NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two Kansas University basketball fans paid more than $4.3 million on Friday for the faded and soiled original rules of basketball drawn up by the sport’s founder James Naismith more than a century ago.
The auction price for Naismith’s “Founding Rules of Basketball” — two signed typescript pages spelling out the 13 original rules for the then-new game — set a new record for a piece of sports memorabilia.
The founding basketball rules, headed “Basket Ball” written in Naismith’s hand, were typed up in December 1891 on the very morning he introduced the sport to the world.
The two 10-by-8 inch pages, slightly faded and soiled and bearing tape marks from Naismith’s attempts to preserve them, had been expected to sell for about $2 million.
They were bought by David and Suzanne Booth, who said they hoped to bring them to the University of Kansas, where the sport borders on religion with one of the most successful college basketball programs in history.
Naismith was KU’s first basketball coach, and Booth is an alumnus.
Naismith spent the last four decades of his life in Kansas and is also buried there.
The couple said they were inspired to bid by lifelong Kansas basketball fan Josh Swade, who in recent weeks had lobbied for returning the rules to Kansas, which Naismith brought basketball to in 1898.
The sport has since become one of the nation’s most popular, along with baseball and football, and is booming internationally in places such as China and Eastern Europe.
In 1999 the baseball hit by Mark McGwire as he broke the single-season record for home runs sold for $3 million.
Naismith mounted the rules on mat board and endorsed them, “First draft of Basket Ball rules. Hung in the gym that the boys might learn the rules - Decr 1891.”
They were sold by the Naismith International Basketball Foundation and were only one of several strong prices achieved at Sotheby’s sale of books, manuscripts and rare historical documents.
Also on Friday, Robert F. Kennedy’s copy of The Emancipation Proclamation fetched nearly $3.8 million.
The copy of Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation, printed in 1864 and signed by the 16th president who like Kennedy was assassinated, sold for $3,778,500 to an anonymous buyer, or more than twice the high pre-sale estimate of $1.5 million.
The price set a record for any presidential document sold at auction.
The rare 21-3/4 by 17-3/8-inch relic, which with the stroke of a pen declared freedom for U.S. slaves, was purchased by Kennedy in 1964 for $9.500. It is one of only a handful of Emancipation Proclamations remaining in private hands, with another 19 owned by institutions such as Washington’s Library of Congress and the British Museum.
A mounted 27 by 33-inch, 35-star silk flag flown by Custer’s battalion at the Battle of Little Bighorn sold for $2,210,500, but had been expected to sell for anywhere from $2 million to $5 million.
The flag was bought by an unidentified American collector. It was the lone Custer flag not seized by Indians who battled Custer in 1876, and is regarded at the battle’s most significant artifact, Sotheby’s said.
Two hand-written pages of Bob Dylan’s lyrics for his seminal 1960s anthem “The Times They Are A-Changin” sold for $422,500, more than twice the low estimate.
The dog-eared, smudged manuscript was written in pencil by Dylan, and is titled “by Bob Dylan.”
Editing by Greg McCune