Les Carpenter Discusses the Success of Sports Memorabilia During the Recession

By Les Carpenter
Sunday, February 1, 2009

TAMPA For days, the money never came to the Super Bowl.

Then finally on Saturday, there came the delightful sound of commerce once more. It came in the back of a tent, in a stampede of humanity called the NFL Experience as the flowing cadence of an auctioneer's voice coaxed wallets from people's pockets for the right to yessssir-own-your-very-own-1984-




A man walking by in a baseball cap gasped.

"Sixteen hundred for a shirt?" he stammered.

Who in these times of peril pays $1,600 for a football jersey? Actually, the winning bid was $1,800, which was far less than the $24,000 someone paid for Johnny Unitas's helmet or the $17,000 that bought Jim Brown's Cleveland Browns game-worn jersey from the 1960s. The gavel kept falling, and passers-by stared in disbelief.

"I don't think I could afford that," said a fan pulling along his young son, shaking his head as a Boston/Washington Redskins sweater from the 1930s sold for $5,000.

On this week, at this Super Bowl, in this economy, it was interesting to see who could.

That man sitting in the back of the room, wearing a black Troy Polamalu jersey buying for himself an $800 leather helmet from around 1920? He's a vice president for a health care company in Columbus, Ohio.

"Yeah, I happen to be doing well, health care is doing well," he said with a small laugh.

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