The surprise re-emergence of Melbourne Demon’s 1948 premiership flag on an internet auction site has alerted the Melbourne Football Club that it is also missing five other premiership flags.
The Demons are now aware that the 1926, 1941, 1955, 1956 and 1957 flags are no longer in the club collection.
The person who came to posses the 1948 item has advertised it for $80,000on eBay.
Melbourne received a tip-off and reported the matter to the AFL. Police tracked the flag to a house in Moama, north of the Murray River, in New South Wales.
The flag – one of 12 the club has won since 1900 – is in a fragile state. Its discovery raises the question of how it ended up out of the Demons’ possession in the first place.
Melbourne Cricket Club museums manager Jed Smith said there is no evidence of the flag being in the MCC’s care “since the 20th century”.
“It’s been a long time since it was identified as being here,” he said, adding that simply “losing track” of an item was unlikely given the sophisticated catalogue system used by museums and galleries today.
“It’s very rare for us. The MCC has taken its own heritage very seriously for a very long time.”
While police investigate how the flag ended up on a clothesline in Moama, the football world is now double checking that no other valuable items have gone AWOL.
Smith said that until 20 years ago, cups, flags, uniforms and photographs were roughly stored, thrown out or forgotten.
“The museum world is very different to what it was 15 or 20 years ago,” he said. “There was no sports memorabilia market. Taking care of cups and flags and other items wasn’t taken seriously and people didn’t care what happened in the past. It’s a very different environment now.”
Smiths believes that given the highly public way the flag was being sold, it was unlikely to have been stolen. Instead, he believes the item was either lent to a player from the premiership side or his family who forgot to return it and ended up in a cupboard, where it was later discovered.
“It’s wonderful it’s been found but unfortunate it came by way of the police,” he said.
Richmond sports memorabilia store Legends & Heroes is approached daily by punters hoping to off-load no-longer-wanted items.
Manager Matt Albers said he has “definitely had people come in and you’ve wondered how they’ve acquired the item”.
“I had the police come in the other day asking if I’d been approached about buying a medal that’s apparently been stolen. You do see things like that now and then.”
In the wake of the Dees’ flag discovery, renewed efforts are being made to track down other lost items from Australia’s sporting past. Smith said: “If anyone out there sees something that they think belongs to a club, they should hand it back.”
Former Melbourne historian Lynda Carroll believes that if the flag is authentic, it should be housed at the MCC. “ It shouldn’t be anywhere else,” she said.
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