Behind the Spine: Top Lots pack punch in new ‘Antiques & Collectibles’

By Paul Kennedy

Every picture tells a story. The same can be said for the things we collect.

Rocky’s Threads Tell A Story


The story of Sylvester Stallone’s leather jacket, worn in the 1976 hit movie, Rocky, is a contender for favorite Top Lot in the new price guide.
(Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions,

For instance . . .
In 1975 Sylvester Stallone had little money, a cool black-leather jacket, and a big dream. A year later his dream turned into Rocky, the feel-good sports movie starring a then-unknown Stallone. The movie won three Oscars, including Best Picture.

And the jacket? It became an iconic piece of movie memorabilia, selling for $149,000 at auction.

In 1939, advertising copywriter Robert L. May, at the request of his boss at Montgomery Ward, wrote a story about an outcast reindeer destined to save Christmas. The story was initially rejected.

Today Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time. A first-edition copy of the book sells for $425.

Jordan’s Olympic Kicks Soar to $190K

In 1984 Michael Jordan played his last amateur basketball game, leading the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team to a gold medal. Shortly afterward he would sign a deal with Nike and launch the most famous brand of basketball shoes in the history of the sport, Air Jordan.

As for the shoes Jordan wore in the Olympic finals? They were Converse. As it turned out, the last pair of Converse shoes Jordan would ever wear – and today the most valuable basketball shoes in the world, selling for more than $190,000.

These stories, and many more just like them, can be found in the newest edition of Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles 2018 Price Guide. The book is filled with thousands of images, descriptions, history, values, how-to advice and something new this year: information to help you sell your treasures.

‘Top Lots’ Tap Into Iconic Tales

While there is a lot to like in the book, which is why it remains America’s No. 1 selling price guide, my

Rocky Movie Poster

Movie poster from the original ‘Rocky’ film.

favorite feature is the expanded “Top Lot” stories. Those features found sprinkled throughout the book provide a backstory to some of the most intriguing items – big and small – we came across while putting the new edition together.

Stallone’s jacket is the featured Top Lot in the Entertainment section.

“I remember when I bought this jacket in Philadelphia. It was … before Rocky was even an idea,” Stallone said prior to its sale at Heritage Auctions. “This is what I would wear in my everyday life. And when the time came to do the movie, we didn’t have a budget where we could afford an original wardrobe so I thought, Why don’t I just wear the things that I think Rocky would wear, clothes from my real life?”

Rocky was the surprise hit of 1976, launching a movie franchise and Stallone’s career. The humble black-leather jacket he bought in Philly before all his fame? Not so humble anymore. It’s part of movie lore.

Rudolph, Gene Autry, and Converse 


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As for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Robert L. May’s Christmas classic, more than 2.4 million copies of the book were distributed as a keepsake to the children customers of Montgomery Ward in its first year of publication. In 1947, Montgomery Ward took the unusual step of giving the book copyright to May, who was struggling financially after the death of his wife.

May would eventually make millions using the story in various ways, including a movie and a song written by his brother-in-law and recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. Released in 1949, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” became a hit, selling more records than any other Christmas song not named “White Christmas.”

And finally, the last pair of Converse shoes Jordan wore before striking it big with Nike. Jordan gave those shoes to an 11-year-old ball boy who got them signed in the locker room after the gold medal game. Thirty-three years and a magical basketball career later, those Converse shoes set the sports memorabilia world abuzz at auction.

Yes, everything has a story. And in Antique Trader Antiques and Collectibles Top Lots you’ll discover some of the best.

Pk About our columnist:
Paul Kennedy is the Editorial Director of Antiques & Collectibles Books, Krause Publications. Have a book suggestion or a question about our book line? You can contact Paul at 715-445-2214 ext. 13470 or via email at