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Vince Lombardi's $43,000 Sweater: Found For $0.58 At Goodwill06:32
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This interview originally aired on Feb, 14, 2015. This week it appears again as a part of our ‘Best Of‘ show. 

Sean and Rikki McEvoy are no strangers to thrift store shopping. They are the owners of a vintage clothing business. They currently live in Knoxville, Tenn., and in June 2014 at a Goodwill in Asheville, N.C., they found something special: a sweater across which was written "West Point."

And that was only the beginning...

It sounds crazy but it just has a weird energy. It felt like, "I'm really going to regret altering this."

Rikki McEvoy

SM: What happened was we had a day off from doing our typical day of, like, listing, and we decided to go to Asheville to have dinner or to eat and we decided to stop by a Goodwill outlet to see if we could find anything, maybe to pay for the gas money to get back home or something like that. Something that we could do a quick flip.

RM: We always justify vacations that way.

SM: That's how we pay for vacations. But then our destination is to go have fun. The United States is big. It's full of awesome, different cities and stuff like that, so we wanna go see it all.

BL: And this time you found something that I think probably will do more than cover gas. 

SM: Yeah, yeah.

RM: Yeah, I think so.

BL: Well, what you found was legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi's sweater from his days as an assistant coach at West Point. It's said to be worth something like $20,000. Describe what the sweater looked like and why you said, "Yeah, we'll go 58 cents for this."

There's stuff that I find on a daily basis that will get a smile out of my face. I just like the thrill of the hunt. It's something that's brought my wife and I closer together.

Sean McEvoy

SM: Well, it's not hard to shimmy 58 cents out of your pocket [from] the get-go, but the sweater, by the construction design, the quarter-zip, I was like, "Oh, it's a '40s sweater." It's got the long bar waistband on the bottom. And it's got a vintage '40s talon zipper. It's really neat.

RM: The funny thing is, I mean we went — it was at the  end of the day, and it was really just like a, "Well, should we even bother going because everything is going to be really picked over?" They do a lot of the rotations earlier, so when you go later you're kind of getting the leftovers or the crumbs at that point. So we went, and you kind of get in a mad rush, you know, of just kind of going through everything. So you find something, you put it in the cart, you pay for it, you bring it home and then you really start looking over it thoroughly — later, like, once you're ready to process it.

There was a couple moth holes in it, but the sweater all-in-all was in great shape. The fabric was really soft still. The zipper, there was no rust on it, so the garment in itself was in good condition. There was just a few moth holes and I was thinking, "Maybe I'll patch this up sweater so Sean could wear it."

SM: I thought it was a basketball warm-up jacket from West Point, like from one of the players. I had no idea that it was associated with the football team until we saw the documentary on Vince Lombardi and saw a picture of him wearing it. And then I was like, "Rikki, wouldn't that be crazy if that was Vince Lombardi's?"

And she's like, "There's a name! There's a name!" "Oh yeah, what's the name? Vince Lomardi or something?" And she's like, "Yeah, that's the one!" The magic happened then and my heart drooped. I actually started tearing up a little bit because I'm a huge fan of football and Vince Lombardi and Notre Dame. But having a legend like Vince Lombardi, holding something that he wore in your hands is pretty incredible.

Vince Lombardi won five titles while coaching the Green Bay Packers. (AP File Photos)
Vince Lombardi won five titles while coaching the Green Bay Packers. (AP File Photos)

BL: But Rikki, I have to ask you. You saw the name Lombardi. Did the name mean anything to you?

RM: Not really, I mean, I'm kinda like --

SM: She likes Bruins hockey a lot more.

RM: I like hockey, but I don't know. I grew up watching baseball. I grew up with my dad taking me to Mariners games all the time, so I don't --

SM: She had a big crush on the Big Unit.

RM: Yeah, I thought Randy Johnson was really handsome, so --

SM: And I'm kind of an odd looking character, so thanks Randy!

RM: But yeah, the timing is what is really insane because I went through this bin of things I needed to repair the day before. And I was sitting at my sewing machine and I had it in my lap and I was kind of just looking it over and really like kind of mulling it over. I had this feeling in my gut that I'm really gonna regret altering this piece.

I don't know why I felt that way. But it took me about five minutes just to really think about it. So I was kind of like, "OK, I need to fold this up and come back to it later because I just don't know --" It sounds crazy but it just has a weird energy. It felt like, "I'm really going to regret altering this."

BL: Something told you that tampering with something that Vince Lombardi had worn — even to fix it — would be a bad idea. 

RM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We're ladies. We're very intuitive. So Sean's watching this documentary the very next day and that's when — I couldn't spit it out of my mouth fast enough: that was the name that was inside of it.

SM: I'm just like laughing. I'm like there's no way that that actually could have been worn by Vince Lombardi until I saw the tag, and then I knew it was real. Next step: call the NFL Hall of Fame, show them pictures, and the guy's like, "you wanna give this to us?"

And I was like, you know, after watching that documentary, I was like, "I wanna give it to Vince, Jr. because Vince could be a hard man sometimes." They say in the documentary that he may have been bipolar or something like that. They didn't know that then. I was like, "Oh, he would really like to have this" or something like that, and Rikk's like, "I'm putting the kibosh on that. We are selling this thing." And the next step is I contact Heritage [Auctions].

BL: The only negative thing that I can think of in connection with this story is every trip to a Goodwill Store or a thrift shop from now on is going to be a terrible letdown.

SM: No, that's not the case. There's stuff that I find on a daily basis that will get a smile out of my face. I just like the thrill of the hunt. It's something that's brought my wife and I closer together, so it's fun for us, and this is a real story. It's not like American Pickers or Storage Wars where all the stuff is planted and they're like, "Oh, look what I found!"

BL: A gold coin!

SM: "Hey Gale, this one's for you. It's really got a wow factor!"

Editor's Note: Less than two weeks after Sean and Rikki McEvoy joined us on Only A Game, the sweater sold at an auction in New York City for $43,020

This segment aired on December 26, 2015.

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