Crashing Into History with Motorsports Memorabilia

Motorsports Memorabilia

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 erik@ejsauction.com, www.ejsauction.com or 623-878-2003.

Auction
Highlights

1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Fastback – SOLD $89,000

1936 Pre War Colt Government Model 1911 SOLD $10,000

1933 Rare Mickey Mouse Big Little Book #717 SOLD $6,000

Shell Porcelain Enameled Advertising Aviation Sign SOLD $850

Marvel Comics The Incredible Hulk #181 SOLD $3,500

Antique Dooling Tether Car W/ Brown Jr Engine SOLD $6,500

Toko Shinoda (1913-2022) Ink On Paper SOLD $11,000

Philip Richard Morris (1836-1902) Oil On Canvas SOLD $25,000

1957 Ford Thunderbird Coupe Convertible SOLD $25,000

1909- S V. D. B. Wheat Penny SOLD $650