This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on:
"Ty Cobb, the Tigers' noted outfielder, today entered business on a large scale, purchasing a block of stock in the W.B. Jarvis Company, a $300,000 corporation with stores in Detroit and Grand Rapids doing a wholesale and retail sporting goods business...'I desire to have a good business position awaiting me when I get through with baseball,' said Ty. 'I have intended for some time to make Detroit my home and have been on the lookout for a business opening. I picked this because it is right in my line and I can make good in it easier than in some other field.' Cobb's house is the largest of its kind in Michigan. In the Winters he will devote his entire time to the business."
-- The New York Times, June 9, 1912
To paraphrase Victor Kiam: Ty Cobb liked Jarvis sporting goods so much, he bought into the company.
And like Remington's once-ubiquitous CEO, Cobb not only became a major shareholder and executive, but also slid easily into the role of corporate spokesman. Gloves, mitts, bats, masks, uniforms and cleats (razor-sharp, no doubt) as well as tennis racquets, golf clubs, football helmets and ice skates—all proudly received the Georgia Peach's hearty endorsement and stamp of approval. Almost no Jarvis product packaging or advertising lacked a Cobb portrait, and every piece of game equipment came emblazoned with his facsimile autograph. Rest assured that if you were an athlete in the greater Detroit area during the early 1910s, then you were wearing the Cobb brand when you took the field. Yes, before Chuck Taylor's signature brought fame to Converse All Star shoes, Cobb's signature was the trendsetting mark that epitomized state-of-the-art quality. And long before Polo by Ralph Lauren, there was Jarvis by Ty Cobb.
Over the years, we've sold a variety of the aforementioned Cobb-endorsed gear, plus a rare copy of the annual Jarvis catalog booklet. Yet only once have we ever offered—let alone seen—this striking cardboard advertising sign. (The other known survivor had ample professional restoration and sold in our 2012 LIVE Auction for over $9,500.) Perhaps it promoted the wares of W.B. Jarvis stores right there on their Detroit showroom floor, or perhaps (as suggested by the inclusion of its "237-239 Woodward Ave." address) elsewhere around the Motor City. Then, while fellow Jarvis signage outgrew practical usage, suffered damage or was simply discarded, the example presented here instead endured for another century so that we modern-day collectors could bask in its glory. Now, rather than lure the sporting consumers of yore with his impish grin, Cobb smiles to beat the band for all of us. Rarity and mystique aside, this piece dazzles simply for its charmingly old-fashioned design, color scheme and ad copy: "Athletic Goods, Fishing Tackle, Bicycles, Kodaks, Canoes, Cutlery, Base Ball, Tennis, Golf, Camping and Motor Boat Supplies, Guns, etc. - W.B. JARVIS CO. - Recreation Outfitters."
Measuring 11-3/4" x 21", the sign exhibits apparent EX condition overall with several vertical storage folds and several other surface scratches. It remains close to its original state, having been professionally rebacked on heavy board yet showing no other restorative steps whatsoever. Cobb's image (minor scuffing) and the text present quite nicely with bold contrast, visually popping off the uniquely hued background. Fine-print attribution in the bottom right corner reads, "The Ralston Printing Co. 5-3-13." Housed in its mildly weathered period frame to overall dimensions of 17-1/2" x 26-1/2".
The successful partnership between Cobb and the W.B. Jarvis Company dissolved around 1914 due to, first, Cobb's desire to spend the off-season in his sunny home state of Georgia rather than frigid Michigan, and second, the Jarvis firm's change in direction from sporting goods to automobile accessories. But with a diverse financial portfolio that included real-estate investments, stock holdings and endorsement contracts, Cobb's private fortune never suffered. In fact, by the early 1920s, he had established himself as the nation's first millionaire athlete, and the eventual net worth of his estate has been estimated as high as $13 million.