Do You Believe in Miracles?

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I thought I would expand my thoughts on the National with a few other observations.   In last weeks blog I highlighted my concern with the greed factor creeping into the auction part of the business in a more serious way. Once again please understand I’m very aware of the sleaziness the hobby attracts like anything involving money usually does.

Jim Craig as most hockey people are aware was the goaltender for the Gold Medal winning U.S. team at the 1980 Olympic games in Lake Placid. It’s commonly referred to as the “Miracle on Ice,” to some the “Fluke on Ice.”

Jim is in the process of offering for sale, his memorabilia from the games including all his equipment and gold medal. I have no issue with that as a lot of his team mates have been dining out on that victory for 35-years and its his turn. He’s asking $5.7 million for the 19 items. Lelands auction house is brokering the sale and had a very impressive display set up at the National Sports Collectors Convention. The sale is predicated on a first come first serve basis between August 1,, 2015 to November 1, 2015.

My curiosity got the best of me, so I wandered over to the display and loitered around to listen in on some of the inquiries. There weren’t many and this is my pet peeve. The auction house in desperation to secure the business has gone to great lengths to make this “miracle” sale even plausible but at what cost or promise?  Maybe they will deliver and some rich player steps up and makes the purchase. Believe me that only helps collectors like myself so all the power to them.

On the table is a beautifully laid out catalogue featuring elegantly worded descriptions of each piece in the collection along with an estimated valuation. Now keep in mind the auction house will receive a commission on the sale and in most cases the “juice” is 20-22%, in this case a predetermined fee may have been negotiated.

Leland’s used to be a big factor in the hobby but has lost its standing dramatically for numerous reasons. I personally won’t deal with them after a number of incidents in the past and I don’t hear too many nice things said about them from fellow collectors. So immediately creditability becomes a factor.

“Why would Jim sell this?” “His greatest success was not on the ice in Lake Placid or in business, it’s at home with his family. And this is for them. So that when he leaves this earth he will know in his heart that his children are secure, that is more important to him than any hockey game, including the greatest he ever played.

That is the real miracle.” That glowing epilogue of crap comes from the owner of Lelands as an introductory to the sale in the catalogue.   Newsflash, that’s the hope and dream of any father on this earth.

Listen I’m not wishing any bad for Jim and as a matter of fact met him years ago at a golf tournament and he seemed like a great guy. I hope he gets every dime, but let’s look at a few things. He played more games in one season for the National team, playing 48 games whereas in the NHL over the span of a few years he played 30. A smattering of minor-league games and you have what amounts to not much of a career in hockey, save for the Olympic year.   Million dollar plus valuations for the gold medal is possible, the flag he wrapped himself in after the Russian victory, really? His uniform, a staggering $1 to 1.5 million, or how about $250,000+ for the mask? Terry Sawchuk’s mask may get $25,000 if you could find one and do we even have to go through the exercise of talent comparison? I could go on but I think you get the idea. Again, I understand the historical significance of what the team accomplished but is Jim Craig’s goalie stick worth $3-400,000 or his equipment $150,000? That’s the beauty of the world of collecting, it’s an old cliché but it’s worth what anyone is willing to pay. Period. In fairness to Jim, he did what any of us would have done in a similar situation; go to the auction house that will get the most interest and more importantly the most money. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during the negotiations and listen to the pitch from the auction house he spoke to if in fact he did shop this around.

The whole point of this rant is not to judge Jim Craig for selling his belongings or what he may profit from as a result of the sale. No, the part that disturbs me is the greed of the auction house to get business using any means possible to secure the consignment.   This may all be on the up and up, but all it does is set the bar a little higher for other auction houses to become more aggressive, promise additional perks or whatever it takes to lock down the consigner. The real loss in all of this noise is the items themselves and certainly not in this case but will clearly bring in to question the validity of the authenticity of future historical items for sale.

It will be very interesting to watch the final out come of this sale but my more pressing concern will be the after effects and further auctions in the future.

Remember, buyers beware.

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