The 1905 Bergman Ivy League Football postcard set only has six cards. But for an issue so small, it definitely has plenty of intrigue.
About the Set
Measuring about 3 1/2″ wide by 5 1/2″ tall (some have slight variations), these are full color postcards featuring younger female fans of football teams. They are all carrying pennants and one thing immediately stands out. Each one depicts a fan of an Ivy League football team. I have yet to see an ‘official’ name for this set, but if there is one, Ivy League probably belongs in the title.
The postcards, like most printing projects of items, was somewhat of a collaborative work. The artwork was done and copyrighted by an artist named J. Bergman, as denoted on the bottoms. But the bottoms also have a small mention that they are from the Illustrated Postcard Company of New York. Bergman did the art and the postcard company likely did the printing.
It is true that the Ivy League term was not really used until the 1930s, but given that these are schools in that conference, it makes sense to use the name.
Each postcard is copyrighted as 1905. That, in and of itself, doesn’t guarantee the issue was distributed at that time. But I have seen these postmarked as early as 1905 so they were not only copyrighted in that year, but distributed to the public for use at that time as well.
Unfortunately because the backs were reserved only for a recipient address, that left only the fronts for a sender to write a message. That means you’ll find these with writing on the fronts, though usually only around the borders. Some senders, not wanting to mess up the image, simply sent the postcard with no message.
And while the set doesn’t feature specific players (or even generic ones, for that matter), it’s still one of the earlier football issues around.
The images were done by Bergman, but they are often compared to F. Earl Christy’s work. Christy created a series of similar-looking football postcards and if you look at some of them, they are certainly similar to these.
I would point out that much of the reason for similarities exist in the clothing styles of the day as both tried to mimic clothing that was popular back then. And to us, it all sort of looks the same. But there are certainly some reasons to get confused from the dresses, the pennants, etc.
The easy way to avoid confusion with this set and the Christy postcards is that these all have the ‘Copyrighted by J. Bergman, 1905 down at the bottom. Also at the bottom is the ‘Illustrated Post Card Co., N.Y.’ printing.
Aside from that, the biggest difference between these and the Christy postcards that I have seen is that none of those appear to have footballs in the pictures.
The set checklist is as follows:
There are six postcards in the set, but eight Ivy League Schools. Not represented are Brown and Dartmouth. So, why weren’t they included? We can’t really say for sure but since the Ivy League was not really a thing at the time these were produced, there wasn’t any firm tie between the eight schools.
Founded in the 1700s, both Brown and Dartmouth existed at the time of production. They also had football teams for some time, too. Brown first fielded a football team in 1878 while Dartmouth had a program three years later in 1881. However, they are not included here.
So, Football or Nah?
One of the interesting things about the images on the postcards is that only two actually depict fans with footballs – Harvard and Princeton. The Harvard picture depicts a woman in fine attire while the Princeton girl has a sweater and what almost sort of looks like a uniform.
The other four, however, only depict fans in dressy clothing with the pennants for their particular school. No ball.
That often leads to some confusion for collectors not familiar with this set. For example, I’ve often seen singles (the ones without the ball) advertised as either a non-sports issue or as a woman with some sort of flag. Since the names of the schools aren’t even printed on the postcards, it’s difficult to blame sellers being unfamiliar with exactly what they have.
This is, of course, a football issue, though. Despite the lack of a football in each picture, all six postcards very clearly make up a set and were printed in the same year (copyright date of 1905 is printed on all of them) and were done by the same person in Bergman.
The most obvious difference between the postcards, of course, is that some do not picture women holding a football while others do. Aside from that, however, there are two other differences present here.
First, some of the postcards have glitter while others do not. I have only seen the glitter on a fraction of examples (maybe about 10%), so cannot even say if it exists on all postcards, but I imagine it does. When present, the glitter shows up on the women’s pennants and dresses.
The postcards with glitter are significantly rarer. Not much of a premium exists in terms of the price but they probably should sell for more.
The second small difference is that all of the copyrighted dates on the postcards end with a period with the lone exception being Yale. To date, I have not seen a Yale postcard with a period after the date (or, similarly, a postcard for any of the other schools without the period).
All of the postcards are somewhat rare. You won’t see them around very often although a handful are usually on eBay at any given time.
The rarest, it seems, are the postcards featuring Columbia and Princeton. Columbia isn’t even listed in some checklists. Aside from that, however, I’m not sure any is much rarer than the other. Even in those cases, I wouldn’t call any of the six incredibly rare.
I’ve also seen quite a few of the Harvard ones and that may be the easiest to find. Based on how little or often I’ve seen these, I’d probably say a rarity scale is something like this:
- Columbia (rarest)
- Harvard (easiest)
Prices on these are generally pretty low. Low-grade postcards with writing or other damage generally sell for around $7-$10 each. Unblemished versions are about double that – perhaps slightly more.