With all the attention being paid to Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jersey, we can’t help but think of another sports mystery that has haunted Charlotteans for an entire year: The whereabouts of the Luke Kuechly gnome.
A 30-second CPI Security commercial featuring a Kuechly gnome first aired in January 2016 – when the Carolina Panthers were in the Super Bowl – and it instantly became one of the NFL’s most pursued collectables.
“People went crazy,” says Heidi Cowley of CPI.
“At a live auction, one sold for $16,000, the price of a car,” she said, noting the bidding was at an event to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “We have been inundated with requests.”
The Kuechly Gnome even has a Twitter page, or rather two of them: Kuechly Gnome and Luke Kuechly Gnome, both of which are filled with postings from people begging for one.
And there in lies the big mystery: Kuechly gnomes can’t be found for sale in any store or on any Web site.
CPI doesn’t even want to say how many exist. The company had a special “limited edition” made in 2016, and will say only that about 15 have been distributed. Most have been given out via charity auctions and one was given away at each of the Panthers home games last season.
What’s surprising about all this popularity is that there have actually been only two CPI commercials made with the gnomes. The first featured a burglar trying to use a regular garden gnome to break into a home, which Luke Kuechly intercepts (yes, just like a football). At the end of the commercial, Kuechly replaces the old gnome with a Kuechly gnome.
In another commercial, a burglar trips, hits the floor and comes face to face with a Kuechly gnome.
Cowley says a prop master for CPI designed the figure. Later, when it became clear fans weren’t going to take “no” for an answer, CPI had the same guy create a mold. That was then used by a company in High Point for the limited edition.
Each has been autographed by Kuechly. “He laughed when he saw a table full of them….”
Kuechly, 25, has been a spokesman for the company since 2014 and Cowley says it’s his reputation on and off the field that has made the gnomes so popular.
“He’s kind of a normal person, who hasn’t let fame go to his head,” she says. “I think people have found that out and that’s why they love him. He’s very genuine.”
CPI has a copyright on the gnomes, which means no one else can make them.
So how can fans get one?
For now, Cowley says charity auctions are the only option, and maybe sweepstakes at Panthers’ home games next season.
However, CPI says it’s possible another limited edition will be made.
“Keep watching,” Cowley says.
This story first appeared at CharlotteObserver.com.
Photo: CPI Security/Charlotte Observer file