Lombardi sweater sells for $43K at auction

Scott Venci
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Sean McEvoy has been busy since he put up for auction a sweater that once belonged to Vince Lombardi.

It sold Saturday for $43,020.

The Nashville, Tenn., man — who found the sweater of the Green Bay Packers' legendary coach at a Goodwill store in Asheville, N.C., last summer — has taken about 20 phone calls from national media members after the story of his lucky find spread last week.

The sweater, which he bought for 58 cents, was part of Heritage Auctions' Platinum Night Sports Auction in New York City this weekend.

"It's really neat, and I'm happy to talk about it with anybody that really wants to," McEvoy said. "With this Vince Lombardi sweater, there is only one of them, and there are so many fans of him from all different parts of the country that it would be a shame if the person (who) found it wasn't happy or excited about it."

The sweater was authenticated by MEARS, which provides evaluation and research to help authenticate jerseys and other items, but it was initially unknown how it ended up at a Goodwill store.

That question was answered last week, when Kelly Lao told the Asheville Citizen-Times that the sweater belonged to her father, Bill Wannamaker, who was an assistant coach at West Point in 1952.

Lao told the Citizen-Times that her parents moved to western North Carolina in 2003. Her father died in 2008.

Her mother, Ann Wannamaker, was cleaning last year and donated several items she found to Goodwill. One of them was the Lombardi sweater, although Ann didn't realize what she was giving away.

Lao and her mother called Heritage to inform them after Ann saw a story about the sweater.

"We don't want to try and seek any proceeds from it," Lao told the Citizen-Times. "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."

Heritage consignment director Chris Nerat said Heritage will donate the entire seller's commission to Goodwill in the name of the family.

"When the family called that originally donated the sweater to Goodwill, that was very important because it completed the story of basically what we already knew had to happen," Nerat said. "But we didn't know the exact details. Now, it pretty much completed the story of how it ended up in the Goodwill and that it came from the family of one of Coach Lombardi's colleagues at West Point.

"It connected the dots to an amazing story."

As for the Lombardi family, Vince Lombardi Jr. told Press-Gazette Media earlier this month that the sweater represents a big part of his father's life.

"That's a neat thing," Lombardi Jr. said. "West Point was an important part of my dad's formation. I don't think he would have been the coach he was had he not spent that time at West Point. That was a marvelous time. For me, it was kind of a time for innocence."

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