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Opening Bids: Exceptional Lots

What a Racket

Tennis advertising has its own brand of topspin, and an assortment of 70 posters promoting the sport traces it for more than a century. The vintage images, from a private Australian collection, are believed to form the largest such grouping ever to come to auction and they date to the late 1890s, when the game was still in its early days. “The styles really changed,” says Nicholas Lowry, Swann’s president. “In the earliest posters we see some improbable outfits, including large white dresses and straw hats. We even see an image of a man smoking a cigarette in an ad for a sporting-goods store.”

A circa 1919 advertisement for a shop in Vienna corresponds to an era when the sport was becoming more mainstream, and the equipment and apparel more streamlined. The singular images also tout tournaments, equipment brands, and even hotels with tennis courts. Lowry says, “What makes collecting tennis posters difficult is that they’re so hard to find. If you love tennis, this is heart-palpitating stuff.” —Karen Cakebread
Estimate: $400–$20,000/poster. Sale: Vintage Posters, August 6, Swann Auction Galleries; www.swanngalleries.com

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