UNC notes to Michael Jordan for sale

A storage locker bought by a man in North Carolina has never been featured on a popular television reality show, but its contents, including some unique documents related to Michael Jordan's college career, are going up for auction.

New Jersey-based auction house Goldin Auctions acquired two 1980 North Carolina Tar Heels recruiting letters -- one from assistant Bill Guthridge, and another from coach Dean Smith -- from a consigner.

The documents, which had changed hands twice, Goldin Auctions founder Ken Goldin says, were some of the personal items Jordan gave to "Michael Jordan's 23," a restaurant that opened in Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1999.

Goldin says that when the restaurant closed in November 2003, some of the items on the wall went into a storage locker, which became property of a lucky man after a storage bill wasn't paid.

"In my more than 30 years in the business, this is the first time I've ever seen documents like this," Goldin said. "A recruiting letter to a major high profile athlete has never been available for the public to buy."

The auction, which opened Friday, lists an opening bid for the Smith letter at $5,000, with the Guthridge letter having a $2,500 reserve. The letters, as well as Smith's handwriting on his letter, has been deemed legitimate by authentication company PSA/DNA.

Jordan's business manager, Estee Portnoy, said she had no comment on the auction.

Guthridge's letter to Jordan, dated Feb. 19, 1980, came a day after Guthridge saw Jordan in person for the first time. "I had the opportunity to see you play," Guthridge wrote, "and reports that I had received were certainly verified."

The Smith letter, dated Aug. 12, 1980, was written after Smith visited Jordan and his family at their home Wilmington, N.C. "We do think you are a tremendous young man and are impressed not only with your obvious basketball talent but the way you have been a leader at school and done well academically."

During his senior year in high school, Jordan received many recruiting letters, but most of them have not been seen by the public. A letter written in October 1980 by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to wish Jordan luck after he turned down the Blue Devils' offer was loaned by Jordan to put on display in the Carolina Basketball Museum.

Jordan signed his letter of intent to play for the Tar Heels in April 1981.

Goldin is also auctioning what he says is an original copy of the diploma Jordan received when he graduated from UNC in December 1986 while playing in the NBA, and an original copy of his transcript with his UNC course load.

The diploma carries a $7,500 reserve, while the transcript auction starts at $1,000. The auction closes Feb. 7.

In his previous auction, which ended in November, Goldin sold a game-used jersey formerly owned by entertainer Penny Marshall for $51,518. Last month, Grey Flannel Auctions sold the pair of shoes Jordan wore in his famous "flu game" for $104,765.

Said Goldin: "Michael Jordan is the Babe Ruth of modern athletes in terms of sports memorabilia."