Quantcast
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.

At the 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 publication.

“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 fights.”

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 said.

“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 Scoop.)

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.”

It was 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 payment.

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 point.

“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 trunks.”

Where was the rest of the stuff?

“That was 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 mementos.

How long did it take her to unearth and document what she had?

“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 said.

Following that, she began to hope one collector would acquire it.

“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.”