The term sports memorabilia usually refers to anything that can be directly connected to a sports event or personality. These items are generally gathered by the fans of the particular sport, athlete or team that the item signifies or by collectors who find value in the rarity time-value of these collectibles. “Sports memorabilia” often refers to autographed sports items as well.
Sports memorabilia can either have a sentimental or monetary value to the collector. Many items used by famous sports stars or at a famous event have been sold for many dollars at auctions such as Sotheby’s and others. The ball that Mark McGwire hit for home run number 62 in 1998, for example, was sold for over 1 million dollars.
It could be said that collecting sports memorabilia goes back to the first decades of the 20th century, when many people would collect baseballs from baseball games and many asked Babe Ruth for autographs. As years passed and many other sports stars joined their sports, memorabilia collectors also began to broaden their horizons. When the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL began selling their jerseys in stores during the 1980s, game used jerseys also became a hot item among sports memorabilia collectors. Former NBA player Dennis Rodman was famous for taking off his jerseys and throwing them to the stands after his games were over. Michael Jordan is probably the basketball player whose memorabilia is most sought after by collectors.
The highest price fetched for a football (soccer) match worn shirt is $224,000. The shirt belonged to the legendary Pelé, who wore it during the 1970 World Cup final in which Brazil went onto win.
Collectors also like to look back in time when they are finding sports memorabilia. Items such as John L. Sullivan and Jack Johnson fight posters have sold well before. There is also a boxing glove signed by Sullivan, Johnson, Ruth and many Hollywood stars and American Presidents that has sold for a lot of money before. This glove is now on display at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
In boxing, one of the most prominent sports memorabilia collectors is Bob Pace, who sells everything from fight posters to autographs. Pace has been in business since 1984.
Another sports star who is very requested by memorabilia collectors is Pete Rose. Many items used by the king of hits have sold for good prices, including one of his convertible cars, which was obtained by a collector who concentrates on Pete Rose memorabilia only. An article about this was published in a sports magazine.
Adding an autograph to an item used in a particular game or by a particular star can increase or decrease the value of the item, depending on the situation. If the autograph has been personalized (i.e. “To Mark”) the autograph devalues the item on the public market. Also, collectors put little value on autographed memorabilia that is sold without a certificate of authenticity. Several companies have developed systems to prove authenticity of game-used or autographed memorabilia, and collectors will generally seek out dealers that offer a lifetime, money-back, authenticity guarantee.
For the collectors who only see their memorabilia as having a sentimental value, they might look at it as a childhood memory, or as an important moment of life shared with his or her favorite star or team.
Event programmes from rugby union and football (soccer) matches are also highly collectible.
eBay is a popular media for sellers and buyers. However many of the items sold on eBay are not from reputable dealers, and are often counterfeit – including the items that are sold with Certificates of Authenticity, because these can easily be faked. The only way to ensure that sports memorabilia is authentic is to make a purchase from a reputable dealer. Industry experts and law enforcement agencies estimate that a large number of the items sold in the sports memorabilia industry are counterfeit.
Other popular items in sports memorabilia are “game-used” items. Game used can refer to an item worn on the field during a game, worn during the pregame, or by a player on the bench. These can include jerseys, pants, caps, helmets, gloves, shoes, or even sunglasses. Game Used can also refer to bats, balls, turf, flags, or other items used by a player on in the stadium. In NASCAR, and other forms of automobile racing, the metal from the cars, the tires, the driver uniforms, and the crew uniforms are popular collectibles. Concrete from the various racetracks are also popular. Trunks (shorts or pants), used by popular boxers such as Greg Haugen in boxing fights are also popular and sometimes sell for 100 dollars or more on outlets such as Ebay.