A football used in the 1958 game in which John Unitas and the Baltimore Colts won their first National Football League championship sold for $30,000 to a lifelong New York Giants fan at a Towson auction yesterday.
The buyer, Eric Inselberg, 31, has been collecting Giants souvenirs since he was 15. He came to Maryland from his home in northern New Jersey solely for the sports memorabilia auction, one of nearly 100 people who turned out at the Alex Cooper auction house to bid on items from the estate of a former Colts equipment manager.
They watched with interest as bids on the 1958 football, hand-painted with the score "Colts 23 Giants 17," rose rapidly from a $5,000 opening.
Joseph A. Cooper, president of Alex Cooper Auctioneers Inc., said he has been criticized for auctioning Colts items so soon after the death of Unitas, the Colts quarterback from 1956 to 1972. But the firm planned the auction several months ago, he said. Unitas had planned to attend.
The player's death Sept. 11 probably increased interest in the Colts during the past week, said Paul Cooper of the auction house.
"I think it brought people out," Joseph Cooper said.
The auction house also expected a high price for a No. 19 jersey issued to but never worn by Unitas, but it sold for $4,250.
Joseph Cooper said he was disappointed about the winning bid on the jersey, but felt that the auction was successful. "We're ecstatic about the ball," he said.
Most items were from the Colts, the Orioles, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Fred Schubach, the former owner of the items, was equipment manager of the Eagles from 1948 to 1953 and was with the Colts from 1953 to 1982.
In addition to the 1958 football and the jersey, three footballs signed by Unitas and other Colts were sold at the auction.
Rick Pineau, a lifelong Baltimore-area resident, bought one signed by the 1961 Colts for $475. He and his son, Stephen, 14, had gone to the auction house to examine some guns, but stayed for the sports auction. "It's a nice opportunity to be able to participate in history," he said.
Inselberg, a telecommunications entrepreneur, said he owns a 1958 game ball autographed by the Giants team, which he bought from a player's widow.
He also spent $700 on a program and a piece of the goal post from the 1959 Colts-Giants championship game.