The sports memorabilia market has become big business. Fans want shoes, bats, balls and other pieces of equipment that their favorite players used in games, and consequently, they’re willing to pay a lot for them. There is an enduring market for all kinds of signed sports items like a Gordy Howe hockey stick, a Mike Trout shirt or a Tom Brady football – regardless of its precise air pressure! Some collectors will pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for clothing and equipment worn by their favorite athletes in practices and games. Collectors often compete with other fans for coveted pieces of memorabilia placing online bids to auction houses that spiral the prices even higher.
15. A Nice Ring to it
Joe DiMaggio’s World Series rings have a long and mysterious history. The Yankee Clipper maintained that all of his World Series rings except the one from 1936 were stolen from a hotel room in the early 1960’s. There have been claims made about the authenticity of different rings over the years, but those have been shown to be pretenders. Despite all this Hunt Auctions, LLC is offering a ring said to be an authentic Joe Dimaggio World Series ring from 1951. The ring is expected to fetch between $50,000 to $100,00 even though this piece of memorabilia’s pedigree may never be established to many people’s satisfaction.
14. Soccer Rules
Association Football commonly known as soccer can trace its roots to medieval Britain. However, we only have to go as far back as 1857 to get the first official rule book. It was penned by Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest for Sheffield FC, the first professional sports team. Since then soccer has become the most popular sport in the world. The handwritten guide is a historical document and a great piece of sports memorabilia; it fetched $1.4 million at Sotheby’s in 2011.
13. Picture on a Cigarette Card
Before men started collecting baseball cards as investments, kids used to buy packs of trading cards at the corner store and got a piece of gum in the bargain. Today sports trading cards are part of a serious sports memorabilia market where rare and signed cards command a hefty price. A 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner card sold for $3.12 million in 2016. Reportedly the Pittsburg Pirate was not happy his card was featured in a pack of cigarettes and his card was soon discontinued.
12. Present at the Founding
James Naismith, physical educator and coach, invented the game of basketball in Springfield, MA in 1891. While he was teaching at the International YMCA training school he was told to come up with an indoor game that would keep unruly students engaged during the winter months. The two pages of 13 rules were sold at auction for $4.3 million in 2010. The man who bought the rules was a graduate of the University of Kansas and wanted to have this memorabilia displayed at the school. Naismith started a basketball program at Kansas.
11. Cold War – Hot Jersey
In 1972 the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union was a harsh reality, but Canada’s and Russia’s hockey teams took a time out from the global tensions. The teams played each other in an eight game matchup known as the “Summit Series.” Canada’s star player Number 19, Paul Henderson, didn’t disappoint; scoring the goals that assured victory in the final three games against the Russian team. His Jersey sold for $1.2 million in 2012 and became the most expensive hockey Jersey ever sold at auction.
10. A Mighty Bat
The Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920 so when Yankee Stadium opened on April 18, 1923 Ruth was wearing Yankee pinstripes. The Babe hit Yankee Stadium’s first home run on that day and the Yankees went on to win the World Series later that year. In 2004 an anonymous donor bought the bat Ruth used to hit Yankee Stadium’s first home run for $1.3 million.
9. Fights Like a Glove
Muhammad Ali is known as much for his electric charm and witty banter as he his for his legendary boxing skills. The 1965 fight with Floyd Patterson was a memorable contest, but it’s unlikely most sports fans at the time thought the Everlast brand gloves Ali wore would be an important part of sports history. Or that they would someday be worth a considerable sum of money. They were wrong: Auctioned for $ 1.1 million, they are the most expensive piece of Ali memorabilia sold to date.
8. Black Sox Bat
Joseph Jefferson Jackson, also know as “shoeless” Joe Jackson, unfortunately is best known for his alleged involvement in the plot to fix the 1919 World Series known as the Black Sox Scandal. He was banned from baseball after the 1920 season even though he’d played well during the 1919 series. Jackson played for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons after playing with several other teams. He still holds the third best career batting average in major league history. One of Jackson’s 1911 rookie year bats sold for $ 956,000 in 2014.
7. The $650,000 Man
Hank Aaron hit the final home run of his storied career at Milwaukee’s County Stadium on July 20, 1976 off Los Angeles relief pitcher Dick Drago. His 755th home run was a great moment for baseball and one of the great moments in sports history. Groundskeeper Richard Arndt sold the coveted ball in 1999 for $650,000. Barry Bonds hit more home runs than Hank Aaron, finishing with 762. However, his involvement with the BALCO steroid scandal has tainted Bonds’ legacy. Some fans still refer to Hank Aaron as the true “home run king.”
6. Barry’s Ball*
San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds passed Hank Aaron on the all-time home runs list in August 2007. His 756th was a milestone for Major League Baseball, but it wasn’t without controversy. His association with BALCO and the alleged steroid use tainted his impressive home run total. Some fans and analysts argued his record deserved a figurative asterisk after it. Designer Mark Echo took it a step further when he bought the ball for $752,467. He promptly had an asterisk laser-etched into the memorabilia before it was put on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
5. Around the World in 1934
Babe Ruth is still considered by many baseball experts to be the greatest who ever played the game. Although it was billed as a world tour, the Yankee slugger only traveled to Japan in 1934 to promote America’s pastime. He wore the gray uniform with red, white and blue socks and a blue hat only a few times so it is in very good condition. All this memorabilia was sold at auction in 2005 for $771,000. As of 2015 the complete uniform is on display at the Little League Baseball Museum in South Williamsport, PA.
4. For Queen and Soccer
Britain’s Football Association Challenge Cup holds the proud distinction of being the oldest soccer competition in the world. The ‘FA Cup’ dates back to 1871. Amazingly however, with over more than 200 years of competition, only four copies of the trophy were ever made. Just as amazing, only one of the trophies has ever been sold. An anonymous bidder bought the famous memorabilia at auction in 2005 for $956,000.
3. Going, Going $
St. Louis Cardinal’s slugger Mark McGwire battled the Chicago Cubs Sammy Sosa during the 1998 season for the single season home run record. This was an exciting time for major league baseball and fans were transfixed by the drama. Only years later were the questions about steroid use by both players addressed in a meaningful way. Comic book creator Todd McFarlane, best known for his dark and violent Spawn series, bought Mark McGwire’s 70th home run baseball for $3 million in 1999. This price appears to be high when compared to the price of other memorabilia purchased since 1999.
3. Wonderful Wizard of Ozzie
Ozzie Smith is perhaps one of Major League Baseball’s most consistent players. Between 1980-1992 “The Wizard” won 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards for his skills as one of the National League’s most impressive shortstops. The St. Louis Cardinal icon set records for both career assists and double plays. He was also voted to the All Star game 15 times. Ozzie Smith was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. Ozzie decided to sell his baker’s dozen of Gold Gloves in 2012. This memorabilia went for $519,203.
2. That’s Gold Baby
Adolf Hitler was eager to show-off Germany’s superior athletes at the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin. But things did not work out as planned for the “Master Race.” The Nazi’s racial ideology considered black athletes like American track star Jesse Owens to be inferior and not much of a threat at the games. Owens proved all the critics wrong winning four gold medals, in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump. Just one of Jesse Owen’s gold medals sold at auction in 2013 for $1.4 million.
1. The Sultan’s Shirt
The Red Sox famously sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000 after the 1919 season. As a result, the Red Sox curse ensued and the rest is history. However, the jersey worn by Babe Ruth is still an important piece of Major League Baseball history. Furthermore, the Sultan of Swat’s 1920 Yankee jersey is supposedly the earliest one worn by the Bambino that is still in existence. In 2012 the Babe’s iconic No. 3 jersey sold at auction for a whopping $4.4 million.