Heritage haul: Two Brownlow medals have been donated. Photo: Joe Armao
A mystery benefactor has donated $1.5 million worth of memorabilia to Collingwood – a collection that includes the Brownlow Medal the late Len Thompson sold for his children's sake.
The benefactor has given Collingwood what the Magpies say is the most extensive private collection of its type they have seen. It contains material from other clubs, as well as a vast amount of Collingwood items.
Collingwood is hoping to eventually have the Collingwood-specific donated items form part of a museum-like display at the club. The club's head of venue operations and community, David Emerson, said the donor, who insisted on remaining anonymous, is a passionate long-time Collingwood supporter and collector who also wanted the donation to support the charitable Collingwood Foundation and its Magpie Nest program for homelessness.
"That's his motivation," Mr Emerson said. "It's an extraordinary gesture."
He said the collection had been valued to be worth about $1.5 million by an expert. The Collingwood portion of the collection includes Thompson's 1972 Brownlow and two of his Copeland medals for the club best and fairest, as well as a 1910 premiership cap – which each premiership player received back then – plus a 1958 premiership trophy, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of Australian football.
The Collingwood collection also has a premiership medal from 1935, and one from 1896, when the Magpies won the last VFA flag before joining seven other clubs to form the VFL, plus a range of other heritage material.
Mr Emerson said Collingwood now had an estimated $10 million worth of memorabilia and heritage items and with president Eddie McGuire "very passionate about paying tribute to the history of the club", it was looking at establishing "a Collingwood museum".
Thompson, who won five Copelands and the 1972 Brownlow, sold his entire collection in 1999 to pay for his children's education. His Brownlow reportedly fetched $74,000 at auction.
But the man who has made the unusual donation to Collingwood did not purchase Thompson's Brownlow at that auction 15 years ago.
Collingwood's history and archive manager, Michael Roberts, said:
"All these things Len Thompson won when he was a Collingwood player, they have ended back at Collingwood, that's how it should be."
In a separate donation, Collingwood also received the 1939 Brownlow Medal, won by its centreman Marcus Whelan, last year.
Mr Roberts called this latest donation "an extraordinary collection", which the donor gathered over the years from various auctions and private sales. He said, importantly, items such as the 1910 premiership cap were in excellent condition.