Some might know Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay as just that — the owner of a football team. But on January 25, he showcased distinctive items he’s been able to obtain as a collector.
In an interview with Vlad Duthiers of CBS Mornings, Irsay touted self-owned guitars, artifacts and historic memorabilia belonging to The Jim Irsay Collection, estimated to be worth over $100 million.
“The interesting thing about guitars is because of the heritage of these and the providence, they’re special,” Irsay told Duthiers.
According to Irsay, at the heart of the collection is a David Gilmour Stratocaster in which 66 countries have contacted him about purchasing. Other notable artifacts include Kurt Cobain’s 1969 Fender Mustang, Ringo Starr’s drum set used during The Beatles’ debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and Bob Dylan’s electric guitar played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
The collection isn’t just for viewing purposes, however. Irsay and his band travel around the country to give free performances and public viewings. According to Duthiers, Irsay also invites guest musicians to join and play famous guitars from the collection.
“These guitars are unlike manuscripts or something like that,” Irsay said. “They become alive when they’re playing.”
In addition to music artifacts, Irsay’s collection also features Abraham Lincoln’s pocket knife, Jackie Robinson’s game-used bat, a lottery ticket signed by John Hancock and Muhammad Ali’s championship belt.
Irsay’s Reason to Collect
According to Duthiers, the Jim Irsay Collection first began after Irsay’s father, Robert, died in 1997. The collection didn’t begin as a means to inherit valuable objects, but rather to share music with others.
“I look at it (as if) I own nothing because you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul,” Irsay said. “As you get older, you get more of a position of service. It’s a service of the arts to the community.”
Displaying historical items free of charge makes the collection worthwhile for the 63-year-old. However, one item in particular means a lot to Irsay: an Alcoholics Anonymous manuscript that lists the 12-step program with handwritten notes.
Irsay said although the manual is not music-related, it’s used as a reminder that there is hope in life.
“My grandfather died of alcoholism in 1927; even my father died of alcoholism,” Irsay told Duthiers. “When you have a gene, that’s a very difficult thing. When you recover, you want to do what you can to help those because now, today, there’s millions out there struggling.”
Colts’ Pledge to Serve the Community
Like his father and grandfather’s struggles, Irsay is no stranger to alcoholism, addiction and mental health challenges himself.
According to the AP, Irsay dealt with addiction using prescription drugs after his college football career at SMU was ravaged by injury. In 2014, Irsay was suspended by the NFL for six games and fined $500,000 for driving while intoxicated.
Since then, Irsay has been open about his emphasis to support mental health resources. In 2021, he implemented the Colts’ “Kicking the Stigma” campaign to encourage others to use mental health resources when needed. Linebacker Shaquille Leonard, actor Rob Lowe and interim head coach Jeff Saturday have each advocated for the initiative, among others.
As of January 25, Kicking the Stigma has raised over $4.5 million. Irsay hopes that life experiences, ranging from outreach or a Jim Irsay Collection concert, can ultimately benefit those who are in need.
“I think when people gather, for instance, for a three-hour football game or for seeing these artifacts in concert, you’re released from the sort of that worry and angst that can follow you around,” Irsay said to Duthiers.