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Memorabilia auction at the Super Bowl NFL Experience in Tampa to raise money for charity

This ticket for the first Super Bowl is being auctioned at the NFL Experience. It’s for an “expensive” seat; face value is $12.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

This ticket for the first Super Bowl is being auctioned at the NFL Experience. It’s for an “expensive” seat; face value is $12.

TAMPA — Tom Plunkett won't be one of the bidders when an original ticket to Super Bowl I is auctioned off at the NFL Experience this week.

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He has one at home.

Plunkett, 69, of Lakeland attended the first Super Bowl, on Jan. 15, 1967, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He paid $6, but so few people were at the game that Plunkett and his friend sat on the 40-yard line in the "expensive" seats — which sold for $12.

"In the beginning, anybody could go," said Plunkett, who plans to pass his ticket on to his 15-year-old grandson, T.J. "Now you have to be rich to get a ticket."

Price didn't seem to matter much to some of the people browsing NFL memorabilia that will be auctioned live at 1 p.m. Saturday by Hunt Auctions of Exton, Pa.

Featured items include a John Elway Denver Broncos model jersey circa 1983-88, valued between $7,000 and $10,000; Super Bowl programs from 1967 through 2008, valued between $2,000 and $3,000; and a Jim Brown Cleveland Browns model jersey circa 1962-65, valued between $20,000 and $30,000.

Some of the signed jerseys still have game-day dirt and grass stains, which impressed David and Rosa Baxter.

The Baxters of Valrico strolled through the auction aisle with their children, marveling at the leather helmets they'd seen only on television and in movies. Son David Jr., 11, clung to a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet he hoped to get signed by former player Jerome Bettis so he could begin a collection.

Some of the more than 300 lots up for bid are on display as part of a silent auction leading up to the live event. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to charities chosen by the NFL, players and participating teams.

John Vreeman, 45, of Odessa started his sports memorabilia collection in the late 1980s.

Hunt Auctions is putting a football Vreeman owns up for bidding. It features the signatures of about 25 NFL quarterback legends Vreeman met in Orlando in 1990. The ink is starting to bleed on the football, so Vreeman decided to get rid of it before it loses all its value.

"It's kind of like finding a new home for your dog," Vreeman said.

One item he refuses to relinquish, no matter how much it may be worth: a helmet with 21 signatures from the Super Bowl XXXVII champion Bucs, including then-coach Jon Gruden. A counselor for Carlton Manor 3, a foster child program in Pinellas Park, Vreeman said collecting signatures is something he shares with the children.

"I've got more helmets than my wife will admit," he said.

Hunt Auctions appraised the Bucs helmet at about $500 but said the value will go up with more signatures, Vreeman said.

"But I'm not selling this," he said. "I'll be buried with it."

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Pennsylvania-based Hunt Auctions will hold a live auction Saturday at 1 p.m. in the card show tent at the NFL Experience, adjacent to Raymond James Stadium. Nationally recognized experts also will be available Thursday and Friday to conduct complimentary appraisals for attendees to the NFL Experience.

To schedule a private consultation with Hunt Auctions, call 610-524-0822.

Bids for the live auction may be made by phone, using the same number, in person or online at www.nflauction.nfl.com or www.HuntAuctions.com. Visit either site for a list of available items and other information.

Memorabilia auction at the Super Bowl NFL Experience in Tampa to raise money for charity 01/25/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 25, 2009 9:49pm]
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