The 17th annual Super Bowl Live Auction, a highly anticipated event in the world of sports memorabilia, is set to take place, featuring an extensive collection of items from the legendary pro football player Johnny Unitas. Collaboratively organized by Hunt Auctions and the NFL, this event promises to draw both enthusiasts and collectors alike.
With over 1,000 football-related items up for auction, this year’s event is expected to be one of the highlights leading up to Super Bowl LVIII. Among the items, several hundred have been consigned directly by the family of Johnny Unitas, the celebrated late Hall of Fame quarterback who passed away in 2002.
Johnny Unitas, a remarkable figure in football history, gained fame as a collegiate star at the University of Louisville. Despite facing initial setbacks as a ninth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Unitas made a significant turnaround when he signed with the Baltimore Colts in 1956. Overcoming challenges, he established himself as one of the most prominent players of the 1950s and 1960s.
One standout item from Unitas’ collection is his personal copy of his 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas rookie card. Known as “The Golden Arm,” Unitas played a pivotal role in leading the Colts to the NFL Championship in 1958, a game famously known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” This victory, broadcast nationally in overtime, had a profound impact on boosting the popularity of the NFL in the 1960s.
A prime item up for auction is Unitas’ 14k gold 1958 championship ring, expected to fetch between $100,000 and $200,000. Unitas’ illustrious career with the Colts included three NFL Championships, a Super Bowl championship, three NFL MVP awards, and numerous NFL passing records, including an impressive streak of 47 consecutive games with a passing touchdown. His Super Bowl V championship ring is another highlight of the auction.
The items from Unitas’ career, being offered publicly for the first time, come with letters of provenance from the Unitas family. A portion of the proceeds will benefit NFL Auction Charities. The family has made it clear that not all items from Unitas’ career are being sold, with some previously donated for public display.
Highlights from the Johnny Unitas Collection include professional model high-top cleats from the 1970s, his 1979 Football Hall of Fame Induction ring, an autographed Baltimore Colts professional model helmet from the late 1960s-early 1970s, his 1967 NFL Most Valuable Player award (the Jim Thorpe Memorial Trophy), the 1964 Pro Bowl Most Valuable Player Award, and a Rolex wristwatch.
Apart from Unitas’ collection, the auction will also feature items from the personal collection of Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Anthony Muñoz. Muñoz, selected third overall in the 1980 NFL Draft from USC, had a profound impact on the Bengals and is regarded as one of the finest offensive linemen in NFL history. His collection includes his final game uniform from December 27, 1992, a Cincinnati Bengals professional model jersey from the 1980s, and more.
The auction also includes items from other notable football figures and events. One highlight is a 2014 Tom Brady autographed and inscribed New England Patriots game-worn jersey from the season opener against the Miami Dolphins. This jersey, photo-matched by MeiGray, is considered one of the finest Tom Brady game-worn jerseys to have entered the market, with an estimated value of $250,000 to $500,000.
Other notable items in the auction include a 2022 Lamar Jackson game-worn Baltimore Ravens jersey, Lamar Jackson’s autographed 2018 rookie year game-worn cleats, and more. NFL Auction has also provided items with proceeds awarded to the league’s nonprofit partners, including a Trevor Lawrence game-worn Jacksonville Jaguars jersey and other pieces from notable players.
The live auction items will be available for preview at the Super Bowl Experience at the Phoenix Convention Center from February 7-10, with tickets required for entrance. Hunt Auctions experts will be offering complimentary appraisals for sports memorabilia during these hours. This auction not only offers a unique glimpse into football history but also supports various charitable causes, making it a notable event in the sports community.