Football from Lombardi’s first game, 1921 Packers program among rare items up for auction
Green Bay Packers fans looking for a chance to own significant pieces of the team’s history have an opportunity to do just that in a few weeks. Of course, owning those items also will come with a hefty price tag.
Heritage Auctions will hold its Platinum Night Sports Auction at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland on July 31 in what is traditionally the most heavily attended live auction of the year. The list of items for sale ranges from Muhammad Ali’s gloves for his 1971 fight against Joe Frazier to Babe Ruth’s 702nd home run ball to a near-mint condition 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card.
Of more interest to Packers fans, however, will be these items: a 1921 Packers "Dope Sheet," which is the franchise’s inaugural game program; a 1959 game-winning extra point football from Vince Lombardi’s first victory as Packers coach; a pair of 1967 Packers Super Bowl I championship gold cufflinks owned by former Packers president Lee Joannes; and a signed football from the 1946 team with signatures from former Packers Tony Canadeo, Bruce Smith and Curley Lambeau, among others.
"They are all super-significant in their own right," said Chris Nerat, the consignment director for Texas-based Heritage Auctions. "I really like the ‘Dope Sheet’ just because any time you get the first of the first and the best of the best, it tends to really attract a lot of attention. Someone that doesn’t even collect Packer items might go after something like that. Just someone that really appreciates the rarest of the rare. It has everything going for it. It’s the first-ever Packer program. It’s the only one known and it’s got a really cool picture of Curley Lambeau, the team co-founder, on the front. I think that’s really neat.
"But Lombardi is just as popular as any other player or coach that ever was even in the league. To obtain something that was used in his actual first game as Packer head coach, that basically changed that franchise around from being the bums of the 1950s to being the most dominant team in the 1960s, I think that’s pretty awesome."
Nerat added there were only two known sets of Packers championship cufflinks from the 1967 season, which increased the value on that item.
"Right now championship jewelry is probably the hottest thing in the hobby," he said. "All these items have something really important going for them."
Nerat, a Wisconsin native and 2001 graduate of UW-Green Bay, said he still has several contacts to collectors from the Green Bay area, which allowed him to procure the Packers memorabilia.
The items, he said, are expected to fetch in the neighborhood of $10,000, though bidding wars on auction day could cause the price to rise. They are available to be bid on at the Heritage Auctions website as well. The highest current bid among the four items is up to $7,000 for the 1946 team autographed football, while the Lombardi extra-point football is up to $4,750.
This is not the first time that pieces of Wisconsin sports history have been involved with Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Sports Night. Last year, Lew Alcindor’s (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) game-worn home white Milwaukee Bucks jersey from 1969-71 sold for $80,000. Oscar Robertson’s 1970-71 Bucks championship season jersey went for $55,000 and Alcindor’s first pair of game-worn goggles from 1974 sold for $6,500.
Other significant non-Packers items up for auction this time around include the Ali gloves, the only known Lou Gehrig-signed ticket from Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, which is the day he gave his historic "Luckiest Man" retirement speech, a Joe DiMaggio handwritten signed love note to Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jordan’s record-setting $33 million Chicago Bulls player contract for the 1997-98 season.
Nerat said he anticipated the Ali gloves selling from somewhere between half a million and one million dollars. A pair of Ali’s gloves for his 1964 fight against Sonny Liston recently sold for $836,500.
If there is some consolation for Green Bay fans, owning a bit of Packers history will cost substantially less.
"I’ve never in my life seen this many really, really unique and significant Packer items all in one auction," Nerat said.
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