It seems as if the mystery of how a 1940s era West Point coach’s sweater wound up in a North Carolina Goodwill store has been solved.
According to his daughter, the sweater belonged to Bill Wannamaker, who served as an assistant at West Point in 1952. Wannamaker and his wife moved to Western North Carolina in 2003 and after his death five years later, it was donated along with several other items.
Kelly Lao told the Citizen-Times of Asheville that she and her mother, Ann, aren’t looking for a cut of the proceeds, however.
“We just want people to know where it came from,” Lao said of the sweater, which generated national headlines earlier this month. At the time, no one knew how the black and gold piece of history had found its way to North Carolina so many decades after it was first used. Adding such key provenance to the auction could make a huge difference in the final selling price.
A Tennessee man who specializes in selling vintage clothing, was browsing through the Goodwill store last year spotted the zip-up sweater-type jacket that looked intriguing. He tossed into a cart with some other clothes, paying 58 cents for it at checkout.
What he didn’t realize until later was a tag inside the waistband of the old knit black and gold zippered pullover upon which was written the name ‘Lombardi’…and that he may have just made one of the great thrift store purchases of all-time.
It turns out the old sweater discarded as a donation is a Lombardi holy grail–holes and all. The high bid was $20,000 as of Sunday night with the auction set to close at a live event in New York next Saturday. It is the earliest known team issue Lombardi garment ever to come to auction.
As most football fans know, Vince Lombardi was an assistant coach at Army under the fellow coaching legend Red Blaik from 1949-53 and auction house officials believe indications point to this very piece of apparel as having once been donned by Lombardi during that time.
Ironically, Wannamaker played for another coaching legend, Bear Bryant, at the University of Kentucky before gravitating to West Point in the early 1950s where he served on the Army staff with Lombardi. Somewhere along the line, he wound up with Lombardi’s sweater.
Sean McEvoy and his wife Rikki travel the country looking for vintage clothing to buy and sell as part of a business that was started 15 years ago but Sean says he had no idea until later that his purchase was potentially valuable (watch their story from WBIR-TV below). They plan to use the money from their consignment to pay off debt, according to WBIR.
A detailed examination by MEARS appears to show a positive match with what Lombardi would have worn. There are photos of him wearing a similar sweater.
McEvoy told the Green Bay Press-Gazette he didn’t really know what he had until he was watching an HBO documentary last year and saw Lombardi wearing what looked to be the same type of item he had picked out of the Goodwill bin. After making a phone call, he then drove to Dallas to hand deliver it to auction officials.
You can register and bid in the auction via eBay Live.