I remember when I use to be surprised by the types of historically significant antiques that you could find on places like eBay.com. However, I don’t think anything shocks me anymore.
As you may know, I am a huge fan of college football antiques and I am always looking to see what is out there floating around. While searching eBay.com today, I found the 1948 Gator Bowl MVP Trophy that was presented to Lu Gambino of the University of Maryland.
It is apparently not being auctioned off but is simply for sale. The seller [u.c.berkeley-stanford_collector] is asking $999.99 (or best offer) for the trophy. While $999.99 is not considered “cheap” by most people’s standards, it is fairly standard to ask around this much for a trophy of this kind.
Further, the seller claims to have purchased the trophy at the estate sale of the Gambino family. Assuming that is accurate, there is probably not much to worry about in terms of whether or not this trophy is authentic.
How much should I offer?
If I were in the market for such an item, I would probably make an offer below the asking price. There are several reasons for this:
- [I am posting this first point here because it is good information for buyers to know, however, according to the description of the trophy (written by the seller) this trophy was purchased from the Gambino’s estate sale.] When a trophy can not be (or is not) verified as being the actual / authentic trophy, I tend to make a more conservative offer. While most trophies of this time period (late 1940’s – early 1950’s) looked about the same or similar to the one featured in this eBay listing, you never know if someone is trying to pass off a fake as the real thing. Take a minute to email the seller and ask questions to find out how much they know about the trophy. Maybe the seller can verify its authenticity. You never know until you ask. [Again, in this particular case, all you have to do is verify that there was, in fact, an estate sale. If the sale was handled by an auction company, they will have record of this piece being sold. If it was simply handled by the executor of the estate, they may (or may not) have record of the trophy.]
- The Real Reason: While $999.99 isn’t a bad price, it is definitely on the higher end of what collectors normally pay for college bowl MVP trophies. If this was the actual bowl game trophy that was awarded to the winning team, it would be a little different story. However, this is merely the MVP trophy from that game. While it is still a rare item (and is probably the only one that exists), MVP trophies don’t typically sell for almost $1,000.
- Ownership: Who owns the trophy? It is my understanding that you do not legally hold title to the trophy simply because you buy it on eBay. This means that if the rightful owner comes along and wants it back, they will have the law on their side in reclaiming it. However, if you want this item, don’t let this keep you from possibly purchasing it. Just ask the seller how he came into possession of the trophy, and is he aware of its chain of title, etc. For all we know, the seller holds the title to the trophy and is willing to pass it to you upon purchase. There are many ways you can legally obtain title to an item like this, just make sure you investigate the possibilities. Finally, if you are uncertain don’t spend more than you are willing to lose should the original owner come calling. [In this particular case, if you can verify that the seller of this trophy bought it at the Gambino’s estate sale, the title of the trophy will most likely be a non-issue.]
How do I verify if this trophy is the real thing?
Again, there are several ways to do this. Here are a few things you can do to increase your odds of buying an original piece. Some of these things may seem a little over-the-top, but if you are going to spend close to $1,000 on something like this, don’t you want to make sure it is the real thing?
(These methods work for any college football trophy you may be interested in buying. I am using this MVP trophy as only an example. Again, in the case of this particular trophy, if the seller bought it at an estate sale, you most likely won’t have any problems with authenticity.)
- Search online for a photo from the 1948 Gator Bowl. If you are lucky, you may find a photo of the trophy the day it was presented.
- Search online for photos from the University of Maryland’s trophy display cases. You may not be able to find any photos from 1948 (see step 1) but you could find some photos of the Maryland football facility in the 1960’s. With any luck, you might spot this trophy sitting in a case (and will have something to compare it too).
- Contact the University of Maryland athletics department and ask to speak to who is in charge of their football trophies and / or sports museum (or their sports and/or university archivist). This person will most likely be able to help you locate some info on the trophy.
- Contact the University of Maryland (alumni association, or other football alumni group) in order to find the contact information for Lu Gambino. He, or his relatives, will surely know the entire history behind the trophy.
- Look for a photo of the 1948 Gator Bowl Trophy. Typically, the MVP trophies are somewhat similar in style to the original trophy that was handed out to the winning team. This is not a hard and fast rule as the MVP trophies don’t always look the same as the main trophy.
- Contact the Gator Bowl and ask them if they have records of what the 1948 MVP or Main trophy looked like. If they have a good archive program, they might be able to send you a photo of the trophy via email.
- Finally, if you really want to get down and dirty, you will have to contact the University of Maryland archives. They will either have some information, or will be able to point you in the right direction.
At the end of the day, I have no reason to believe that this particular trophy is not the real deal. You should be able to contact the seller and he/she will most likely be able to provide you with whatever assurances you need in order to purchase this particular item.
If you are a Maryland fan and you are thinking of making an offer on this trophy (but haven’t done so yet because you have concerns), I hope this post helps you out and makes it easier for you to obtain such an interesting piece of college football history.
The following information was taken directly from the eBay listing: [emphasis added]
For bid is an original January 1948 Gator Bowl FOOTBALL game MVP Trophy from the estate of Lu Gambino, a star for the University of Maryland Terrapins during the 1947 season. This amazing, unique wood-and-metal trophy features a football player kicking at the top and an Eagle shape at the center, partially in front of the award plaque. The award was given to Gambino following the 1948 20-20 tie game between the University of Maryland Terrapins versus the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Gambino scored all three Terrapin touchdowns, running for two and catching a pass for the third. He ran for a total of 165 yards in the game. Lucien Anthony “Lu” Gambino (1923-2003) was a star running back for the Maryland Terps in 1946 and 1947. Following his playing days at Maryland, he played some football for the Baltimore Colts in 1948 and 1949 when that team competed in the AAFC, before that team joined the NFL in 1953. A knee injury ended his professional career early. This game was played January 1, 1948 at Jacksonville, Florida. This was the third “Gator Bowl” postseason football game.
NOW, TO THE TROPHY ITSELF: This is officially the [sic]
University of Maryland
Selected by Sports
Announcers and Writers
January 1st 1948
This is engraved in the metal plate at the center of the trophy. Two smaller plates have the scores of the two teams on each side of the lower area of the trophy. There is a punting football player at the top who is removable at the ankle. This is a terrific trophy. There is a chip to the upper area of the wood base. See my photo. It must have dropped of a shelf or was otherwise damaged at the Gambino home. I purchased this with some other memorabilia from Gambino’s estate. I will include some photos and other personal items with this great trophy. With the football player attached, the trophy measures about 17 inches or so high off the ground. There are some rusty chipping areas to the main plaque area. They aren’t too bad. Otherwise, the trophy is really nice. Please let me know if you have any questions whatsoever. I will ship the item for $24.50 DOMESTIC California residents pay 8.75 percent sales tax on items shipped within California unless you have a resale license. Please inquire for foreign shipping costs; I’ll be happy to provide them… Thanks for looking and happy bidding.