Who needs lottery tickets these days when Goodwill stores exist?
Sean and Rikki McEvoy, a couple hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, were looking for resalable vintage clothing at an Asheville, North Carolina Goodwill store when they came upon an old, navy sweater that simply read “West Point” across the front. They purchased the sweater for 58 cents after the sweater was weighed for cost at $1 per pound, a Goodwill policy.
“I picked it up and thought it was cool. At first, I thought it was a basketball warm-up,” McEvoy told ESPN.com.
The couple noticed after leaving the store that the sweater had a cloth name tag with the word “Lombardi” written across it in black ink.
Months later in November was when the couple realized the sweater was, in fact, not a basketball warm-up at all, but was instead a covetable treasure.
The couple recounted the moment they realized they had something special on their hands to WBIR.com:
“ … I was watching a Vince Lombardi documentary and saw a picture of him wearing the sweater just like the one we bought.
And Rikki’s like, there is a name under the tag.”
“Sean said he asked Rikki in a sarcastic voice, ‘The name is not Lombardi, is it?’”
“‘And she’s like, yeah, that’s the name. Lombardi,’ said Sean. ‘My heart just dropped.’”
Upon realizing their sweater was once owned by legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, Sean called the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, who wanted the couple to donate the sweater. However, Rikki “put the kibosh” on the idea and they decided instead to put it up for auction.
After contacting Heritage Auctions, Sean drove 18 hours to Dallas to have the sweater examined by Mears, which used high-powered microscopes, among other tools, to determine that the sweater was authentic, according to ABC News.
On Saturday, the Vince Lombardi-owned sweater, estimated to be at least 65 years old, sold for $43,020 at auction in New York.
“With all of the press coverage I think it sold for twice as much as anybody thought,” Sean told the Citizen-Times. “I’m really happy. It’s a great blessing. We were lucky to have found something like that.”
Vince Lombardi’s son, Vince Lombardi Jr., weighed in on the sweater’s value as well: “It’s kind of hard to fathom spending that kind of money for a sweater but these are the times we live in. Whoever gets it I hope treasures it.”
According to the Citizen-Times, the sweater was donated to Goodwill by the widow of Bill Wannamaker, who coached with Lombardi at Army for a year in 1952.
“We don’t want to try and seek any proceeds from it,” the Wannamaker couple’s daughter, Kelly Lao, told the publication. “We just want people to know where it came from. We were all surprised about it. I guess if we had thought about it, somebody would have come up with the brilliant idea to get it appraised.”
At the Wannamaker family’s request, however, Heritage Auctions is donating their entire cut of the sweater’s sale, nearly $4,000, to Goodwill.
The sweater was far from being the most expensive item at the auction on Saturday. A pair of gloves used by Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston in their 1965 rematch fetched an astounding $956,000.
Lombardi’s sweater is only the latest treasure found at the resale chain. Last month, a rare Swiss watch purchased for $5.99 at a Phoenix, Arizona Goodwill store sold for $35,000 at auction.