Gold is where you find it and sometimes, it is in your own backyard. This is one of those stories in which everybody was a winner but without some research, it could have turned out far different. Let me get to the heart of the story. A few months back , we sold a Goldsmith Executioners style helmet off our website, In addition, I wrote a story outlining the collecting of old vintage leather football helmets listing the styles and rarity of each along with some price guide lines. Well, last week I got an email with a picture attachment that basically had a few pictures of the helmet in this article along with a nice note that stated to wit that this helmet belonged to the young woman’s great uncle and had been in the family as long as she could remember. She stated she had done a Goggle search and had found my recent article and web site and had seen the Goldsmith we had recently sold and really just wanted some information but there was no mention of wanting to sell said helmet. I answered her and told her what I thought retail and wholesale would be and mentioned what a great helmet it was. She had posted a phone number which I tried but she had transposed some numbers so I couldn’t call back.
Fast forward, next morning, I get a phone call from her. Turns out, she had gone over to her parent’s house and they were putting the helmet out for a garage sale and while they had not priced it yet, some guy who had seen the ad for the garage sale had offered them $50 for the old helmet. Fortunately, the daughter was there and stated she wanted to do a little research before selling and took the helmet with her. Turns out, the next day, the same fellow showed up again trying to buy the helmet to wit, she relayed that she had seen the MEARS site and article and that she had an offer for thousands and it would not be for sale at the garage sale. Even after two rebuffs, the fellow came back a third time when the garage sale opened and again, talked to someone running the garage sale for the parents and inquired if the helmet was still on the premise hoping I guess that someone other than the daughter might go in and get the helmet and sell it to him but it had already left the premises and was at her house awaiting my visit.
Her house (the daughter who had contacted me) was in a small farming town about an hour and a half away. She had contacted me to come buy the helmet and we set a time to meet at her house. Seems that her dad was a retired police officer and that the offer I had made was akin to winning the lottery. Instead of dinner for two at a local Chilies, they could now buy dinner for two at the restaurant of their choice in Paris or London, airfare and hotel included if they so wished. Thank god she had called us before the sale and not after and that we could help her family along with making some money ourselves, always a win/win situation. I met the daughter and her husband, spent about an hour and a half with this delightful couple and it made my day that this money would go to her retired parents and that they were beside themselves with the figure this helmet ultimately sold for.
I got the helmet and cleaned it up and found the Spalding mark on the forehead piece. It cleaned up nicely and even had the original chin strap. I took it to MEARS on Tuesday where we shot it and wrote it up and then we emailed a few of our best clients who collect rare football helmets. Within about ten minutes, I got a call from the preeminent Spalding collector Jeff Mann whom I have known both him and his wonderful mother for years. Within one hour of being posted, it was already packed and on its way where it will be one of the highlights of Jeff’s world class Spalding collection. He has a great catalog collection and he relayed to me that this was a one year style helmet that was only catalogued in 1931. This was the first Spalding executioner’s helmet I have ever seen and Jeff confirmed the reason for its rarity with his catalog library and turns out, it was one of his Holy Grail want list items. It is really rewarding as a dealer to put good money in a seller’s pocket where it belongs and then add a key piece to a friend’s world class collection and make money for our company as well. I have purposely not listed the original families name but am providing Jeff with their phone number and name because he would like to find out a bit more about the original owner/uncle and where he might have played football and why they would hold on to an old helmet for over eighty years. Knowing the full history of a piece definitely adds to the allure of collecting.
The moral here is that you never know where you are going to find gold, that you can pay a fair price and still make money and that a piece that once collected dust in a garage now is a focal point in a world class collection and that the complete history of where this piece has resided since it was made makes for a full circle positive experience.
Long live the internet.