Usually I use the auctions profiled in eBay Watch as simply the launching point into the player, season or game to which the piece is tied. This is one of those instances where the piece of memorabilia is the story.
Assuming this is authentic, and it appears so, this is probably the most valuable piece of Michigan football memorabilia that I’ve seen since starting the eBay Watch series a few years ago. Try this on for size–Pieces of a Michigan football uniform the seller claims date to 1912 and 1913:
I’ve never seen anything like this. My birthday is this week and yes, it’s also Father’s Day [which combined make for a dad version of the ol’ kid-born-on-Christmas nightmare scenario]. Some people are amazed that I don’t actually collect this stuff although occasionally I grab some unique, lower priced items. This is an exception—I want it but I’m not sure how to explain to “the boss” why I spent thousands on this “costume”. Then there’s the question of what I would do with it [other than trying to squeeze into it and crush dropkicks in my backyard].
Here’s more details on the jersey from the auction:
The jersey is a heavy knit wool (similar to sweater material). It is round neck, long sleeved and has a 3-button crotch strap (buttons appear to be original and made of a wood-type material). It is labeled with the 1910s era A.G.Spalding & Bros. tag along with the name identifier “Barton” chain stitched onto felt. All tagging is attached to the inside flap of the crotch strap. The jersey is a dark color, similar to a blueish/brown. Although faded with age, it displays a nice vintage colored patina.
The jersey measures out to be a size 40 (approximately 20 inches across the chest). It is very long (tall) in length measuring over 36 inches from the collar to the bottom of the strap…
The pants are gold colored canvas with high waisted, sewn in hip protection and lace up fly with leather reinforcement. The pants also have a brown leather belt with square style rounded edge buckle. The pants are stamped on the inside lace flap with manufacturer numbers and the word “MICHIGAN”, no other labels. The pants do not have size tagging but they match the belt size which is stamped size 32. The pants are the style from the 1913 year as they match those in the last team photo.(Ebay photo 12, showing 19 players, is the 1913 Michigan team. Barton is not pictured in this photo, yet the high waisted pants and belt are a nice match to some that are shown.)
The name “Barton” refers to Charles Barton, a right end on the 1912 team. As noted in the description, the sellers believes the style of the pants more likely dates to the 1913 season (although Barton is not on extended team roster for that season.)
Charles Barton from the 1912 team photo, the “Barton” label on the jersey
Back then, uniforms weren’t quite the precise science that you see today. Even in the team photos of the era, players often have different pants, belts, shoe-styles and even jerseys. But the seller is correct that the pants lend themselves more to the 1913 style. Judge for yourself, here’s the auction pants next to a photo of 1913 fullback Miller Pontius:
Here’s a couple more comparisons for you, again, using snaps of the team photos from the period, first the vintage cleats and then the belt:
As for the helmet, here’s a little more from the auction description:
Extremely rare 1910-1915 era leather football helmet from the University of Michigan. The helmet is a soft sided, multi-piece construction, dog eared style. The helmet is stamped on the front brow pad “MICHIGAN”. This is an extremely rare marking, only major universities with serious football programs ever received these factory stamps on their helmets.
The helmet is in super fine condition with only minor scarring and minimal chipping. Outside features a strong, dark blackish color with nice tight stitching. Helmet interior is heavy wool felt showing light use with minor stains. The helmet is complete with an adjustable working chin strap.
The helmet is manufactured by Goldsmith Athletic Goods and is stamped on the back neck pad with their 1910s period logo. No size on the helmet but it measures out to be an adult large, approximately 7 1/4 inch size.
Here’s the front brow pad with the Michigan stamp, decades before the introduction of the winged helmet:
Related: This memorabilia seller is really coming strong. He didn’t stop with the full uniform described above, he’s offering a few other excellent items, check these out: