'This piece is pretty special': Fuzzy Thurston's Super Bowl I ring expected to net six figures at auction
GREEN BAY – Three months after former Green Bay Packers linebacker Dave Robinson auctioned his Super Bowl I ring for a record price, another ring from a familiar face will be up for grabs this weekend.
The Super Bowl I ring that belonged to former offensive lineman and fan favorite Fuzzy Thurston will be part of Heritage Auctions’ fall sports event that takes place online at HA.com Friday through Sunday.
Thurston died in 2014. He played for the Packers from 1959 to 1967 and remained a beloved figure in the city years after he retired.
In his post-Packers days, he and business partners opened a chain of restaurants.
He opened Fuzzy’s Shenanigans, a tavern he owned from 1984 to 1999, first in Allouez and later on Green Bay’s west side, and also owned Fuzzy’s 63 Bar and Grill from 1999 to 2010.
Original Super Bowl I rings remain almost impossible to find on the open market. There have been only four previous examples known to have exchanged hands since the game was played in January 1967.
Former offensive lineman Steve Wright’s ring was the first to be sold at auction when it went for $73,409 in 2011.
Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jerry Kramer’s ring was auctioned for $125,475 in 2016. Robinson broke that mark when his sold for $174,000 in August, setting the highest auction price for a Super Bowl I or Super Bowl II ring.
Former linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke’s Super Bowl I ring sold privately for an unknown amount.
That’s the entire list, which is why the Thurston ring is estimated to go for six figures.
Unlike previous auctions, this one is required to go for that much. A reserve price of $100,000 has been placed on the ring, so if no bid hits that mark, it won’t be sold and will be returned to the man who consigned it with Heritage.
That man is Dennis Prock, who lives in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. He was friends with Thurston and acquired the ring in a private sale years ago.
Thurston’s Super Bowl II replacement ring was auctioned for $50,788 in 2011, a sale ordered by the U.S. government because of $1.7 million owed in back taxes.
The Super Bowl I ring being auctioned is the original.
The band was resized by Thurston when he owned it, which has left the bottom edge of the band slightly obscured while also taking off part of the “Josten 14K” stamping that appears on each ring.
“I’m not comfortable with parting with it,” Prock said with a laugh. “But you understand. I don’t wear it. It’s been in a safe, locked up. It’s like, how many toys do you need? I’m 68 years old and I don’t mind it being in there, but I just never wore it out of respect for Fuzzy because I knew Fuzzy real well. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t play.
“I wouldn’t sell the autographed picture he gave me of the block he had in Super Bowl I. Personalized. There are certain things I wouldn’t sell, but someone else could get more enjoyment out of this.”
Most collectors don’t prefer auctions with a reserve price. It often eliminates their hopes of getting a steal, or at least landing an item perceived to be below market.
It might not matter in this instance, based on how few rings are available and that Thurston is a well-known player from the Super Bowl era.
There can be discussions by an auction house about whether to accept an item with a required reserve. It’s not always ideal. Most prefer a natural auction process that has collectors determine the value.
“In this case, it’s such a conservative reserve based on the Super Bowl I and II rings that recently sold from Dave Robinson that I’m not concerned at all,” said Heritage sports consignment director Chris Nerat, a well-known Packers collector who lives in Green Bay during football season. “It should easily hit the reserve. It should be a nonfactor when considering the final result of the ring. It’s so conservative it’s almost like it doesn’t even have a reserve on it.”
In other words, everyone associated with the auction believes this will become the third Super Bowl I ring to clear $100,000.
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Nerat still has a picture with his two cousins that was taken with Thurston when they were children.
In the photo, Nerat is holding the same ring now being auctioned. He wasn’t the only Packers fan to get an opportunity to wear that ring over the years.
“Fuzzy was such a notable figure in Green Bay and in Wisconsin for so many years with his restaurants, his bars, doing public (autograph) signings, public appearances,” Nerat said. “He just loved being able to share his Super Bowl I ring with all the fans for a picture or just to hold it.
“Someone can see a piece like this in a major auction in 2022 and they can say, ‘I held that piece.’ That’s why, to me, this piece is pretty special. The other reasons are the obvious ones. Any Super Bowl I ring is always a holy grail for any hobbyist. … It’s got everything going for it.”