Pair of Nets ABA championship banners make unique auction items
As Lelands sports memorabilia auctions go, it is relatively small potatoes, items that figure to get comfortably into four digits but are unlikely to reach five.
Still, some stuff is cooler than others, and to Lelands president Mike Heffner, the two Nets championship banners from the Nassau Coliseum days currently for sale on his site rank high by that measure.
"To me, they’re cooler than Knicks banners from Madison Square Garden or Celtics banners from the Boston Garden," he said. (Lelands handled memorabilia sales from the old Boston Garden.)
Why? Because of the specificity of the bygone era they evoke: The mid-1970s in the colorful, quirky ABA, in this case starring Roosevelt’s own Julius Erving.
Beyond that, arena banners allow people to recall – or imagine – all that went on beneath them, Heffner said.
"These things saw a lot of history being made," he said. "These probably hung over the head of Elvis at one point in time. I’d love to see what those banners saw.
"That’s one of the reasons arena artifacts and stadium artifacts are so widely collected, because people realize that they weren’t just there for one moment, they were there for, sometimes, decades."
Elvis Presley’s final concert at Nassau Coliseum was in July of 1975, so only one of the banners might have witnessed that occasion. The Nets won in 1974 and ’76. But you get the point.
For a Nets fan of a certain age, the banners would make for quite a conversation piece. High ceilings would help; the banners each are 91.5 inches by 140 inches.
The online auction, which ends at 10 p.m. on March 12, began with a minimum bid of $500 and as of Thursday morning was up to $1,074.
Heffner was unable to provide details of the banners’ provenance, saying only that they had been in collectors’ hands. Lelands believes they were produced in the 1970s and removed around the time the Coliseum closed for renovations in 2015.
Heffner said that old-school cloth banners typically did not wear well because of the heat and dirt that rises to the rafters of arenas, and that they usually were thrown away when replaced.
"What I can tell you is that they are old, from the '70s, based on the construction, the cloth and the sewing," he said. "They were the banners that actually hung there."
Heffner said it is "practically impossible" for the banners to be fake and not worth the trouble anyway, given that their value at auction probably is not much more than it would have cost to have produce them.
"I have all the faith in the world that they are vintage, and they are original," he said.
And if not, Lelands offers a lifetime guarantee on their items should someone prove otherwise.