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Ravens Insider: Hundreds of items from Johnny Unitas collection to be auctioned, including Super Bowl ring


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The Ravens won’t be able to add another Super Bowl championship Sunday, but a lucky — and wealthy — individual might be able to take home a Baltimore championship ring this weekend anyway.

Of the more than 1,000 lots up for auction at this year’s Super Bowl LVIII Live Auction in Las Vegas, run by Hunt Auctions, are hundreds of collectible items that belonged to Baltimore Colts legend Johnny Unitas and his family. His Super Bowl V ring — “among the most desirable Championship rings ever offered at auction,” Hunt says — and his 1958 NFL championship ring could be among the priciest, potentially fetching north of $100,000. A pair of his iconic high-top cleats might go for more than $20,000, while other, more obscure collectibles — like his personal U.S. Airways ID card — are expected to auction for less than $100.

Before Unitas died in 2002, he donated many of his belongings to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum: several helmets, a pair of cleats, and several trophies including his 1970 NFL Man of the Year award, which the museum’s executive director Michael Gibbons called “one of the heaviest awards I’ve ever tried to lift.”

“We like to call him the Babe Ruth of the NFL,” Gibbons said.

Other possessions remained with his family, however, who recently decided now was the time to auction some off, while keeping others. Part of the timing is because John Unitas Jr., the Hall of Fame quarterback’s son, is downsizing homes as he moves from Maryland to Florida.

“I thought it was the appropriate time to do it,” said Unitas Jr., who will continue to run his real estate company in Maryland and award the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award annually in Baltimore.

Included in the lot are Unitas’s 1964 and 1967 NFL MVP awards, his unopened champagne bottle from the 1958 NFL championship (dubbed “the Greatest Game Ever Played”), his Rolex watch, his driver’s license, his golf clubs, his tuxedo, his neckties, and an image from an episode of “The Simpsons,” featuring Unitas’s voice and likeness, addressed to Unitas and autographed by the show’s creator, Matt Groening.

A portion of the proceeds from the auction benefit NFL Auction Charities.

Hunt Auctions, which also organizes a similar event annually at the MLB All-Star Game, often works with personal collections and the Unitas family approached the auction house about the prospect. David Hunt, president of the Pennsylvania-based auction house, called personal collections “the pinnacle,” of memorabilia — since they’re full of unique items that are hard to obtain.

“Johnny Unitas’s Baltimore Colts souvenir program is going to be worth ten times what one is worth that you just buy on eBay from somebody who just got it in the 50s,” he said.

The auction will take place live on Saturday with memorabilia-seekers able to bid in person in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, as well as over the phone or online, provided one registers to bid beforehand. The orders are bid on in succession — so Lot 1 will be bid on and then, within minutes, Lot 2 will proceed, up to the more than 1,000 lots.

There are several other Baltimore-related items, including game-worn and autographed cleats from (now) two-time NFL MVP winner Lamar Jackson’s first start, which is estimated to go for roughly $10,000. Then, there are items like a 1982 Baltimore Stars, a short-lived USFL team, with bidding starting at $30.

But many more are related to Unitas: Over 250 of the lots are from his personal collection.

“I hope it goes well,” Unitas Jr. said. “I hope everybody enjoys it. And I hope some folks that are interested in a piece of Johnny Unitas get what they want.”

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