Understanding the Authentication Process: circa 1933-1934 Chicago Bears Orange #12 jersey attributed to Link Lyman…By Troy R. Kinunen

The following item, circa 1933-1934 Chicago Bears #12 jersey attributed to Link Lyman, originated from the legendary Duke Hott collection. The evaluation of this jersey posed some unique challenges due to 1. Lack of color photos 2. Lack of other known examples to conduct trend analysts. But, by carefully analyzing the information that was made available, mainly the players uniform number in conjunction with the era of the tag, photo style research, and evaluation of actual style of the jersey, MEARS was able to attribute the jersey to Link Lyman during the 1933-1934 time period. Included with the jersey is a pair of period Spalding pants and same manufacturer shoulder pads.

Our final letter of opinion states: the following item has been submitted for authentication and grading. Hologram #303280. Our methods include the physical examination of the jersey, recording detailed information via our patent pending Jersey Grading and Authentication Worksheet, copyright 2005-06, comparing it to our data base, taking and analyzing images of the actual jersey then comparing the data to images of other period jerseys. Then we studied reference materials, which included available photos and examples of tagging found in the MEARS database while finally compiling the following letter of opinion.

Biography of Link Lyman

William Roy Lyman (played 1925-35) was born on November 30th, 1898 in Table Rock, Nebraska. According to www.profootballhof.com, in 1922 Guy Chamberlain, the player coach of the Canton Bulldogs recruited Roy Link Lyman, a 6-2, 233 pound tackle from the University of Nebraska, to play pro football. Lyman was no stranger to Chamberlain, who was also a Nebraska alumnus.

Chamberlain’s recruit went on to star with the Bulldogs during their back to back undefeated seasons of 1922 and 1923. In 1925 Lyman joined the Bears along with NFL phenom Red Grange on the team’s World Famous cross-country barnstorming tour. Lyman remained with the Bears for the rest of his career. Lyman’s career ended like it began, the Bears won the NFL title in 1933 and the divisional crown in 1934, Lyman’s final season. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964.

Player Inspected & Jersey Style: Circa 1933-1934 #12 Bears road jersey attributed to Link Lyman

The jersey inspected is attributed to being issued to be worn by Link Lyman during the circa 1933-1934 season. The jersey is issued as the orange road to be worn during the course of the regular NFL season. The jersey is manufactured from heavy wool. The style is full-length sleeves with 3 black stripes. Lyman’s numeral 12 appears on both front and back and was manufactured with navy san serif lettering with white trim. This style of jersey was photo style matched to Corbis image U287312ACME. The use of the image allowed us to positively conclude this was a style of jersey worn by Link Lyman during the 1933-1934 season. Lack of photographic support could not allow us to determine the exact year issuance of the jersey but we do know the orange jerseys were introduced in 1933 and the style of sleeve stripes changed for 1935, therefore establishing the range of 1933-34. The style of the jersey is also verified by the website, www.chicagobears.com/history/uniform.jsp

Spalding Tag style and design used to determine years of jersey manufacture and issuance

Link Lyman played for the Bears during the time frame of 1925-34 and can be verified via www.pro-football-reference.com. By examining the style and design of the Spalding manufacturers tag and comparing it to examples found in the MEARS football tagging database, it was determined the tag style and design was issued for professional jerseys for the years 1925-35. Therefore the style of tag was issued in accordance with the timeframe Link Lyman played for the Chicago Bears.

Research of Bears jersey styles determined jersey to be issued circa 1934

Without the presence of a year tag, MEARS had to determine the time period of issuance. Per the MEARS database, we determined the tag was issued from 1925-35. By reviewing the following images we could determine the range the jersey style was issued:

Images Eliminating 1920’s as year of issuance
Corbis U311776INP Red Grange Bears 1920s-jersey image not consistent. No uniform numbers present
Corbis BE040296 Red Grange Bears 1920’s jersey image not consistent. No uniform numbers present
Corbis U100060P Red Grange 1925 Bears jersey style not consistent with examined jersey
Corbis U100467P-A Red Grange Bears jersey style not consistent with examined jersey

We were able to determine by the photos that were dated circa 1925-29, that the Bears jerseys were issued with friction stripes and front numerals were not added yet. Therefore the examined jersey was not consistent with Bears jerseys issued during the 1920s.

Images determining similar style of Bears jerseys 1932-1934
Corbis U634924INP Chicago Bears circa 1932-34 similar sleeve stripes and addition of numerals
Corbis U658498AACME Chicago Bears Red Grange similar sleeve stripes and addition of numerals

These (white) home images, although not exact style matches in regards to color to the examined (orange) road jersey, determined that the Bears moved from the jerseys containing the friction stripes and added numerals to the front of the jersey in addition to 3 stripes on the sleeves. Also, the jerseys had similar long sleeves and crew necks.

Image determining road style match for Bears jerseys 1934
Corbis U287312ACME Bronko Nagurski wearing exact style match of orange road jersey. By using Photoshop on the actual color jersey recently taken at the Mastro Auctions offices, I was able to create the b&w shades that matched this photo upon comparison.

1935 Image showing jersey style change
Corbis U291897ACME Red Grange wearing jersey with 2 blue, one orange sleeve stripe

The above referenced Corbis image determined the Bears changed there uniform style in 1935, thus establishing the circa 1934 style dating for the examined Lyman jersey.

Additional Verification of Orange jerseys being issued and worn during 1933-34

Per the site www.bearshistory.com, regarding the style of the Bears jerseys during the 1930’s it states:

1930’s: It’s probable the team wore five or more different uniform combinations during the decade. They included white jerseys with canvas pants, orange jerseys with navy pants, and radically striped socks, shoulders and helmets. Several photos from 1936 show the team with sleeve stripes, shoulder stripes, massive sock stripes and helmet stripes like the University of Michigan.

The site www.chicagobears.com/history/uniform.jsp, states:

1930’s: The 1930’s are a decade of radical change for the Bears uniform. By 1932, numbers are added to the front of the jersey. As early as 1933, the team uses an orange jersey with navy numerals with black arm stripe, and wears it from time to time throughout the end of the decade. The jersey was so “loud” that stories are told about crowds in New York booing the jersey. In 1934, the team wore white helmets.
Uniform #12 issued for Link Lyman for the years

According to the image on the website, www.profootballhof.com, Link Lyman wore #12 while playing for the Chicago Bears and photos verify him wearing that number. With the Bears only adding uniform numbers starting in 1932 and the jersey style changing in 1935, this #12 jersey could only have been worn by Link Lyman.

Jersey Physical Description

Link Lyman was 6’ 2” and weighed 233 pounds while playing for the Bears during 1933 and 1934. To accommodate his play, the jersey was issued as a road pullover to be worn during the regular season. Spalding who was a known manufacture of professional model and Chicago team jerseys during the period manufactured the wool material.
The tail was straight cut with a factory hem.

As stated previously, the style of manufacturer tag can be found on professional model jerseys from 1925-1935. Inside the tail was the black square Spalding box tag with embroidered lettering which read: “HIGHEST QUALITY, REG U.S. PAT OFF., A.G. SPALDING & BROS., MADE IN USA, SPALDING TRADE MARK”. To the left edge of the tag another box tag indicating size (48) is attached. Both tags are sewn with a professional straight stitch. The manufacturer tag can be verified via the MEARS database as being issued from 1925-35. The chest measurement was 22” and the torso measured 28 ¼” long. No player or year I.D. was issued and is not a point of concern as football jerseys from the period were often issued without player or year I.D..

The jersey is constructed of an orange wool body shell. 3 black sleeve stripes are found midway on the sleeves. The front numeral 12 appears on both front (6”) and back (7 ¾”) and was manufactured with navy san serif lettering with white trim. Elbow padding is factory sewn into each arm underneath the bottom stripe. This style of jersey was determined to be issued to be worn by the Bears during 1933-34.

This is the earliest NFL jersey we have examined and have no other examples to compare.


When examining the fabric itself, heavy wear can be seen throughout the body. This can be noted by the flattening and stretching of the fibers. Some light fading and staining can also be noticed throughout the fabric’s shell.

Beside the typical use, which can be found on this example, there is also excessive wear and storage damage present. Starting with the right shoulder, there is a pattern of holes and torn materials found on the right shoulder of the jersey that extend into the stripes. Some of this can be attributed to usual wear, some to problems resulting from the storage of the jersey. On the left front breast and shoulder are additional areas of fabric loss and damage. On the reverse 12, there are areas found with many additional scattered small holes. Finally there are small holes evenly distributed throughout the rest of the jerseys body.

Even in light of the condition problems mentioned, the jersey still maintains the majority of its original shell. Both the reverse and front #12 is present and all original. The sleeve stripes are fully visible. Also, the original size and manufacturers tags are found inside.


Per the criteria of the MEARS grading system, this jersey was assigned a grade of an A4. The condition of the jersey resulted in 6 points of subtractions. Four full points were subtracted for the excessive sized holes and tears. 2 more additional points were subtracted for the presence of moth holes resulting in more material loss. Although technically a low graded jersey, this should not distract from the rarity and uniqueness of this jersey. With the orange colored Bears road jersey being introduced during 1933 and only used for a season or two more, this example is a very rare style. Coupled with the fact this jersey was worn by an early Bears Hall of Famer, the condition should not dissuade collectors from appreciating both the style and rarity of this jersey.


After complete examination of the manufacturing tag and jersey style and then comparing the jersey to databases verifying Lyman’s uniform number and style of jersey, MEARS is confident to state that this jersey was issued to be worn by Link Lyman while playing for the Chicago Bears for the years 1933-34. Condition and final grade were noted and all pertinent facts have been recorded on the official worksheet and final letter of opinion.


Troy R. Kinunen