Dr. James Naismith’s original rules of basketball, currently safeguarded at Sotheby’s, will be auctioned on Dec. 10 in New York, the New York Times reported Monday.
Sotheby’s expects it to sell for at least $2 million.
Family spokesman Ian Naismith told the Times he contacted Sotheby’s to sell the rules to replenish the fund of the Naismith International Basketball Foundation, which he said had suffered because of his wife’s death and his health problems.
The rules are written in two typewritten pages.
Sotheby’s and Naismith said they had no doubt the rules are authentic. Naismith said the only time the two pages had been out of the family’s possession or not in a bank vault was during the 27 years it sat undisplayed at the old Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, and the brief time he allowed it to be shown in the Hall’s new building.
The document will vie for a place among some of the most expensive auctioned sport items like Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball ($3 million), a T206 Honus Wagner tobacco card ($2.35 million), the bat Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run at Yankee Stadium ($1.26 million) and the contract authorizing his sale in 1919 from the Red Sox to the Yankees ($996,000).
“When my grandfather was alive,” Ian Naismith told the Times, “it wasn’t worth a dime.”