Fan buys 1921 Packers photo for $4,674, but it’s really of a random 1917 high school game

Someone woke up to read a newspaper article telling them the expensive vintage 1921 Green Bay Packers photo they bought is actually of a high school football game two years before the Packers were founded.

Cliff Christl, who knows as much about Packers history as anyone walking the planet, wrote a fascinating piece for on a photograph that was sold for $4,674 in a Mears Online Auctions sale in 2011. It was billed as the "most historic Green Bay Packer image ever offered," and it looks remarkable for such an old photo. It was billed as famed Packers founder Curly Lambeau taking a pitch around right end. The auction claimed it was the earliest known Packers action photo, and the earliest action photo of Curly Lambeau.

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What a great piece for some Packers fan to have in their home. Except what they have, as (the site for the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Packers coverage) reported after some exhaustive research, is a very nice photo of a high school game between Marinette and Watertown in 1917 – two years before the Packers were founded.

Christl's research includes the fact that the advertising sign in the photo is from Hagemeister Park, a minor-league baseball stadium that was torn down in 1918. Also, he points out that in 1921 the Packers wore "Acme Packers" jerseys in 1921, and no lettering is on the jerseys in the picture. Oh, and Christl wrote that he found the auctioned photo in Green Bay West High School's 1918 Yearbook, which also was before the Packers were founded.

"Too bad for the proud owner, but here’s the bad news: You were fleeced," Christl wrote. "You bought a picture of a high school football game and Lambeau is nowhere to be found in it."

So just remember, always make sure to check the details when you buy expensive NFL memorabilia.

UPDATE: Troy Kinunen, president of Mears Auctions, said that he will give the winning bidder a full refund. Here is what he said in an email:

"I was privy to the original sale from the Wagner family and was confident in the origin and authenticity of the actual photo. Previously, I had never seen such a high quality cabinet mount photo issued to a high school player, it was quite unusual, is was more closely associated with something issued to a professional player. Also, at the original time of sale, I had shared the image with several Packer collectors (for whom I have great respect at their experience), and they were in agreement that it did appear to resemble a young Lambeau. Very few action shots exist, and an exact comparison is difficult.

"I do take issue with the word "fleeced". Based on the new information, I have immediately made arrangements to offer the winning bidder a full refund. At MEARS Auctions, it is never our intentions to offer items that are not as represented. If a mistake happens, we will fix it."

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