In 1961, newlywed Joel Platt and his wife were headed to Atlantic City from their Pittsburgh home for a vacation. On the way, he told her that they were taking a detour.
The Platts made a stop in Philadelphia, where a 7-foot-1 center nicknamed “The Big Dipper” resided. Platt, a fledgling sports memorabilia collector, drove through the Overbrook neighborhood and, with the help of a couple of people, was directed to the Chamberlain residence. NBA All-Star Wilt Chamberlain wasn’t home, but his mother, father, and sister were, and they gifted Platt with a jersey from his days at Overbrook High.
“Memorabilia had no value back then, so more often than not, families or athletes had their jerseys collecting dust in the attic,” said Joel’s son Jim, who is the president of Sports Immortals, which his father founded. “He spent a delightful time with Wilt’s family, and after telling them about a display he wanted to make in Wilt’s honor, they presented him with the jersey.”
Chamberlain wore the jersey in the 1954 City final against South Catholic High. Overbrook won that game, 74-55. He scored 32 points and won the Inquirer’s MVP award.
Now you, too, can become an owner of this rare piece of history through a deal Sports Immortals made with Collectable, the only fractional ownership platform app exclusively dedicated to sports memorabilia.
The app launched Sept. 10 with the idea to involve those who can’t afford to purchase exclusive historical pieces like Chamberlain’s jersey outright. Instead, they can become shareholders.
A share of Chamberlain’s jersey will be $25 and will become available Dec. 31 at 1pm.
“Sports memorabilia has been this game which only the wealthy collectors are able to play,” Collectable CEO Ezra Levine said. “For the first time in history, Collectable is opening up this access to all sports fans. I definitely don’t have $2.5 million to own a whole Mickey Mantle card outright, but what we’re doing is making it affordable and digestive and liquid for everyone.”
Joel Platt has made a living collecting sports memorabilia. He started traveling around the country at age 17 to tell athletes and their relatives about his plan to honor and enshrine the greatest athletes of all time while preserving their memories. He has collected thousands of exclusive materials, including handwritten articles of association from the old Philadelphia Athletics in the early 1900s, a Muhammad Ali USA sweatshirt from the 1960 Rome Olympics, and a 1934 Babe Ruth bat signed by the New York Yankees.
Selling sports memorabilia didn’t become popular until the 1980s, but that wasn’t Platt’s plan. He wanted to collect items.
“We’re like a hidden treasure that’s never been brought up to the surface,” Jim Platt said. “My father is like a mythical character.”
“There is nobody better when it comes to sports memorabilia than the Sports Immortals collection,” Levine said. “It is honestly one of the most mind-boggling collections you’ll ever see.”
The Sports Immortals museum is located in Boca Raton, Fla. Through its relationship with Collectable, a lot of those hidden-treasure pieces could be rising to the surface.
“It’s really allowing us to bring my dad’s story, the stories of the athletes and their memorabilia to the public consciousness,” the younger Platt said.
Sports Immortals will maintain ownership of the Chamberlain jersey, but the deal with Collectable allows future shareholders to benefit from any usage of the jersey.