Johnny Unitas Helmet Brings $54K

Some nice free publicity in the mainstream media helped push the Johnny Unitas helmet and rookie contract in Hunt Auctions’ latest sale. Hockey memorabilia and autographs from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig also got a lot of attention.

A helmet worn by Johnny Unitas in the 1960s sold for $54,050, and the late Hall of Famer’s first contract with the Baltimore Colts drew a bid of $29,900 in Hunt Auctions’ live February sale Friday night.

There were 10 items associated with Unitas up for auction. One anonymous bidder purchased all of them for a total of $165,370, including a 15 percent buyer’s fee.

Unitas wore the helmet during his Hall of Fame career with the Colts. While walking off the field after a game, he had given it to John Ziemann, then a young member of the team’s marching band. "Johnny told me they were getting new helmets next season, so he gave me that one," Ziemann said recently.

Afer keeping it for many years, Ziemann sold the helmet to a collector, who consigned it to the auction company. It became the featured item at the two-day event.

The four-page contract, an original copy signed by Unitas and his mother on Jan. 31, 1956, was sold by the family of the late Don Kellett, then the Colts’ general manager who kept it in his files.

A sterling silver tea service presented to the quarterback after the Colts won the 1959 world championship sold for $23.000. Also, the belts Unitas received in 1959 and 1964 as a finalist for the S. Rae Hickok Professional Athlete of the Year Award garnered bids of $8,050 apiece.

Unitas retired in 1973 and died of a heart attack in 2002 at age 69.

Among the other items reaching five figures:

  • Late 1970s Bernie Parent home Flyers jersey $20,700
  • Parent Maple Leafs goalie mask $12,650
  • Lou Gehrig autographed photo "to Doc" $15,525
  • Babe Ruth PCL single signed balls (2) $12,075 ea.
  • Eddie Waitkus 1950 Phillies jersey $13,800
  • 1947 Babe Ruth letter $10,350

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