?Would you be interested in it??: Packers Hall of Fame FAQs
There was the one guy who wanted to donate his wife’s socks to the Packers Hall of Fame. He wanted to donate them because she wore the socks at the 1967 NFL Championship Game, or, the Ice Bowl.
If washed, those are sentimental keepsakes. They’re also still, you know, socks. That’s one of the stranger things Tom Murphy has heard over the years as Director and Archivist of the Packers Hall of Fame. It’s not the only question though – they’re just usually not so stocking-related.
So what, then, are some of the more frequently asked questions for Murphy, whether he’s giving a tour or on the phone or out someplace?
For one, he says many people want to know what the Hall of Fame considers its most prized possession.
“I don’t know (what it is). I think it could be a variety of things,” Murphy said, adding that everyone has their own interpretation of what’s most valuable. “Don Hutson’s jerseys; we’ve got two, that’d be rare. Mike Michalske’s watch from the 1929 championship season, that’d be one. Vince Lombardi, we’ve got two of his jackets. That’d be key. Those (handwritten) plays in accumulation, all those books of plays that we’ve got, some of his (Lombardi’s) handwritten speeches, that would be right up there. It’s hard to narrow it to any one thing. Johnny Blood’s shoulder pads, that’s pretty good. Those kinds of things.”
99 percent of artifacts in the Hall of Fame and its archives are donated. Naturally, this means Murphy gets plenty of pitches for items that could be included.
“That’s one of the most commonly asked questions, ‘We have this piece that’s been in the family for a long time, would you be interested in it?’” Murphy said. “We meet and take a look at the piece and decide if it’s something that would work.
“That’s great, that we’ve got people calling like that. It’s a win-win. They get a deduction, we get something that gets to be shared, and people want to share. Packers fans want to share, it seems, with other Packers fans. Even though they could get more money on it, or some money on it, by selling it on eBay or some sports auction.”
On the subject of value, Murphy says the Hall of Fame gets calls for appraisals. These, however, they don’t do. At best, they can try to spot fakes.
“I get called a lot: ‘We have an autographed football and we’re wondering how much it’s worth,’” Murphy said. “But we don’t appraise things for footballs. We give them an idea if they donate it, that’s one thing, but we just don’t do independent appraisals. There’s a lot of liability there; authenticating signatures and things.”
Signatures can often turn out to be their own separate can of worms.
“A lot of times the thing is, a guy’s got an autographed football, and probably 70 percent of the time it’s a stamped football and they don’t realize it,” Murphy said. “So I won’t appraise it but I’ll say if you want I’ll look at it … I’ll do the best I can as far as telling you whether it’s hand-signed or not. Probably 70 or 75 percent are not signed. They’re old stamps that come off these machines, even in the early 60s where they think they’ve got a Super Bowl ball or a ’65 Championship ball or something, and it’s nothing but a stamped ball which is worth maybe about a hundred bucks, versus a few grand.
“I say take it down and get another opinion … check around, this is just my opinion, but I’ve seen as many of these as most people have.”
But what if you’ve got a real signature? The next logical question concerns the science of keeping them from fading. Trying to, at least; Murphy notes that once an autograph is faded, it can’t come back.
“If you start tracing them and stuff you lose the value of a hand-signed ball, but that’s a question,” Murphy said. “Just keep it out of the light and it won’t get any worse. The worst light is fluorescent. If you’ve got fluorescent bulbs, that is murder. They will fade things badly. Sunlight is also bad.”
Should the Hall of Fame accept an item, it’s theirs to keep. Donators sign an agreement acknowledging that once they give it to the Hall of Fame, the piece stays with the Hall of Fame from there on out, be it on display or in their archives. “Anything that’s donated is donated,” as Murphy says.
Sometimes, another confusion about the Hall of Fame’s workings deals with where they stand in relation to the Green Bay Packers, noted professional football team. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Packers Hall of Fame is its own entity with its own board of directors. They are completely separate from the football organization.
Murphy says people often ask how many visitors the Hall of Fame gets. The Hall of Fame saw over 134,700 fans pass through the gates during the 2012-13 fiscal year. It plans to try welcoming more with the move to a new second floor spot in the Lambeau Field Atrium, a venture that will close the Hall sometime in late 2013 as preparations for the migration get underway.
Any future years will have to aim to top the pilgrimage Packers fans made to the Hall of Fame in 1997. Of course, this was the same year the team, after winning Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, La., brought the Vince Lombardi Trophy back home for the first time since the 1967-68 season.
“I know 1997 was our biggest year,” Murphy said. “We had more people go through our gates than through Canton’s (the Pro Football Hall of Fame) gates … That was big.”
Nowadays, with the recent and ongoing bandaging efforts between the Packers and former quarterback Brett Favre progressing nicely, the question of when the legendary signal-caller gets his own call to the Packers Hall of Fame comes up, not surprisingly, a lot. But it’s one area Murphy and the Hall – remember: they’re separate from the Packers – can only guess on with the rest of us.
The Packers Hall of Fame requires players be out of the game for four years before they become eligible. Pro Football’s Hall has a five-year wait.
“My opinion is no better than anyone else’s opinion,” Murphy said. “Except, I know that his first year of eligibility for the Packers Hall of Fame is in 2015. That’s the earliest he could enter. I suppose a school of thought would be that you’d want it taken care of by that time, but I’m not the Packers. They have to decide that. That is a question people ask all the time, but I don’t have an answer.”
He can’t predict what’s ahead. The Hall changes with the times, potentially with any ringing phone or donation offer. Murphy wasn’t exactly interested in those maybe-still-frozen socks. But with such a huge majority of the Hall of Fame’s relics coming from fans themselves, answering the question, ‘Would you be interested?’ keeps the Hall of Fame on its toes and alive and kicking.