Grey Flannel scores $1.73 million with sports, entertainment memorabilia, amusement park coin-op auction

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. – On May 14, Grey Flannel Auctions, the Long Island company that serves as official authenticator for both the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, broke its own record for highest auction price ever paid for a basketball jersey. An iconic jersey worn by Julius “Dr. J” Erving during the first-ever half-time Slam Dunk Contest in 1976 soared to a closing price of $188,321 in the 1,000-lot, $1.73 million auction. All prices quoted include 20 percent buyer’s premium.

“The previous auction record for a game-worn basketball uniform, also held by Grey Flannel, was for a different Dr. J jersey,” said the auction company’s president, Richard E. Russek. “It was an ABA New York Nets home jersey, which we sold for $141,927 at the 2006 Basketball Hall of Fame Auction.”

Russek said he never had any doubt the record-breaking jersey in the May 14 sale was going to fly. “I knew it was headed for success the second it walked into my office. There was a lot of interest in it because it was such an iconic item. It represents the incredible half-time competition that brought together the ABA and NBA.”

In that contest of 32 years ago, Dr. J – then the ABA’s top scorer – and Denver Nuggets rookie David Thompson put on a performance never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Together with three other top dunkers, Erving and Thompson pulled out all the stops to wow the stunned crowd with their competitive jams and slams. Ultimately, Erving was declared the winner.

The Dr. J jersey in Grey Flannel’s auction had been entered with a $25,000 reserve. The stunning amount it brought will enable the consignor to help his children attend college, said Russek. “It was a wonderful result, and we’re glad we could play a role in helping with that education fund,” he added.

The auction bagged a number of top prices for basketball apparel. A late-1960s game-used, autographed Oscar Robertson Cincinnati Royals road jersey achieved $66,734; while a Michael Jordan game-used Chicago Bulls rookie home jersey chalked up $55,152. “Both players are living legends, and collectors actively seek bona fide items that are closely related to the careers of Robertson and Jordan,” said Russek.

Stellar prices were realized on athletic apparel from the titans of other professional sports, as well. A Len Dawson game-used and autographed Kansas City Chiefs football helmet from Super Bowl IV, offered with an exact photo match, earned $36,716 (reserve: $5,000), while the baseball category was topped by a game-used Derek Jeter home run bat autographed with a notation indicating it was used to hit a home run. Entered with a $5,000 reserve, it sold for $20,208.

Russian hockey player Sergei Zubov’s game-used 1994 New York Rangers jersey was particularly desirable because it represented the year the Rangers finally won a Stanley Cup. “And it came with incredibly airtight provenance, which we are known for,” said Russek. The jersey, with its iconic association to the most important of all hockey competitions, scored a goal worth $16,979.

The blue-ribbon selection of professional sports memorabilia was accompanied by a selection of antique and vintage coin-operated antiques and amusements with provenance from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, San Francisco’s Playland-at-the-Beach, and other museum and private sources. A Night Bomber shooting game led the grouping of arcade machines at $15,175, while a Wurlitzer model 500 jukebox that had been restored to perfection earned a very respectable $9,423.

A Jennings 25-cent Golf Ball Vendor slot machine shot a hole in one at $7,788, and an uncannily lifelike elephant automaton trumpeted a winning bid of $4,393. After entertaining visitors to Atlantique City with his spoken repertoire of space-themed phrases, a 7-foot-tall Robby the Robot figure garnered worldwide bidding attention before retiring at $4,916. And from the annals of American history, an 1863 framed military commission signed by Abraham Lincoln was a top performer, crossing the finish line at $7,988.

Grey Flannel Auctions is currently accepting basketball-related consignments for its Sept. 6 auction at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.; as well as consignments of sports, entertainment, political and historical memorabilia, plus vintage coin-operated machines, for a winter auction (dates to be announced).

Contact Grey Flannel Auctions by calling (631) 288-7800 ext. 221, fax (631) 288-7820, or email: gfcsports@aol.com. View additional information about the company, plus additional prices realized, online at www.greyflannelauctions.com.

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