With the continued discussion regarding the Jim Brown jersey, I was asked several questions about our evaluation of the jersey. Since I chose to include photos with my response, I decided to create a short news item. The issue boils down to personal preferences vs. established MEARS grading standards.
Question: Why wasn’t the Hall of Fame contacted regarding this jersey.
Answer Troy: Over a decade ago I conducted a research trip to the Football Hall of Fame. I purchased numerous Hall of Fame photos from their archive department. At that time, I photographed numerous jerseys, including the Jim Brown that was on display. At that time I took available tag shots, close-ups of font, and close-ups of team repairs. From my photo references, I could clearly see the Jim Brown jersey was made from durene. Since the questioned jersey was “tear away”, I did not see any merit to questioning the Hall about this particular jersey.
In the past, I have worked with the Baseball Hall of Fame on numerous occasions, in addition to numerous professional sports team. MEARS does attempt to exhaust all avenues when examining a jersey, as we did on the Jim Brown jersey. I just didn’t see a potential benefit of seeking their advice for this item. It was like comparing apples(durene) to oranges (tear away).
Question: Could this jersey be a practice or photo shoot jersey.
Answer Troy: Highly Unlikely. I have included several photographs of Jim Brown wearing a practice jersey. Judging by the numerous different styles, it illustrated the Browns employed the practice of wearing specific practice only jerseys throughout the course of several seasons. This is illustrated by the different designs found on the practice jerseys themselves, each dating the practice jersey to a different year. It was in my professional opinion the examined Jim Brown jersey was not a practice jersey, since the photo evidence clearly supported the fact that distinct and different jerseys were worn during practice.
Regarding photo shoot, there is no empirical evidence to support the fact that Jim Brown was issued a different jersey (made from the same materials as used by the Chicago Bears and worn by Gale Sayers) for photoshoots. I find it highly unlikely that if a request was made to photograph Jim Brown, that a new, special jersey would have been made for him to wear. Also, judging several photos that I referenced, the shots appeared to have been taken at different dates. Thus, implying this was a jersey worn more than on just one occasion, which was not consistent with one photo shoot session. There is nothing to support this point.
Question: Did you find a photo of Jim Brown wearing this tear away style jersey in a game.
Answer Troy: Our attempts were inconclusive. There are several clear photos of Jim Brown wearing Durene materials. Less than a dozen, but they do exist. It is challenging to find available footage to be used for photo matching. We referenced all of the available images, and consulted with dozens of period printed publications. Any pub collector will know that most images, especially action shots, were quite grainy as they appeared in these 1960s periodicals. We did examine scores of images that were photographed too far away to determine the actual materials of the jersey. What our imagery analysis did conclude that the numeral font, sleeve length, and collar design were consistent with the photos, we just could not get enough close up images of the materials. So, did we base our final opinion without a “photo match” to Jim Brown? The answer was no. In addition to the several images of Jim Brown wearing this tear away style material, we have found photographs of other teams (BEARS) and other examples of actual tear away jerseys that were worn by other teams and players. I am sure that the other football jersey collectors out there could provide additional teams and players that wore tear away style jerseys from the 1960s. There is empirical evidence to support the fact that tear away jerseys were worn in the NFL. The fact that other NFL player and teams were documented as wearing tear away materials, this Jim Brown, coupled with the photographs of Jim Brown wearing tear away materials, were the basis of our opinion.
Question: The jersey did not have any team repairs, how could it get an A10 grade:
Answer Troy: With respects to game wear and grading, the following information is listed in the jersey grading criteria section of the website and has been used by the MEARS evaluators during the process of assigning grades:
Degree of wear: With respect to grading, degree is independently measured by the staff of MEARS. Game wear is measured from light to heavy. Per the MEARS grading standards, the range of game wear may be determined from light to heavy, while still having the maximum points awarded to the jersey. A jersey may exhibit a light range of overall wear, but still be awarded the highest grade per the scale.
I think the issue is personal preferences vs. MEARS grading standards. Collectors have the right to collect what they want. If your personal preferences are the jersey has to have photo matched team repairs and NFL documentation, that is fine and acceptable, as your very own personal preferences. You may only collect jerseys that match your self-defined criteria. You are not required to buy anything that you are not comfortable with.
MEARS grading standards are the guidelines that we have created. When MEARS evaluates an item, the process (worksheet) and final results (LOO) capture our thoughts and methodology. This work and information is provided to the buyer. He has the ability now to follow the MEARS logic trail, and see if he agrees or disagrees. In the case of the Jim Brown, the winning bidder and several underbidders were in agreement with the MEARS opinion. They purchased the jersey knowing that the photo references we provided were not game action shots. They purchased the jersey knowing there were no visible team repairs. They purchased the jersey knowing the exact degree of use. The MEARS letter satisfied their personal preferences. Obviously with the continued debate, we did not meet others idea of game use or personal preferences.
If an item is found not to have been evaluated properly, the buyer is protected by the MEARS Buyers Protection policy, the only program like it of its kind. This is not the case of the Jim Brown jersey; it is simply a matter of different personal preferences.
Troy R. Kinunen