|By Jim Rutledge
With the 2013 BCS National Football Championship bowl game on the books, sports memorabilia collectors and sports fans can see why Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston won college football’s most prestigious football award, the Heisman Trophy, a month earlier.
But, like previous Heisman Trophy winners, one can assume Winston’s 25-pound bronze Heisman has settled in on Winston’s home shelf, like many of the previous 78 Heisman trophies, except for a few that have been snatched up by sports memorabilia collectors.
Each winning college is issued a single trophy as well as one to each for the 78 annual winners. According to various published accounts, 32 of the 58 living Heisman winners retain possession of their trophy, while family members retain 19 others. Seven are reported to be on display in museums and two are featured at the Stadium Museum, Restaurant and Bar in Garrison, N.Y.
And to collectors delight, five have been sold in auctions, several by the Long Island sport auction house, Lelands, the world’s leading sport auction company.
The Heisman trophies sold in auction include:
•Larry Kelley’s 1936 trophy was the second-ever awarded while he playing for Yale University and sold by Leland’s in December 1999, to the owner of the Stadium Museum, Restaurant and Bar for $328,100.
•O.J. Simpson’s 1968 trophy was sold in February 1999 for $255,000 to settle part of a $33.5 million court judgment against him for the stabbing death of his ex-wife and her friend. It was sold by the L.A. Auction house Butterfields and Butterfields. The trophy was the first ever to go on the auction block and its plaque contains the misspelling of the word athletic, which is missing the letter “h.” Simpson played for the University of Southern California. The trophy was sold to a 47-year-old Pennsylvania collector Tom Kriessman who told reporters at the time, he bought it to impress his girl friend. The location of the trophy and the whereabouts of Kriessman is unknown.
•Bruce P. Smith’s 1941 trophy sold for $395,240.66 by Leland’s, the highest amount to date for the Heisman. It was sold in December 2005. Smith was a running back for University of Minnesota. It was sold to California businessman Gary Cypres, who owns the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, a private museum of 10,000 artifacts, opened by invitation only.
•Charlie White’s 1979 trophy was consigned to Leland’s by White himself in 2000, and it sold in auction for $184,000. It was bought by an anonymous football sports collector, according to Leland’s. The trophy later again showed up in auction and was sold by Grey Flannel Auctions, of Westhampton Beach, N.Y., for $293,750 to a West Coast Collector.
•Paul Hornung’s 1956 trophy was sold in 2000 for $250,000 to fund scholarships for Notre Dame students from his home town of Louisville, Ky. He won his Heisman as Notre Dame quarterback. A couple of years ago, he auctioned a re-issue of the same winning Heisman trophy at SCP Auctions along with his other collectibles for charity. Hornung’s original trophy is on display at the Stadium Museum, Restaurant and Bar in Garrison, N.Y.
•Two other Heisman’s have been sold by Leland’s in private sales by the family’s representing the unidentified Heisman winners. Leland declined to identify the trophy owners because of confidentially agreements with the trophy owners.
The Heisman trophy design shows the running back in full stride with his right arm outstretched and is an icon of the sport of football, and is instantly recognizable to the hardcore and casual sports fan alike. The trophy is made of cast bronze, 13 1/2 inches tall and weighs 25 pounds – 45 pounds with the wood base.
The Heisman trophy is peerless among the nation’s most valuable player (MVP) awards.
The trophy namesake was John Heisman, a player, coach, and successful innovator in the early days of football. He played at Brown University and Penn State from 1887 to 1891 and then started coaching. He was the Athletic Director at New York’s famous Downtown Athletic Club in 1935.
The award was created that year for the most valuable football player in the East. The award was named in Heisman’s honor a year later after he died of pneumonia and included players throughout the nation.
An original plaster case of artist’s Frank Eliscu’s original 1935 Heisman trophy sculpture sold at Sotheby’s for $228,000 in December 2005.