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Les Carpenter Discusses the Success of Sports Memorabilia During the Recession

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By Les Carpenter
Sunday, February 1, 2009

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

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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-

Tony-Dorsett-Dallas-Cowboys-

professional-model-jersey-and-do-

I-hear-$1,600?

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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