It’s a career born in her family’s auto salvage yard, honed in the antiques business and matured in one of the country’s top auction houses. Now, one of the country’s few full-time appraisers of sports memorabilia and other collectibles is happy calling her own shots.
Leila Dunbar grew up in Massachusetts with an eye on broadcast journalism but shifted gears after college and in the 1990s, helped her parents sell old memorabilia of all kinds via mail order. That led to an opportunity with Antiques Roadshow, where she became a familiar face on the popular PBS program. Eventually, Sotheby’s hired Dunbar to help run their multi-million dollar auctions. Some of what she sold were high-end sports collectibles including the estates of former athletes.
Dunbar spent several years at the company’s New York office but in 2008 she opted to leave the company and start her own appraisal company. These days, she’s paid well for authenticating items that can sell for big money. She’s done work for sports leagues, teams, museums, private collectors and auction houses. She’s also still a part of Antiques Roadshow.
Dunbar talked about her life and career and about the process of appraising sports memorabilia with the “Cool Jobs” section ESPN.com.