E&J Burke beer advert poster – £10,000 at Antony Cribb.

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Proof comes in the form of one of the most sought-after posters around: the American E&J Burke beer advert printed by Wagner & Co advertising.

It portrays two baseball players, with shirts for Chicago and New York, sitting by the side of a baseball field amid barrels of Finest Pale Ale and Extra Foreign Stout, two beers sold by importers Edward and John Burke under licence from Guinness.

The players shown are two of the best-known of the era: Adrian ‘Cap’ Anson of the Chicago White Stockings (the team that would become the Cubs) and William ‘Buck’ Ewing of the New York Giants (now the San Francisco Giants).

The scene – the first in the US to use a sportsman to promote an alcoholic beverage – came at a time when baseball was a battleground for the moral struggle that would lead to Prohibition, the National League having recently banned beer and the playing of Sunday games as it sought to remain an ‘apple pie’ game suitable for the entire family.

The inclusion of a striped canvas ‘cricket’ tent, a common site at ball games during the 1850s and early 1860s but obsolete by the time the poster was made, was another nostalgic nod to the game’s early history when a player could enjoy a beer with friends.

UK example

The latest version emerged at Newbury saleroom Antony Cribb (22% buyer’s premium). Framed and glazed, it sold for £10,000 on November 29 against a pitch of £600-800. No details of vendor or purchaser were available.

Past examples have made huge sums in the US: one was sold by New Jersey baseball memorabilia specialist Robert Edwards Auctions for $188,000 in 2008, described as the best-preserved of only three known at the time.

In February 2019 another was sold for $96,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The Victor Mee saleroom in Belturbet, Co Cavan, Ireland, offered one in May that same year that had been consigned with other collectables from a local couple. It sold for a hammer price of €25,600 (then around £22,000).