By: Ray Schulte – SchulteAuctions.com – It seems most of the country has been captivated by television programs such as History Channel’s Pawn Stars and American Pickers as well as PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. Whether it is an antique clock, vintage jukebox, piece of folk art or a Babe Ruth signed baseball, people are fascinated by the find, the history, value and price realized from the sell. The story behind each item fascinates the viewer. Was the collectible item passed down from a family member? Was it found at a garage sale? Did you personally acquire it from an estate sale?
What you may consider junk, the appraisers of these programs consider potential value and possible goldmines. The memories created and what owning these item(s) mean to them, translates into great television. However, there are so many compelling stories that are never broadcast.
Recently, I traveled to Frederick, MD to meet with a gentleman who said he owned a unique sports related item that has been in his possession for over fifty years. MSgt Bill Wolfinger USAF ret. is approximately sixty plus years old, born and raised in Maryland. As I sat down, after meeting Bill for the first time, he took out a 1958 Baltimore Colts team signed football with over thirty player signatures in pristine condition. You could tell he was passionate about this vintage football but what endeared me was how he obtained it and the memories he cherished as he held it in his hands.
As Bill tells it, it was Christmas 1958 and as a thirteen year-old kid he opened one box to see the tip of a Spalding Eddie LeBaron Official 388 white football. He was hoping for an official NFL “The Duke” football and as he pulled the white ball from the box it was difficult to hide his disappointment from his parents. However, he told his dad it was exactly what he had hoped for. Then he started noticing there were quite a few signatures on the white football and couldn’t believe his eyes. Finally able to speak, he asked his dad if they were real. His dad told Bill yes, that a friend of his received the signed football from Don Kellett, the Baltimore Colts General Manager. The players personally signed the football three days prior to taking off and playing the most famous game ever played, the 1958 Championship Game in New York.
Bill went on to say that three days later, he and his father watched Alan Ameche and the Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants. He said he jumped and yelled and might even have done a few celebratory back flips. It was a day he will never forget, a memory that will last a lifetime.
Bill’s dad was a Baltimore Colts season ticket holder from 1958 to 1965. He can still vividly remember walking beside his father to Memorial Stadium to watch their beloved Colts. As for the football, his dad told him to hold on to it for fifty years and then see what you can get for it. Bill said to me – Ray, with your help I’m keeping that promise.
As Bill handed me the signed football he told me he had the ball in a box, in his closet, for all those years never seeing the light of day. Such a pristine piece of sports history, signed by the great Johnny Unitas, Alan Ameche, Jim Parker, “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, Art Donovan, Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore, to name a just a few.
I enjoyed meeting Bill and told him it would be an honor and privilege to help him fulfill his dad’s request. SchulteAuctions.com recently had the football’s thirty-three signatures authenticated by JSA Authentication.
I’ll continue to watch Pawn Stars, American Pickers and Antiques Roadshow, but I prefer to get out on my own to meet and discover great people and unique collectible items, especially if the story is as compelling as Bill’s turned out to be.
What is the football worth? Check out SchulteAuctions.com as Bill’s team signed 1958 Baltimore Colts football will highlight our May on-line auction. Only time will tell!