widely sought after for the bold graphics and historic nature of the fight it memorializes.

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Part of a series of IFS postcards and photo cards of the big fight.

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ca.1920 Jack Dempsey British PC.

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Old man in the ring: Sailor Tom Sharkey stays in shape in the 1920s.

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Jack Doyle was a legendary Southern California boxing promoter who owned a training facility in Vernon [east L.A.] and issued a series of PCs devoted to his facilities.

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Another Doyle PC.

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Eight prime examples of French boxing postcards from the 1910s and 1920s.  The Battling Siki on the upper left has an imprint announcing his December 1925 murder in New York.  While I have seen other Siki cards from the issue I have never seen another with the imprint.

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Here is the Siki PC without the death notice.

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Old fighters never die; they just show up at events...

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This card of Pancho Villa is one of the earliest examples of the 'standard' form of self-issued promotional card [see my boxing premiums and photos pages for more info].  Villa, a Filipino HOFer, died in 1925 after oral surgery.

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Moise Bouquillon, a Jewish heavyweight, was champion of France in the late 1920s.  French PC.

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1920s French PC of heavyweight contender Luis Angel Firpo.

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1923 Dempsey training for the infamous fight in Montana that broke Shelby financially.  From a series of postcards issued in conjunction with Dempsey's training camp.

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1924 US Olympic boxing team, French PC.  Front and center is HOFer Fidel Labarba

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Dempsey as he looked during his reign as champ

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1920s French PC of Jack Dempsey

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1920s German PC of Dempsey

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1920s French PC of Dempsey and Tom Mix and someone I haven't ID'd yet.  Made from a movie studio publicity still.  From a global perspective, Dempsey was the most popular athlete in the world in the 1920s, proven by the many PCs of him from around the world.

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Criqui, a champion from France, was gravely wounded in WWI and fought to a championship with a face that had been reconstructed by a battlefield doctor.

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Another view of Criqui

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The Orchid Man, Georges Carpentier, from a 1921 set issued in France.  Probably the most common French boxing PC series from the prewar period. The "AN" stands for A. Noyer, a French postcard publisher from the era.

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Another Carpenier PC, this one a more desirable colored one.

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This image and the next show a 1920 postcard of Carpentier issued in America to promote him in a movie.  Very desirable cross-over Hollywood/sports piece.

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Benny Leonard ran a restaurant on New York's Upper West Side in the 1920s.  The undefeated remark indicates it was before his post-Depression come-back attempt.

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1920s Photocard Co PC of Benny Leonard.  A similar piece of much smaller size was made for appearance promotions.

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This awkward-looking card shows Benny Leonard with two women in what I suspect is a RPPC from a visit to his restaurant.  I suspect that this was a type of souvenir that could be purchased at the restaurant.  Dempsey and Attell did similar real photos with the clientele.  See my ephemera page for examples of the handsome folders used for them.

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Promotional PC of Jack Zivic, with back written by Zivic to a friend.

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Promotional PC of Pete Zivic.

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Kid Sullivan RPPC

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2014 IBHOF inductee Charles Ledoux on a 1920s French issued PC.

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Jimmie McLarnin, a dominant fighter of the 1920s.  He was KO'd only once, by Ray Miller, who happened to be my grandfather's 1st cousin.

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One of the more colorful characters of pugdom and Jewish boxing history is Abe Hollandersky, the Fighting Newsboy, who claimed to have fought over 1,000 bouts.  Ripley did a cartoon of him for his Believe It Or Not series. He was given special access to peddle newspapers and magazines on Navy ships.

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Another Hollandersky RPPC showing him at his peddling trade.  He wrote an unreadable autobiography that is found at times autographed.

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The Marines produced an armed forces champ who went on to win the greatest title of all: Gene Tunney, The Fighting Marine.

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Great ca. 1926-27 Tunney PC.  The same image appears in his 1927 Fro-Joy card set.

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A shot from the Tunney training camp.  Since it lists him as heavyweight champ, it had to be from late 1926 to about 1930

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[L-R] Tunney at his training facility in Speculator NY, Dempsey and actor Herbert Rawlinson clowning around in Los Angeles, and Dempsey duking it out with an RC Cola executive.  The first two are ca. the late 1920s, the RC card likely from the mid-1930s.

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Contender Kid Tunero on a French PC.  Signed in 1933.

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Interesting Cuban promotional PC signed from Kid Chocolate to HOF broadcaster/promoter Cuco Conde

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In 1932 before the Schmeling-Sharkey bout, Billy Taub, a New York clothier, sponsored a dinner of sporting figures.  This PC memorializes the event, as does a corresponding premium [see premiums page].  Note the big fella in the middle--Babe Ruth

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In 1933 Taub issued another PC for the heavyweight title contest, this oen between Sharkey and Carnera

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Wes Ramey was elected to the IBHOF class of 2013.  He boxed all over the world including several bouts in South Africa in 1934, from which this PC originates.

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Victor "Young" Perez was a flyweight champ of Tunisian descent who lived in France. Come WWII, as a Jew he was betrayed to the Nazis and sent to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland where he was forced to fight gladiatorial contests for the amusement of the guards.  If he won, he was fed.  If he lost, he would be executed. He never lost.  He was finally murdered during a death march near the end of the war when he shared some bread with a fellow prisoner in defiance of a guard's orders.  Perez's cards--there are a few--are sought after because of his story.  This French PC is a stellar example of a Perez card.  What makes it special is in the next picture.

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Yes, this is Victor "Young" Perez's autograph on the back of the postcard.  His autograph is very rare, for obvious reasons.

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Young Perez by Globo, a French gum co that also issued 'typical' insert gum cards.

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A French PC of Kid Francis.  He was also imprisoned at Auschwitz and made to fight as a gladiator.  Presumed murdered in Auschwitz as penalty for losing a bout.

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1920s Kid Francis French PC

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Max Baer's less talented brother Buddy.

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Circa 1937 advertising piece for cosmetics products using Joe Louis photos as a promotional aid.

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One of a series of Joe Louis cards issued by Cincinnati manufacturer Orcajo.

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Two more of the same.  Variations are known of the card of Joe and his wife, and non-Orcajo cards with the boxing pose also are known.

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1939 Orcajo postcard of Jack Dempsey

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A postcard made from art used to promote Adam Hats.

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Lew Tendler autographed restaurant PC.  A lot tougher than Dempseys, which are easy to find, but still not that difficult to locate.

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Jack Dempsey signed restaurant PC.  Dempsey was a great and gracious signer and his signed restaurant PCs are easily located.

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A common Dempsey restaurant PC

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Tony Canzoneri's restaurant PC

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Jimmy Braddock restaurant PC.  Signed by Braddock's and Joe Louis's British opponent Tommy Farr.

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Jack Delaney's restaurant

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An Argentinean advertising PC for GM cars from the 1930s.  Justo Suarez was an Argentinean fighter who went north and became a top contender.

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1930s Italian RPPC of Primo Carnera and his home town in Italy.

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1930s French PC of Carnera.  Widely reputed to be the beneficiary of Mafia set-ups on the way to the title, when the mob let him fight on the level, Max Baer tore him to pieces.

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Joe Louis visited Camp Beale during WWII and the California-based military installation issued a series of postcards to commemorate the visit.  This one shows him with Sugar Ray Robinson.  I have seen four different; there are apparently at least 11 since all are numbered.

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Another Camp Beale Louis

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And another.

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A WWII era postcard of a battle royal at a military boxing event.

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Most of a 1940s or 1950s PC of Manuel Ortiz.

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George Abrams, a boxer Sugar Ray Robinson said gave him his toughest bout.

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This PC of the Raging Bull and the next one show the perils of buying autographs.  Both are vintage mailed La Motta PCs.  Is one a secretarial signature, one the real deal?  Are both secretarial?  Guess...

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This one is Vicki's.

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This interesting 1944 piece promoted MGM's fight film series for movie theaters.

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1947 Cuban card of Kid Gavilan.  From a set of baseball cards.

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Cuban PC of Kid Gavilan fighting in a match with Gene Tunney either refereeing, judging or being introduced.  I think the latter owing to the shoes.

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Late 1940s French PC of Marcel Cerdan, who died in 1949.

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1949 Willie Pep promo PC perhaps signed.

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Ezzard Charles self-promotional PC.

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Another Charles, this one dating to 1955.

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Rocky Marciano.  My favorite PC of the Rock, ever.

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A difficult Marciano PC.  Unfortunately, a secretarial [by his wife] signature.  Maybe.

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A 2nd generation printed card that Marciano used after his career.  Autograph is secretarial.

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1950s giant sized PC of Joe Louis from the Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas.  The first integrated casino, it lasted less than a year, accounting for the rarity of the PC.

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Interesting advertising PC for Ray Arcel promotions.  I knew Arcel was a HOF trainer, but he apparently also ran a promotions company.

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I like this late 1950s Carlos Ortiz PC not just because it is a great image but also because it was used by his manager to try and promote one of his bouts.

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This PC of two-division champ [middle and light-heavyweight] Dick Tiger dates from between 1958 [when he won the title referenced] and 1962 [when he won the first of his world titles].

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Tommmy Loughran autographed restaurant PC

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Sugar Ray Robinson was the finest pound-for-pound fighter in history.  Apparently, he was a guest on a TV show, judging from this PC.  I love single-event PCs that show period stamping and cancellation.

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Postcard for Sugar Ray Robinson's Harlem restaurant

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A very tough die-cut Joe Louis restaurant PC from the 1950s.

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Robert Cohen autographed PC.  Cohen, a French Algerian Jew, was bantamweight champ from 1954-56.

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Another French-Algerian-Jewish champ, Alphonse Halimi.

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Two-Ton Tony Galento advertising beer?  Gotta love that.

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Another beer distributor.

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signed PC of new HOFer Wes Ramey postmarked 1969

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Lloyd Marshall is one of those HOFers who have virtually no cards.

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