Imagine walking into a room with an unfathomable collection of some of the world’s most rare and valuable sports memorabilia. A room that is so mind-blowing that after you leave, you have to take a deep breath and say to yourself: “What the hell did I just see?”
I just lived that exact scenario after being lucky enough to get a rare tour of the private off-site vault of Sports Immortals in Boca Raton, Florida. The collection is the culmination of collector Joel Platt’s life long goal of “preserving the legacy of sports legends and their record-breaking achievements.”
With an appraised value in excess of $125,000,000, this collection boasts over one million momentos from the greatest athletes of all time and was touted by the Smithsonian Institute as “... absolutely the most outstanding collection in all of sports”.
I could have spent an entire year inside the vault if we gave every piece of the collection the attention it deserved. The room consisted of framed memorabilia hanging on the walls and stacks of locked army trunks full of sports treasure. Joel’s son and Sports Immortals President, Jim Platt, schooled me on the history of some of the more prominent items.
On one wall, James Corbett’s actual boxing gloves from his match with John L. Sullivan in 1892. A quick tilt of the head and I was staring at one of Muhammad Ali’s championship belts. Another wall featured the first trading cards ever printed, the 1887 Allen & Ginter “World Champions” set, framed in pristine condition. Around another corner was a frame containing the original “Articles of Association” for the Philadelphia Athletics, signed by Cornelius A. McGillicuddy (Connie Mack). Another frame contained the letter that Jim Brown sent to Art Modell in 1966 announcing his retirement from the NFL.
After staring at the walls, I couldn’t wait to see what was locked up inside all of the hundreds of trunks. Jim began opening many of them, one-by-one, and each was more mind-blowing than the previous one.