The last time a big-name baggy green was auctioned off it fetched more than $1m and, when bidding opens this week for Sir Don Bradman’s first Australian cricket cap, there are hopes even that record can be broken.
Auctioneers are confident the amount paid for the dog-eared hat that debuted in the 1928-29 series against England will rival the proceeds from the sale of Shane Warne’s cap, which raised $1,007,500 for the Australian Red Cross bushfire appeal in January this year.
That figure was more than twice the amount paid for one of Bradman’s iconic caps, sold in 2003, but the one to go under the hammer in a week-long online auction starting on Thursday has been described as the “Taj Mahal of baggy greens” and has a chance of surpassing that mark.
“It’s difficult to put a price on it,” said Gavin Dempsey, executive manager of the auction house Pickles. “But all things considered, the expectation is that it will bring something around a million dollars. It could bring more.
“There is nothing more iconic in Australian sporting memorabilia than to have Don Bradman’s first ever baggy green. It’s not something that will come up again.”
There are only four baggy greens known to be in existence from the 1928-29 series, when a fresh-faced Bradman, aged 20 at the time, was presented with his first before the opening match at Brisbane’s Exhibition Ground.
It turned out to be one of the more forgettable matches Bradman played – he managed scores of just 18 and 1 in a heavy 675-run defeat for Australia. The man who would become the greatest batsman of all time was then dropped for the second Test.
There is some conjecture about exactly how many of Bradman’s baggy greens still exist, but it is thought there are around 11. This hat’s rarity means a higher likelihood of a collector or investor pushing the price towards the seven-figure mark.
“It has to be, in my opinion, his most collectable,” Dempsey said. “When you’re talking about some of the rarer pieces, they are only going to hold or increase their value over the years.
“Being his first ever, for a collector, this would have to be the Taj Mahal of baggy greens.”
The cap has been on display as part of the Bradman collection at the State Library of South Australia for the past 17 years since being loaned by its owner, Peter Dunham. Dunham, a friend and neighbour of Bradman’s in the Adelaide suburb of Kensington Gardens, was gifted the hat in 1959.
The cap has never been publicly available before and is now being sold by the trustee for Dunham’s bankrupt estate.
Whoever secures it by the time the auction ends at 7pm on 17 December will not be allowed to leave Australia with it in their possession – it is classified under the cultural heritage act and cannot be removed from the country.