ATHENS – A few months ago, the glass display case was opened at the Georgia women’s basketball offices, and Teresa Edwards was handed the gold medal she won in Los Angeles at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Last month, that medal appeared on the web site of Lelands, a sports auction house.
The opening bid was set at $15,000. As of Monday afternoon, the bidding had almost doubled, to $29,231.
Edwards is one of the most accomplished players in women’s basketball history, a member of a record five Olympic teams, and perhaps the most successful athlete in UGA history.
She’s also, as she put it Monday, one who has always gone “against the grain.” Which is why she is selling the first of her five Olympic medals, and the first of her four gold medals. In her way, she’s hoping to spur a trend.
“I don’t view this as, ‘Oh, my God, why are you doing this move?’” Edwards, 52, said. “I’m completely healthy. All is well. Family is fine. It’s a decision I’ve thought many years about.”
Edwards said she sees this as a way to raise awareness for the women’s sports memorabilia market. She pointed to Serena Williams, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Billie Jean King and even to Babe Didrikson as female athletes whose mementos would attract interest.
Edwards said she’s been asked about parting with her memorabilia, but it seemed to come with an expectation that she would just give it away. That didn’t seem right to her when male athletes routinely auction off their memorabilia for big profits. On June 10, for example, a pair of shoes Michael Jordan wore in those same Los Angeles Olympics fetched more than $190,000 at auction.
“I think people are unaware how big that market is. There’s a hole there for women that hasn’t been built in yet,” Edwards said. “And we could create a whole new market for women’s apparel and women’s memorabilia that could be seen and viewed in the same manner that male athletes are.”
These days, Edwards lives mostly in New York, but she also travels to Atlanta and her hometown of Cairo, Ga. She has speaking engagements, writes and leads some private training.
For decades, Edwards’ memorabilia has been at one place: UGA. Specifically, it has been on display outside the women’s basketball offices at Stegeman Coliseum. It was a win-win arrangement. The school could highlight one of its legends’ accomplishments, and Edwards could safely store her memorabilia. She traveled so much that it didn’t make sense keeping it in an empty house.
“I’ve never actually been one to covet such things,” Edwards said. “It was a safe haven, as well as a privilege, actually, to leave them there at Georgia. Anything that I could do to help my alma mater. If that brings something that’s good.”
It’s not like selling the 1984 medal empties her collection. Edwards still has three other gold medals and a bronze, which are housed in a glass case at Stegeman Coliseum. So are many other mementos from UGA, USA Basketball, her pro career and even of her achievements in her hometown of Cairo.
Edwards also put more items on Lelands: her jersey from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics (bid as of Monday, $500), a jersey from the 2000 Sydney Olympics ($550 bid), a collection of a signed basketball, rings and Olympic watches ($733 bid), her 2011 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame rings and jacket ($1,000 bid) and gold medals from the 1996 FIBA Championship and Goodwill Games (no bids yet).
But Edwards said she knew that to get attention, the gold medal would be the main draw.
“As a female athlete, nobody’s going to be too curious about your jerseys, or your jackets, etc. If you’re going to do it, go big,” Edwards said. “That’s how you get your name out there and you get branded. If you start it, it will build and build up. And for others that come along later, they’ll get the benefits that they’ve achieved, and the things they’ve accomplished, and they’ll have that avenue.”
She said she hopes her efforts help more female athletes raise money to use as they need it. Edwards said she heard about an athlete who was forced to auction off her medal to raise money for her son’s medical expenses. People thought that was a shame, but Edwards said that athlete was blessed with that mechanism to help her son.
“I just view it differently. There’s nothing in the world that take what we’ve done away,” Edwards said. “You can only add to it.”