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Happy Ending Looks in Sight for Couple Selling Football Card to Start Family

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The one-of-a-kind13-year-old autographed football card put on the auction block to help a Houston, TX couple become parents has a new home.

Todd and Ula Nelkin offered the BGS 10 graded 1999 Donruss Elite card signed by both the late Walter Payton and Barry Sanders on eBay late last month.  The couple, who operate a local card shop and also supply minor league ballparks with baseball cards for their concessions,  were hoping to use the proceeds to pay for in vitro fertilization for Ula.  Their efforts to conceive in a traditional fashion hadn’t worked.

Walter Payton Barry Sanders Passing the TorchThe auction for the card–the only one ever graded ’10′ by Beckett–closed at $11,100, short of the reserve price but the couple revealed Tuesday that it  did sell afterward to a private collector in New York City who made what they call “a very generous offer”.

The Nelkins say the buyer—who collects rare sports and art pieces– heard of their story and despite not being an avid collector, plans  to keep the card  for a while and then sell it himself to help him pay for his child’s college education.  He’s asked them to hold onto the card for a couple of weeks because of the ongoing storm recovery in the city.

During the auction, Todd and Ula were introduced to the process of Open adoption- in which the birth parent interacts with the adoptive parents before and after the baby’s arrival and have chosen to turn their attention to adoption.  Profits from the card will go toward paying for that process, one they hope will happen in the first half of 2013.  Open adoption will put the couple on a list from which expectant mothers willing to give their babies up can select a family to raise their child.  The Nelkins would be involved in the process and will even be allowed to be present at the child’s birth.

“With in vitro we run of risk of walking away with nothing to show for everyone’s efforts during the auction,” said Todd Nelkin.  “This almost guarantees us of having that happy ending.  As much as we love the doctors at Baylor (University), we want a child more than anything and we are excited about the possibility of helping out someone, knowing the child’s medical history and hopefully having a healthy happy baby, boy or girl.”

The card’s legacy, say the Nelkins, is that it will be responsible for a child and a child’s education.

Barry Sanders also donated an autographed helmet to the cause, which was won by a loyal Lions fan in Wisconsin who has asked for Sanders to inscribe his greatest honors on the helmet.  Steve Young donated a 49ers home jersey which is still up for sale under the name Nelkinbaby2012 as are other items that regular people gave the Nelkins to help with the costs.  The auctions will continue for a while under that eBay seller name.

“The amazing thing is, thanks to Mr. Sanders and Mr. Young and other people we might have enough to cover the costs of the adoption, since we did not raise enough for the in vitro.  Everything is still going to have a amazing happy ending,” said Ula Nelkin.

“This has been such a learning experience for us,” said Todd Nelkin.  “From women offering the use of their body to people suggesting doctors in remote areas of the world or other parts of the country, to seeing how outright mean other people can be.  It has been educational.

The Nelkins have promised to keep everyone up to date via Twitter (@ToddNelkin).

About Rich Mueller

Rich is the editor and founder of Sports Collectors Daily. A broadcaster and writer for more than 30 years and a collector for even longer than that, he's usually typing something somewhere. Type him back at [email protected].

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