Johnny Unitas football jersey sets auction record, selling for $118K

Circa-1960 Johnny Unitas Baltimore Colts game-used and autographed home uniform. Sold for $118,230; record price for any professional football player’s jersey at auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image

Circa-1960 Johnny Unitas Baltimore Colts game-used and autographed home uniform. Sold for $118,230; record price for any professional football player’s jersey at auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image

WESTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Bidders didn’t give up easily in Grey Flannel’s June 24 Summer Games Auction, which took in more than $2 million dollars in sales of game-worn sports apparel and other gear used by professional sports icons.

“Interest was phenomenal,” said Grey Flannel President Richard Russek. “We recorded more than 7,650 bids in all. When extended bidding kicked in, it became a battle royale. We’ve learned over the years that when sports memorabilia collectors really want something, they don’t go down without a fight because there’s no telling whether or not there will ever be another opportunity to bid on the piece they want.”

Competition ran hot throughout the night, and bidding didn’t conclude until 9 the following morning, Russek said. Three items, in particular, drove the frenzy.

A circa-1960 photo-matched, game-used and autographed Baltimore Colts home uniform worn by the great Johnny Unitas had been entered in the auction with a $10,000 reserve. But “The Golden Arm’s” legend lives long, and the well-worn uniform with impeccable provenance skyrocketed to $118,230. In so doing, it set a record for the most expensive football shirt ever sold at auction.

Vintage, game-used basketball uniforms continued to impress, and individual records were set by jerseys from a golden era when Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell ruled the hardcourt.

A game-used Philadelphia Warriors home uniform that Chamberlain wore in 1961-62 – the season in which he set the NBA single-game scoring record with his legendary 100-point performance – was bid to $130,054. It was the highest price ever paid for a Chamberlain jersey at auction.

An extremely rare, early-1960s Boston Celtics road jersey game-used by the formidable 12-time All-Star and five-time NBA MVP Bill Russell also hit six-figure territory. It sold for a record $118,230.

“It was an exciting night for all of us at Grey Flannel,” said Russek. “Once again, we saw for ourselves how strong the auction market is for well-provenanced, game-used sports memorabilia. It was also very gratifying to see how many new collectors are coming into the hobby and helping it grow.”

To contact Grey Flannel, call 631-288-7800, ext. 223; or email info@greyflannelauctions.com. Visit Grey Flannel online at www.GreyFlannelAuctions.com.

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Wilt Chamberlain game-used Philadelphia Warriors home uniform from 1961-62 NBA season featuring legendary 100-point performance. Sold for $130,054; record price for a Wilt Chamberlain jersey at auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image

Wilt Chamberlain game-used Philadelphia Warriors home uniform from 1961-62 NBA season featuring legendary 100-point performance. Sold for $130,054; record price for a Wilt Chamberlain jersey at auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image

Bill Russell game-used Boston Celtics road jersey, early 1960s, believed to be one of only two of its type known and the only one available for public sale. Sold for $118,230; record price for a Bill Russell jersey at auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image

Bill Russell game-used Boston Celtics road jersey, early 1960s, believed to be one of only two of its type known and the only one available for public sale. Sold for $118,230; record price for a Bill Russell jersey at auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image