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Athletes

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Slania's love for boxing prompted him to engrave a series of twenty-three Heavyweight Champions of the World, all in stamp format.  They span a period from 1889 to 1964.  The first was the bare-fisted boxer John L. Sullivan, and Slania used his his own hands as the model for the Sullivan-portrait. The year mentioned on each of these labels is the year of the championship. The labels are numbered consecutively in the upper left corner.  These portraits show remarkably well Slania's outstanding skill of portraying people, and capture with his burin their nature and inner feelings.  

Note:  There exists plastic plate souvenir sheets, that can easily be identified because of their poor quality compared to the original steel plate prints.  Please contact me by e-mail, if you want to know more about these experimental prints.  

Warning:  
Be aware that fakes of the genuine boxer labels have been reproduced by some party other than Slania in colours different from the genuine ones - and each subject occurs in several colours !   The fakes are apparently printed by offset lithography, as they have a flat printed surface instead of the raised surface characteristic of intaglio printing.  The fakes are printed on paper with shiny gum.  Further, the printing quality is poorer, as one would expect in copies.  

The labels shown on this page are Slania's authentic works and belong to webmaster's own collection. 

Mr. Neil Gregory (USA) has submitted the following anecdote about John Sullivan:

Some years ago I read a story about John L. Sullivan.  According to the story, Sullivan and a friend were on a trolley when a drunk bumped into Sullivan.  When Sullivan's friend asked him if he was going to put up with such behavior, Sullivan replied, "I don't know why I shouldn't."   To which the friend said, "The heavyweight champion of the world doesn't have to be that polite."  "The heavyweight champion of the world can afford to be that polite," Sullivan answered. 

Artist's Proofs.
Prior to the actual printing of the labels, Czeslaw Slania printed many proofs using many types of paper - with and without gum, and various colours and perforations, typically 11-3/4.  The legitimate prints that were engraved and printed by Slania with their beautifully defined fines lines are without gum and are easily identified when compared with imitations printed by the offset method. 

Sheet Layout.
Purchasing these items can create problems for collectors.  So many varieties exist that it is difficult to identify the originals from imitations. The portraits were printed on eight sheets with six of the sheets having multiple designs, ranging from 2 to 4 rows of portraits and 20 to 30 examples of the same design per sheet.

When separating the sheets, different combinations of pairs can be made when rows of two different designs are next to each other (se-tenant).  Sheet 7 (Sonny Liston # 22) and sheet 8 (Cassius Clay # 23) are the only two champions printed on sheets of 50 with only one design per sheet.

Only two full sheets of # 23 (Cassius Clay) were printed.  They have long ago been broken up and scattered among the collecting community.  No full sheets exist, except for one featuring Cassius Clay, which belongs to a Swedish collector, given to him as a personal present from the engraver. I know the collector's identity, but cannot disclose this for discretion reasons. 

The sheets of # 22 and # 23 were printed at a much later date than those of portraits # 1 thru # 21.  Portraits of "Sonny Liston" and "Cassius Clay" are not possible in "se-tenant pairs of two different designs. 

See also: Piotr Naszarkowski's 24th label in Slania's honour (on this site). 

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