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Lot # 1221: Historically Significant 1940 de Bennevile "Bert" Bell Signed Check for the Sale of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Category: Football

Starting Bid: $500.00

Bids: 24 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Spring Classic 2022",
which ran from 5/20/2022 7:00 PM to
6/11/2022 10:00 PM

Important bank check, dated December 30, 1940, signed by de Benneville "Bert" Bell. This is one of the most significant Bert Bell signed checks we have ever seen because it not only features his scarce full-name signature, but also directly relates to the sale of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1940, which was orchestrated by Bell. That sale later led to the famous "Pennsylvania Polka" in which the Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles swapped teams and ownership in 1941.

The check, drawn on the "Land Title Bank and Trust Company," is made out to the "Pittsburgh Steelers Football Club Inc." in the amount of $43,000. Signed "de Benneville Bell" in black fountain pen (grading 9/10) along the base. The check is endorsed on the reverse by Joseph H. Carr, secretary of the Pittsburgh Steelers, above which is the handwritten notation "Final payment on Account of Sale Price of Franchise + etc sold to East West Conf as per agreement."

Bert Bell was the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles at the time this check was signed. However, as a favor to his friend Art Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he negotiated the sale of the Pittsburgh Steelers to Alexis Thompson, a New York entrepreneur, for $160,000 in December 1940. After the sale, Rooney used the money to acquire a fifty-percent interest in Bell's Philadelphia Eagles. Almost immediately afterward, however, Rooney regretted selling the Steelers, so he and Bell made Thompson an offer to basically switch franchises, with Rooney and Bell taking control of the Steelers and Thompson the Eagles. Thompson agreed and the switch was known at the time as the "Pennsylvania Polka." While we do not know the exact details of the original sale of the Steelers in 1940, this check is directly related to it, as explicitly stated on the reverse, and in that regard it is one of the most historically significant football checks we have ever handled. 

Bert Bell was one of the most important figures in NFL history. An early owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and then co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell, in 1946, was appointed the first commissioner in NFL history. As commissioner (1946-1959) Bell orchestrated the merger with the AAFC and negotiated the first television contract for the league. He is also credited with the phrase "On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team." The check (6.25x2.75"), which displays normal bank cancellation stamps and holes, remains in Excellent to Mint condition. 

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