Mark Wells was the last player added to the 1980 U.S. men's national hockey team, which stunned the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice" -- named the greatest sporting moment of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated -- and then defeated Finland for Olympic gold at the Lake Placid Winter Games in New York. He scored goals in wins over Norway and Romania in the tournament; now, he's making a different kind of Olympic history.
According to the Boston Herald, Wells' Olympic gold medal will be up for auction, making it one of the rarest collectables in the still-booming market of "Miracle" memorabilia.
Wells, a forward who was drafted 17th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 1977 and later signed with the New York Rangers, never played a game in the NHL before retiring in 1982. He worked in the restaurant business until his early 40s, when he developed a genetic disease that attacked his spinal cord discs and has affected him since the mid-1980s. Forced on hard times, Wells had to sell the medal to a Connecticut memorabilia collector a few years ago, according to the Herald. That collector has now put the "Miracle" medal on the market.
Phil Castinetti, owner of Sportsworld, Inc., a sports memorabilia shop in Saugus, Mass., is helping to a find a buyer. Castinetti told Puck Daddy on Monday that he is waiting to see if any offers come in that would warrant a sale; otherwise, the gold medal will be sold via an eBay auction.
As we saw this summer with the sale of Paul Henderson's jersey from the 1972 Summit Series, sports artifacts can inspire very large sale prices. Castinetti told the Boston Herald that he thinks Wells' gold medal will sell for around $125,000 because of its scarcity, as there are only 20 out there. A "spare" medal from 1980, that wasn't given to a player, sold at auction in March for nearly $15,000, according to Classic Auctions.
The medal comes with a letter from Wells that was given to the original purchaser of the medal verifying its authenticity. From the Herald:
"The gold medal symbolizes my personal accomplishments and our team's accomplishments being reached," wrote Wells. "As one of only 20 players to receive this gold medal, it has held a special place in my heart since February of 1980.
"When I decided recently to offer it out . . . I also decided until the day I give it up, it will be worn. Therefore, I have slept with this medal for the past two weeks now in my home ... I hope you will cherish this medal as I have."
Finding suitors for the medal likely won't be hard, given the fondness that the sporting world has for the "Miracle" team -- but not all potential parties will be part of the bidding process. Tom Sersha, director/curator of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, said Monday morning that it doesn't have a budget for acquisitions and that everything inside the Eveleth, Minn., museum is donated. It does have one gold medal from the 1980 Olympics on display, belonging to Eveleth native Mark Pavelich, who played on the team.
Castinetti said he has never seen an item this unique up for sale in his time in the business. Stanley Cup rings and other awards won by players are auctioned every year, but the gold medal, from one of the greatest sports stories ever told, is one to be treasured.
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