In September of 1980, Gary Wells attempted to jump the fountains at Caesars Palace. He had recently jumped further distances, but, like Evel Knievel before him, the jump resulted in a devastating crash.
At the beginning of November, we had the honor of auctioning off the motorcycle Wells rode and the helmet he wore during his fateful Caesars Palace jump.
These motorcycle sold for $1,900 and the crash helmet for $1,000 as highly sought after motorsports memorabilia.
Dressed in his signature red tuxedo and bow tie, Wells easily cleared the fountains on that fateful day 41 years ago. It was the landing that didn’t go as planned. Wells missed the landing ramp and careened straight into a cement wall. The crash resulted in a ruptured aorta and fractures to his pelvis, thigh and lower leg.
The catastrophic crash was Wells’ first and only major accident. Amazingly, five months after this near fatal crash, Wells was back on his motorcycle, stunt riding once again. By the end of his career, Wells had 110 world record jumps.
I first met Wells in Rocky Point, Mexico, in the early 2000s. I had no idea who the guy jumping over a huge sand dune was until his helmet came off. Wells was with a large group of riders. At that time, he was hosting regular riding adventures for motorcycle enthusiasts.
Interestingly, and despite setting more world records, Wells never could catch up to the fame of Evel Knievel. Many attribute Knievel’s fame as much, if not more, to his failed jump attempts and spectacular crashes than they do to his successes.
Because of his notoriety, an auction house in Los Angeles auctioned an Evel Knievel stunt-worn crash helmet for $60,000 and one of his signature leather jump suits for $40,000 in 2012.
While it’s not unheard of for the race helmets of motorsports icons to bring in $50,000 – $100,000 or more at auction. Most motorsports memorabilia is still affordable for the average collector.
One of the least expensive, though most time consuming, ways of beginning a motorsports collection is to take items with you to racing or stunt riding events in hopes of getting an autograph.
You can also purchase memorabilia through auctions or consignment shops. When purchasing autographed or worn memorabilia, make sure to request and save any documents proving the items are authentic. These documents will be important should you decide to resell the item in the future.
And, if you’re wondering about the potential value of memorabilia you already own, consider contacting a certified appraiser or taking advantage of a free appraisal fair.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale. Contact him at email@example.com, www.ejsauction.com or 623-878-2003.