James Naismith’s granddaughter discovered the boxes of memorabilia in her basement. Now she’s watching the forgotten pieces of sports history draw bids from some basketball hierarchy.
Bidders were not shy about shelling out big money for some items relating directly to the inventor of basketball on Friday.
Heritage Galleries held it’s live auction of James Naismith memorabilia with 24 of the 33 items on the block selling for a combined total of $298,143.50.
The items, together with nearly 300 more to be sold next Friday via the internet, were consigned to Heritage by Helen Carpenter, granddaughter of the patron saint of hoops. She had discovered them recently in her basement, stored away by her mother and told "there wasn’t really anything of value in there." Friday’s prices proved otherwise. She watched the results unfold near her St. Louis home, surprised at some prices paid but surprised that not everything sold. "High-ranking" NBA people were said to be active participants.
Notes Naismith made about the first game, played in a Springfield, MA gym in 1891, went for $71,700. Typewritten rules and notes relating to early basketball sold well above the initial estimate. Another Naismith descendant, grandson Ian Naismith, had questioned the dating of the rules, which he believed were from 1910-1925, but a bidder on the floor was apparently unconcerned, winning the item for $53,775.
Other highlights included:
- Naismtih’s 1936 passport, carried with him to the Berlin Olympics and including several signatures $20,315
- Photo of the Springfield gym with note indicating the peach baskets pictured were those used in the first game $19,120
- Signed "business card" dated 1939 $17,925 (highest price ever for a Naismith autograph)
- Whistle used by Naismith $13,145