Between rare books from Sylvester Stallone’s personal collection and sports memorabilia as extraordinary as Evel Knievel’s leather motorcycle jumpsuit, Dallas’ Heritage Auctions is putting every single one of your estate-sale finds to shame. These are the eight most absurd items currently up for bids. Fair warning: They aren’t cheap, but certainly worth every cent to collectors.
1. The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman
These books are one of only 300 sets printed and include an 1890 hand-written postcard from Whitman himself. The item is featured in Heritage Auctions’ March 9 Rare Books Signature Auction which is composed of nearly 45 lots from writer, actor and director Sylvester Stallone (aka Rocky Balboa). “We are always excited to handle books or book collections belonging to celebrities or famous personalities,” says James Gannon, Heritage director of rare books. “In this instance, it adds an interesting dimension for book collectors who would like to own books that have been held and read by Sylvester Stallone; not to mention that fans of Sylvester Stallone might want to own fine or rare books because they were his, even though they have not bid on or collected rare books in the past.”
Estimated worth: $4,000
Published in 1886, these books are in fine condition and housed in two protective boxes. This set is also part of the Rare Books Signature Auction. “The Whitman and Tolstoy sets are the best books of Stallone’s in the auction, and they will perform quite well,” Gannon says. “Books are very personal things, and they have an intimacy that other collectibles do not have. Bidders for these lots will be able to imagine that Mr. Stallone handled and read from many of the volumes, and the winning bidder might even make serendipitous discoveries such as Sylvester Stallone’s laid-in notes or scribbles in the margin.” Estimated worth: $2,000
3. Evel Knievel’s Motorcycle Leathers
Knievel’s iconic white getup was worn during multiple performances in 1972 and 1973. This item is one of many in Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night Sports Auction, closing Feb. 26. “It’s probably the most famous jumpsuit from the ’70s,” says Chris Ivy, Heritage Auctions director of sport collectibles. “Probably even more so than Elvis’ jumpsuit with the stars and the red, white and blue. Knievel was a trailblazer in that realm of daredevil. Similar to Babe Ruth in baseball, he was larger than life. These leathers were both utilitarian and a little bit of his calling card. There is certainly evidence of hitting the pavement a few times on these
leathers. To my knowledge they are the first ones that have ever been available to the public through auction.”
Current winning bid: $46,000
4. Evel Knievel’s Diamond-Studded Walking Stick
Due to the nature of his craft, and the injuries associated with it, Knievel was known to use a diamond-studded walking stick for both showmanship and support. But not just any walking stick. Ivy says Knievel’s son Robbie recalls his father using the three mini flasks in the stick’s hidden liquor compartment before shows. “Robbie tells an interesting story about how he remembers being 8 years old and he’s in the trailer with his father before he’s about to go out and perform his show and do a jump,” Ivy says. “Evel pulled out the flask of Wild Turkey and poured two shots, one for him and one for his son. They took them, and off he went.” This item is also part of the Platinum Night Sports Auction, closing Feb. 26.
Current winning bid: $36,000
5. Gymnast Olga Korbut’s Montreal and Munich Olympic Medals
The 4-foot-11-inch Soviet gymnast has personally consigned her collection of silver and gold Olympic metals. These five metals are from the 1972 Munich and 1976 Montreal games and have a total estimated worth of $100,000. “She really was one of the sparks that made the summer Olympics so popular in the ’70s,” Ivy says. “She really brought a lot of interest to the sport. Everyone that is in that age range that was watching those Olympics remembers the name Olga Korbut. She has her memories, so she was interested in letting her fans have a shot at owning these pieces, so we’re glad to be working with her.” This item is also part of the Platinum Night Sports Auction, closing Feb. 26.
Current winning bids: $15,000-$26,000
6. Mickey Mantle’s New York Yankees Jersey
Mantle’s signed Yankees jersey comes with one hell of a story, and a price tag to match. Ivy says it was toward the end of the season, September 1968, and they were on the road playing Detroit. “Mantle is up in the final game of their series and he’s facing Denny McLain, who at the time was an all-star pitcher and was the last to win 30 games in a season. He was completely dominant.” Ivy says Mantle overhears McLain talking to the catcher about throwing a fastball down the middle since it was Mantle’s last game in Detroit. Mantle doesn’t believe him but the third pitch came right down the middle and he launched it into the upper deck. As the story goes, as Mantle rounded third base he saw McLain wink at him from the pitcher’s mound. “That was the second to last home run of his career,” says Ivy. “This also could be the last jersey that Mantle wore as a New York Yankee.” This item is also part of the Platinum Night Sports Auction, closing Feb. 26.
Current winning bid: $340,000
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7. Muhammad Ali’s USA Olympic Team Blazer
This item was worn by the legendary boxer and activist
Cassius Clay during the 1960 Rome Olympics, and comes with a letter of provenance from his father. “Nothing from Clay’s career regarding the Olympics has ever come out before,” says Ivy. “Obviously the greatest piece that would generate the most interest would be his gold metal that he won at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. But as the story goes, when he got home he was dealing with a racist issue and was discouraged about life in America at the time. He was standing on a bridge over the Ohio River and tossed it in. The metal has never been found. Ali was such a giving guy. At the end of his career he owned very little material from his career. So to have a piece from the 1960 Olympics that really signifies one of the earliest points of his career, it will be something very sought after by collectors.” This item is also part of the Platinum Night Sports Auction, closing Feb. 26.
Estimated worth: $100,000
8. Babe Ruth’s 1930-1931 New York Yankees Contract (pictured at top)
Even if you know nothing about baseball, you know Babe Ruth. Perhaps the most famous player of all time’s contract rounds out this list as the most expensive item. “This is the pinnacle of Ruth’s career,” says Ivy. “He came to the Yankees in 1920. This would be his 10th and 11th season with the Yankees. He had become, in that period, the first sports superstar in America. This is the highest contract that a baseball player had even been paid at that point, $80,000 a year. Then it was the highest that anyone would be paid in baseball for another 18 years until Joe DiMaggio. It really was a ground-breaking contact.” Story has it that during spring training for the 1930 season, one reporter asked Ruth how he felt about being paid more than president Herbert Hoover. Ruth’s response: “Why not? I had a better year than he did.” This item is also part of the Platinum Night Sports Auction, closing Feb. 26.
Estimated worth: $500,000