Grey Flannel Auctions held its third annual Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Auction on Sept. 6 at the Victory Arena Special Events Room in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame complex. Rare jerseys, jewelry and memorabilia hammered with all the excitement of a LeBron James dunk or a Kobe Bryant fast break. In the end, the sale had chalked up a $1.3 million total (all prices quoted are inclusive of 20 percent buyer’s premium). The average lot value in the sale was $7,800, with only one lot unsold. The highlight of the auction was Michael Jordan’s college jersey landing in the top slot at $114,000.
Jerseys proved to be the most sought-after items in the sale. During the preview, collectors closely examined the rare game-used jerseys that were displayed on the arena’s walls like championship banners. Each item in the sale came with letters of authenticity from both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Grey Flannel Auctions; while each autographed article was accompanied by an additional letter from James Spence Authentication (JSA), whose experts independently evaluated and authenticated the signatures.
The early lots in the auction came from the prestigious Doug Friedman collection, with highlights including autographed game-worn jerseys by legendary NBA centers Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. ‘I’ve been collecting for 20 years and consigned 40 items to the auction,’ Friedman said. He related details of the event that had inspired him to collect. ‘Back in 1996, a collector contacted me, saying he had a previously unknown Bill Russell game-used jersey. The collector was doing a house addition and offered it to me. I could not pass on the Holy Grail of NBA jerseys. A year later, at a show in San Francisco, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were doing a dual autograph signing. I took the jersey along, and Bill Russell signed it.’
One of only two known game-used and autographed Russell home jerseys from the mid 1960s, the prized lot from Friedman’s collection went to a floor bidder for $78,000. The Wilt Chamberlain autographed Los Angeles Lakers jersey sold for $38,400 and a 1940s Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons pre-game warm-up ‘shooting shirt’ for $24,000. A very rare style 1972-’73 tri-color Phil Chenier Baltimore Bullets uniform for $33,000, Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores jersey for $39,000, and the biggest prize of the night: Michael Jordan’s North Carolina Tar Heels college jersey for a high-flying $114,000.
An anonymous buyer of some of the high-end lots revealed that he has a goal of owning game-worn jerseys from each of the 50 greatest players of all time, and said he felt his purchases were well worth the money spent. “These are one of a kind pieces,’ he said. ‘What is their value? That depends on how badly you want it.’
Consignor Doug Friedman was thrilled with the prices realized on his goods. ‘I had written down what I paid for the jerseys and what I thought they would go for in the auction. I thought the Bill Russell jersey would sell for $65,000 (hammer), and that prediction came true, to the dollar. The other pieces went wild.’
Especially strong prices were paid for championship rings. A Los Angeles Lakers 2001 ring sold for $19,200, while a 1976 John Williamson New York Nets ABA ring earned $30,000.
‘Bidding was aggressive on almost everything,’ said Grey Flannel Auctions’ president, Richard E. Russek. ‘This is a reflection of collectors’ confidence in buying memorabilia that they know is absolutely authentic and auctioned right on the premises of the Basketball Hall of Fame by a company that is an official partner of the Hall. When collectors know the material being offered is â€˜right,’ they’ll go full bore with their bidding.’
Russek confirmed that Grey Flannel’s on-site auction in association with next year’s Basketball Hall of Fame Induction will take place on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009. ‘We expect the Hall to be buzzing over that weekend,’ Russek said. ‘One of the inductees is expected to be Michael Jordan.’
View the electronic catalog for the Sept. 6 auction, with prices realized, at www.greyflannelauctions.com. Contact Grey Flannel Auctions at 631-288-7800.