Toby Weston Cone knew she was dealing with a treasure trove, even if it was
something of a mystery to start with. The daughter of the late boxing
writer-publisher Stanley Weston, Ms. Cone discovered that her collection
included items from the most iconic names in boxing history.
point where many tales of spectacular collections turn to vapor, her story
instead solidifies even as it gets more unbelievable. Names like Rocky Marciano,
Joe Louis, Jack Johnson and Primo Carnera flow freely in the conversation of
just what her cache includes, and the provenance of the items dazzles the mind.
Later this year, Geppi's Memorabilia Road Show will offer a major auction
featuring Ms. Cone's remarkable prizes.
Her father, Stanley Weston, was
a collector from the word go. As a young neighbor of The Ring magazine
founder Nat Fleischer, Weston started out working for Fleisher raking leaves in
his yard at age 16. This quickly segued into the opportunity to hand colorize
black and white stills for the publication. Using oil paint and working in a
basement, the young Weston added color detail to the photos for the
“Upon his graduation from high school, Nat Fleischer
offered him a job as a kind of do-it-all guy around the office,” said Ms.
Cone, who was in Baltimore to meet with Steve Geppi and the GMRS staff.
“My father was with him for many years. He did everything as an office
boy, then he began to write, and then he began to photograph the
Weston soon went onto do both jobs at once, photographing
the fights and writing the accompanying stories.
“If you look at
some of the old issues of The Ring from the 1930s, you'll see his name on
many of the stories. He was a great writer, a great storyteller,” she
“From that point he went to Joe Weider, who you might know as
the man who discovered Arnold Schwarzenegger. He did muscle, fitness and beauty
magazines. Today he publishes Self magazine and other titles. He is
extremely successful, and my father always said he taught him what he needed to
know in the publishing world.” Ms. Cone said.
Weston left Weider's
company to start a competing magazine called Boxing & Wrestling,
which really took off in the late 1960s.
“He orchestrated the
magazine. He took the pictures, and wrote the articles with help. It was a very
small team. The covers were very artistic. He was a real stickler for the colors
and graphics. If you look at some of them today, you can see why they were
successful. They popped out on the newsstand,” she said. “He cared
about things like that.”
Years later, things came full circle for
Weston when he had the opportunity to purchase The Ring magazine, which
was nearly dead by the early 1990s. He revived it.
He wrote a great story
in that first issue and continued writing history capsules each issue even after
he sold the publication. (Editor's note: Look for some of Weston's amazing
insights into the history of the sport in upcoming issues of
Even before his actual tenure with the boxing and publishing
businesses, though, he was collecting.
“He was a collector from
the day he was born,” Ms. Cone said. “He started with The
Ring magazine, actually. He told me that his father bought him his first
copy of the magazine when he was eight or nine years old.”
his personal love of the sport and collecting that compelled him, she said,
rather than the idea of what such a collection might be worth someday. His early
work in the business helped him add to that collection.
“He did a
lot freelance writing, photography and illustration in those early days to pay
the bills. If somebody couldn't pay him, he took it in trade for some kind of
collectible,” she said. Much of his cartoon art arrived as a form of
Cone said it wasn't until she returned in 1979 from a decade
living abroad followed by her mother passing away in 1980 that she began to get
a glimpse of things. She took over her mother's job in the company at that
“He kept a few things in his office, and that's all anybody
ever saw,” she said. “One of them was the Primo Carnera glove, a
Primo Carnera painting, Joe Louis's trunks, and Rocky Marciano's
Where was the rest of the stuff?
the mystery,” Ms. Cone laughed.
That Weston had a collection was
whispered among people in the business, particularly other collectors, but
little did they imagine that it held the famous Jack Johnson confession letter,
rare and fragile glass negatives from early fights, as well as other significant
How long did it take her to unearth and document what she
“I've been working on that since he died, so three
years,” she said. “I archived everything, put it in archival
holders, and decided what I wanted to do.”
Ms. Cone said that at
first she didn't want to auction off the collection. Instead she looked for an
institutional home for it.
“We wanted to find a proper home in a
museum, but we didn't have a lot of success with that. I didn't want it in the
basement of some museum. My goal before I put it up for auction was public
display. I really wanted to share it with the public. It's a wonderful
collection - little seen, very historic, going way back,” she
Following that, she began to hope one collector would acquire
“I really wanted one collector to buy the whole thing and take
this vision to the next level. I'm not a boxing collector, but I felt very
responsible for the collection, having worked with my father for over 20 years.
I knew what he wanted to do with it and was just trying to do the right
thing,” Ms. Cone said.
Eventually, though, she came to the
conclusion that passing these historical items to others who would keenly
appreciate them might very well be the path to them gaining access to a larger,
more public stage. Seeing some of the items from her collection on the screen in
the Ken Burns documentary, Unforgivable Blackness, confirmed her thoughts
in this area and that brought her to the conclusion that she would allow the
collection to be auctioned.
“I hope it falls into the right hands
to put it on display or maybe have the means to put it on display, keep it in
the right conditions and preserve it for generations to come,” she said.
“I hope my sister and I are able to take many nice cruises together with
our split of the proceeds! Our father would have loved that idea! It was his
favorite way to travel, as it is ours.”