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Unique sports memorabilia being held in museum bankruptcy case

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A unique bankruptcy case is underway in New York that holds in its outcome the fate of some very prized items of sports memorabilia.

Among the seized items is the black sports bra that United States Womens soccer star Brandi Chastain modeled moments after securing the World Cup for the country in 1999. Any sports magazine that's worth its postage published the famous picture of the half-dressed defender, making the aformentioned undergarment a sought-after bit of sports history.

Ms. Chastain's bra and other items in question were donated for temporary display to the Sports Museum of America that has been open for only about a year. It is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and is a for-profit organization. Most museums are non-profit entities. What makes this case somewhat unique, at least for the owners of its showcase items, is that the court is asking for money to reclaim what's theirs.

World renowned skateboarder Tony Hawk gave the museum a skateboard he rode as a child. Now, the court is asking him for $1,500. The King, (no, not Elvis) Richard Petty, donated a pair of his well-recognized sunglasses and, like more than 500 other unusual sports items, they are being held in a storage facility in urban New Jersey until they can be bought back to satisfy creditors. If not purchased prior to the proceedings being finalized, they will hit the auction block.

The situation has turned out to be quite a surprise for the athletes involved because they donated the items under the promise they would be returned when it was time to cycle in new items. Things became additionally complex after a number of items that were to be returned to their owners were sent to the wrong addresses, creating a management headache for the bankruptcy attorneys involved. Now, they are saddled with handling the museums poor record keeping.

Richard Petty, perhaps the most recognized figure in all of car racing, also provided the museum with a signature cowboy hat, a racing suit worn by his son Kyle and even a helmet--the only helmet--worn by his equally famous father, Lee Petty. The items came from the Richard Petty Museum in North Carolina.

According to available records, not all of the items on display were taken to the storage locker to be held. The respective Halls of Fame for baseball, football and basketball were able to have their items returned before the museum faltered. However, benefactors of one of our country's most heralded athletes, Jesse Owens, lost a gold medal and cyclist Lance Armstrong may have to buy back one of his Tour De France yellow victory jerseys.

The museum's bankruptcy plan does call for it to re-open. Instead of an initial annual admission goal of 450,000, they would need to restructure finances to accommodate 250,000 people a year.

Oh, and Ms. Chastain's bra is worth $250. She said she has another one.

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