Bidders didn’t give up easily in Grey Flannel’s June 24 Summer Games Auction, which took in more than $2 million in sales of game-worn sports apparel and other gear used by professional sports icons.
“Interest was phenomenal,” said Grey Flannel President Richard Russek. “We recorded more than 7,650 bids in all. When extended bidding kicked in, it became a battle royale. We’ve learned over the years that when sports memorabilia collectors really want something, they don’t go down without a fight because there’s no telling whether or not there will ever be another opportunity to bid on the piece they want.”
Competition ran hot throughout the night, and bidding didn’t conclude until 9 the following morning, Russek said. Three items, in particular, drove the frenzy.
A circa-1960 photo-matched, game-used and autographed Baltimore Colts home uniform worn by the great Johnny Unitas had been entered in the auction with a $10,000 reserve. But “The Golden Arm’s” legend lives long, and the well-worn uniform with impeccable provenance skyrocketed to $118,230, setting a record for the most expensive football shirt ever sold at auction.
Vintage, game-used basketball uniforms continued to impress, and individual records were set by jerseys from a golden era when Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell ruled the hardcourt.
A game-used Philadelphia Warriors home uniform that Chamberlain wore in 1961-62 – the season in which he set the NBA single-game scoring record with his legendary 100-point performance – was bid to $130,054. It was the highest price ever paid for a Chamberlain jersey at auction.
An extremely rare, early-1960s Boston Celtics road jersey game-used by the formidable 12-time All-Star and five-time NBA MVP Bill Russell also hit six-figure territory. It sold for a record $118,230.
“It was an exciting night for all of us at Grey Flannel,” said Russek. “Once again, we saw for ourselves how strong the auction market is for well-provenanced, game-used sports memorabilia. It was also very gratifying to see how many new collectors are coming into the hobby and helping it grow.”