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It's not the Hope Diamond, but the Crosby Reebok could still fetch a handsome reward for the person who has the stick used to score the golden goal for Canada in men's hockey at the Winter Olympics last Sunday.

The stick Crosby flung in the air is missing, presumably snaffled by someone with access to the ice or dressing rooms at Hockey Canada Place in Vancouver.

While Hockey Canada searches diligently for the historic artifact, private collectors are salivating at the prospect the stick may somehow come into the market. Brian Logie is an historian of sticks who maintains one of the top private stick collections in his London, Ont., home.

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"There are many people who would want that stick," said Logie, who helps evaluate sticks for the Hockey Hall of Fame. "The problem is that if you've got a hot stick, the only way you can realize the money is by selling it privately to a collector who'd only show it to close friends."

Brian Ehrenworth of Frameworth has been the official source for Crosby memorabilia since the Pittsburgh Penguins star was 15. He said the stick has two possible values.

"I know that if it's legitimate in the open market it would fetch at least $50,000-plus," the Toronto collectibles dealer said. "I know, because I'd pay that. The reality is that if it's been stolen it's worth zero. The people who'd want this kind of stick would want to brag about it. Honestly, it should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and I think if Sid has his way, that's where it will end up."

Autographed hockey sticks are a popular charity auction item at fundraisers across the continent. (Crosby-autographed sticks infrequently appear for select charities.)

When they're historical artifacts such as Crosby's left-handed stick, they also attract the attention of the Hall in Toronto, where many of the most famous sticks in the game's history are on display or in the basement below. From Johnny Bucyk's 500th goal stick to a goal stick carved with Latin phrases by Percy LeSueur in the early 20th century, they're lovingly preserved.

Sticks are also a commodity for collectors who want to own- and trade - a piece of hockey history such as Crosby's RBK 7K Gold composite model. Because Crosby is particular about his sticks- according to Ehrenworth, he can't satisfy 10 per cent of the Crosby memorabilia requests - the value of anything with his name remains high. "He doesn't sign a lot," Ehrenworth said. "We're hoping to bring out a limited edition line of sticks next year, but he's very conscious of not flooding the market or devaluing it.

"I know he recently gave referee Pierre Racicot a signed stick for his thousandth game as an official. But he keeps a tight watch on his stuff."

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That includes up to 500 wooden blades (Crosby used a combination composite shaft/wooden blade until this year) he has saved till now.

Crosby has not opted for the Wayne Gretzky formula yet. The retired star used 28 sticks in his final game with the New York Rangers in 1999 so he could have enough for all his friends and family.

Crosby prepared three for the gold-medal game in Vancouver.

Logie said the provenance of the stick can escalate the value considerably. "The money is in the sticks you can authenticate. For instance, the Jean Béliveau stick he used to score his 325th goal in 1963-64 sold at auction last year for $2,343 because of the historical accuracy of the stick. A generic Béliveau goes for a lot less."

Because the Hockey Hall keeps so many of the most famous sticks off the market, it's hard to put an accurate price on this type of Canadiana. Depending on the condition, game-used sticks from top NHL stars who haven't flooded the market with their material can get into the $1,000 range. A well-preserved Wayne Gretzky autographed model easily can double that figure. But typical sticks generally sell in the hundreds of dollars.

The most controversial stick is the so-called Rutherford stick. Gordon Sharpe of Gore's Landing, Ont., said it was allegedly carved by a distant relative of his in the 1850s. Sharpe's website claimed the so-called oldest existing stick was appraised privately at $4.5 million (U.S.) and reportedly sold on eBay for $2.2-million (U.S.). The stick still lies at the Hall and was put up for sale online once again without a buyer. While the Hall has vouched for the stick, many historians, including Logie, remain skeptical of its provenance.

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For now, the Hockey Hall waits for the current possessor of Crosby's stick to realize the famous model has no value in an open market - and for the delivery of what it hopes will be one of its prime exhibits.

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