Collecting vintage sport cards and memorabilia has been a passion of mine for over 15 years. Some of my purchases are worth a hefty sum and some are important from a historical perspective. One item that I recently purchased falls into the “not super valuable” category—but it tells a story that’s priceless.
In general, paper items (tickets, stubs, and programs) are not worth lots of money. This is the case with the piece I just bought: a 1920 Notre Dame vs. Purdue program. The program has a few condition issues, such as mildew stains on some pages, and the binding is very loose. The hobby of sports collecting wasn’t really a big thing yet in 1920, and most of the game attendees did not leave the game with their program. It was simply left in the stadium for the grounds crew to throw away.
This program has character. I really enjoy the advertising from local professional service companies in the Indiana area. Dentists, attorneys, insurance salesmen—all advertised in the program for your business. Additionally, it was an election year, so many nominees advertised in the program for brand awareness purposes and to obtain votes.
Beyond the sense it gives you of daily life in the ’20s, this program contains a remarkable piece of Notre Dame history. Notre Dame has been a storied franchise for over 100 years.Joe Theisman, Joe Montana, Paul Hornung, Johnny Lujack, and George Gipp are all Hall of Fame athletes that donned the gold and blue uniforms.
According to Bleacher Report, George “Gipper” Gipp was the second best Notre Dame football player in the school’s history. The Gipper originally enrolled at Notre Dame on a baseball scholarship. One day, legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne saw Gipp playing baseball and convinced him to take up football instead. Gipp obliged and quickly became a superb player.
Sadly, Gipp contracted strep throat near the end of the football season and died a few weeks later. The program from November 6th, 1920 is Gipp’s third to last game. Famously, as Gipp hovered near death, Rockne exhorted the team to “win one for the Gipper.” The story was later made into a film starring Ronald Reagan, who then adopted “The Gipper” as his nickname.