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Mementos of legendary Bills sportscaster Van Miller headed for auction

Van Miller, the legendary Voice of the Buffalo Bills, created lasting memories for generations of sports fans throughout Western New York.

Next week, those fans have a chance to take home a part of Miller's legacy.

An auction of about 2,000 items collected by Miller, who died in 2015, will be held at Lodge Auction House in South Buffalo.

Stephen L. Phillips, company president who runs the business with his wife, Kelly Phillips, said trustees for the Miller estate contacted him in the fall and he jumped at the chance to hold an auction.

“I’ve been listening to him since I was a kid," Stephen Phillips said. "I’ve seen everything from his press passes for the Super Bowl to an ostrich leather briefcase and a life-size poster of Bruce Smith.”

The items – filling two 14-foot truckloads – include some furnishings from the home of Miller and his wife, Gloria. A white wicker furniture set from the Miller sunroom, foyer table, French provincial chairs and lighted curio cabinet displaying Gloria Miller’s extensive Lenox collection will also be auctioned.

Van Miller waves to fans during the start of calling his final game Dec. 21, 2003. (Mark Mulville/News file photo)

Miller did not throw many of his sporting mementos away, judging from his collection. Two standouts – jeweled pendants commemorating the Bills American Football League championships in 1964 and 1965 – shine brightly in diamond, sapphire and black onyx.

Miller began his broadcasting career in 1955 calling high-school sports for WBEN radio and television. He became the Buffalo Bills play-by-play announcer in 1960 during the team's first season in the old AFL. He continued in that role through 1970 and he returned to the booth from 1978 through his retirement in 2003.

During more than 600 games, Miller popularized gameday expressions including “Fasten your seatbelts” and “Do you believe it?" and immortalized the word "fandemonium" first used by Bills linebacker Darryl Talley that helped him earn a national following. The flamboyant broadcaster was frequently seen in a full-length fur or driving his vintage red Maserati convertible with his wife by his side.

This is not the first auction of Miller memorabilia. Items from the estate of the former announcer were auctioned off as part of the National Football League’s Super Bowl LI in Houston in 2017. The “Van Miller Collection” was one of the lots featured during a live auction that preceded the game. It marked the first time the Miller family publicly sold items from his collection, including some of his awards, championship rings and mementos from the Bills four Super Bowl appearances.

But the family also wanted to make Miller’s collectibles available to fans in Western New York, Phillips said.

The local auction will feature autographed merchandise from the Bills, as well as from the Buffalo Sabres and the old Buffalo Braves – all from Miller’s personal collection. His personal plaques, awards and photographs, which probably had their place in Miller’s basement "man cave," will be up for bid, too.

Some 50 black-and-white photographs from years ago depict Miller with familiar faces, including former Bills' coach Lou Saban, O.J. Simpson and team founder Ralph Wilson and his wife, Mary.

The auction’s unsung stars may very well be Miller's personal collection of gameday play-by play cassettes, including one from the AFL championship game in 1964.

The Lodge Auction House, located in a former Masonic lodge on Cazenovia Street, is a smaller company rooted in Western New York with an eye on historic preservation, said Phillips, who marveled at Miller’s collection.

“Just the things he had – old newspapers, 1969-issue trading cards, football cruise posters. He was very social,” Phillips said.

The auction will start at 6 p.m. Jan. 8. Doors open at 4:30. There will be a cash bar and food available for purchase. A preview will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 7. Admission is $1 per person. For more details, visit the website.

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