The eyes have it: Paterno glasses bring $9,000

Elkridge couple outbids Penn State fans in charity auction

February 22, 2010|By Mike Klingaman | mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

They aren't much to look at: a pair of worn eyeglasses with nerdy black frames and Coke-bottle lenses. But the storied specs, once owned by Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, fetched a tidy sum at an online auction last week where an Elkridge couple won the bidding.

Kevin and Michelle Coppola paid $9,000 for Paterno's peepers, and said they were prepared to bid more.

"It's a one-of-a-kind thing, a really cool piece of history," said Kevin Coppola, 29, who owns a public auto auction in Laurel. "How many people out there can say they have an autographed pair of JoePa's glasses?"

Both Penn State graduates, the Coppolas own other Nittany Lion memorabilia, from football helmets and jerseys to two Wheaties boxes bearing Paterno's picture and signed by the Hall of Fame coach.

"When we finally buy a house, we'll have a pretty cool sports basement," Kevin Coppola said.

Paterno, 83, donated his trademark glasses to a campus charity auction following recent corrective eye surgery. He autographed the left lens. The Coppolas were determined to have the eyewear.

"I think anybody who went to Penn State would totally understand," said Michelle Coppola, 28, an insurance executive. "What better thing to have than [Paterno's] glasses? That's part of his iconic image."

But . . . $9,000 ?

"A lot of our friends think it's a great deal," she said. "We were ready to spend as much as $10,150. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, but also a sentimental thing for us."

The couple hails from Pennsylvania, and five of their siblings attended Penn State. Moreover, the Coppolas -- who met on campus -- became engaged during Homecoming weekend in 2005.

"I proposed before the football game," Kevin Coppola said. "I figured that if [Penn State] lost, I wouldn't be in that good of a mood."

Penn State defeated Purdue that day, 33-15, and went on to win the Orange Bowl.

Paterno, the school's coach for 44 years, holds the record for most victories by an FBS coach (394) and most bowl wins (24).

While they've never met Paterno, the Coppolas can't wait to receive his specs, which will be the centerpiece of their collection. "Would I call it a shrine to Penn State?" Michelle Coppola wondered. "This might make it official."

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