THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO SPORTS MEMORABILIA COLLECTING
This is a fairly general term, covering a huge range of materials: signed trading cards, jerseys, photographs, baseball bats (and the balls themselves), footballs, helmets, trophies, and more, are all classified as sports memorabilia.
For hardcore fans of any team, owning a piece of memorabilia based around, or signed by, your favorite player is a huge thrill. It not only brings you closer to an icon or someone you admire, it’s also like owning a little piece of history.
Of course, collecting sports memorabilia has financial benefits too, if you’re able to find an item with a high value. You may even own a piece that looks set to become more and more valuable in the coming years.
If you’re preparing to start investing in sports memorabilia, you need to consider a few key points in advance.
Laying the Foundations
First and foremost, set yourself a maximum price – bids and sales on certain sought-after items may reach incredibly high costs. Are you willing to spend whatever it takes to secure said item, or are you working with a tighter budget? Accept your limit before you start spending, and be sure you don’t go over. If you feel you simply cannot walk away without buying that signed baseball or photograph, be careful not to invest money you simply don’t have.
You should also spend time researching the piece you’re looking to buy. If the seller claims it’s a one of a kind, make sure it really is – if you find several other versions elsewhere, you may have uncovered a fraudster.
Another important step is creating a space in your home specifically for your sports memorabilia. After all, if you plan on buying several football helmets, basketballs, or framed hockey jerseys, you’ll need somewhere to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. Consider setting up a dedicated display room in your home, and leave space for future purchases. You can find custom frames and mounts for your sports memorabilia at competitive prices; custom framing also preserves the quality and condition of your collection, maintaining its value.
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals, let’s take a closer look at collecting sports memorabilia, starting with perhaps the biggest decision: what will you actually be collecting?
Refining Your Search
Before you start spending money in your quest to build a legendary museum of sports memorabilia in your own home, think about what type of pieces you want to buy. While you could go out and purchase pretty much anything that catches your eye, it may be better to start with a specific theme in mind. For example, if you’re a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles or the Minnesota Vikings, would you really want a Chicago Bears jersey hanging on your wall? It can be tempting to snap up what appears to be a bargain, but is this really worth doing if you don’t plan to sell it? Don’t throw cash at a piece that holds little personal or financial value, or you could easily find yourself with a collection of dissimilar, odd items that say little about you and have no market worth.
Narrow your search parameters a little, especially when starting out. Focus on one particular type of memorabilia – basketballs, autographed pictures, helmets, jerseys – or a specific team or player. This streamlined approach will help you develop an understanding of the industry, the buying process, and your own ability to stay on-budget. With some experience under your belt, you’ll be able to expand your search to incorporate different sports, teams, or players.
The Genuine Article
By now, you’re probably wondering about the authenticity of much sports memorabilia. How can you trust the pieces on the market are truly signed by the people they claim to be, and what can you do to make sure you only buy genuine items?
Well, it’s not as easy as you might imagine – but it’s not impossible, either. While there are, sadly, plenty of fakes out there on the market, you can still build a collection of true memorabilia if you’re careful. One great technique is to consider the players or teams you’re interested in following. Certain people will only work with certain memorabilia dealers, signing for them and them alone. If any of the players or teams you wish to base your early collection around follow this process, find out which retailers they work with. If you see a signed helmet being sold through a company you know they won’t sign with, it’s best to avoid it.
You could also consider the specific prices a player or team expects for their autograph. If you can visit a signing or appearance they’re holding, you’ll be able to get a piece of memorabilia autographed in person, probably for less money than you’d spend buying it from another collector. Best of all, you’ll have absolute peace of mind, with no room for doubt!
Another smart thing to bear in mind: if a high-value item is being sold at a price almost too good to believe, there’s a good chance it’s a fake. After all, if someone is selling a football signed by Tom Brady at a price far lower than others you’ve seen, that should raise a red flag. It’s not unheard of for some fraudsters to produce their own cheap “certificates of authenticity” either, using their own paper and printers – a quick look would probably confirm your suspicions. Instead, keep your eye out for sports memorabilia which has been authenticated by third-party groups with a solid reputation.
What Makes Certain Sports Memorabilia So Valuable?
When you browse the sports memorabilia market, you’ll see a diverse range of prices, from the surprisingly-affordable to those far beyond your expectations. So, how can you estimate the worth of a specific item? It goes without saying that the most well-known players and teams will attract the greatest interest from collectors. Those who have enjoyed a long string of record-breaking achievements and successes will always get more for signing a piece of memorabilia, but there are other factors determining how valuable an item can be.
One is the amount of signings a player or team does during their career. If a major basketball star refuses to give autographs thousands of times but signs just one or two pieces, imagine how sought-after those would be. Now, think about a beloved quarterback who signs anything and everything put in front of him: they will be in almost constant circulation, so there may be little monetary value in collecting them at all.
You should also take care when buying sports memorabilia which features two or more autographs. If both belong to superstars with huge fan-bases, you’re probably going to secure a high-value item, but if one or more names means substantially less than another, you may want to put off purchasing it.
The Importance of Proper Storage
Sports memorabilia makes for beautiful displays, but not every collector likes to show investments off. For some, the only place to store their treasured purchases is in a sturdy vault, while others might prefer to display their lower-value items at the office, showcasing a more personal side of their personality during working hours. Having an artifact that signifies the determination and self-discipline of legendary sports stars close by can be incredibly inspiring, after all.
Still, if you’re just starting your collection, you might not quite know where to store your sports memorabilia. Depending on the space you have available, you might struggle to find that special area, but keeping your investments safe is critical. To reap the full reward of collecting sports memorabilia you plan to sell, you must preserve them in the best possible condition. Don’t let them become exposed to anything that could cause damage, no matter how minor – even a tiny blemish on a trading card or jersey could make a significant impact on an item’s value. Sure, you’ll have to spend money on proper storage and display equipment now, but this will pay off down the road when you find an interested buyer. Or, you can still experience a thrill from owning a piece of sporting history after several decades!
One popular display option is the custom frame. Custom framing is ideal for jerseys, vests, photographs, trading cards, and similar flat items you can mount on a wall or display on a desk. Today, you can find custom framing featuring your favorite teams’ logos and colors, and frames are produced in a large range of sizes. Be sure to invest in the perfect measurements to suit the item’s dimensions; don’t try to cram a valuable signed jersey into a frame that’s simply too small. Not only do you risk damaging it, you’ll also detract from its visual power. With the right custom framing, you can turn any piece of sports memorabilia into a stunning work of art that speaks volumes about your personal passions and team-loyalty.
What about larger pieces, or those that can’t be framed? Clear display cases are incredibly popular. These are robust, airtight, and allow yourself, and visitors, to get a full view of that beautiful signed helmet or football.
While your budget might only extend to a basic, more economical, glass case, save up and invest in an acrylic one instead: these are tougher, and provide invaluable UV protection too. The sun’s rays can drain the color from a precious piece of sports memorabilia over the years; don’t leave your investment sitting out on a window sill, or in direct sunlight. However, even fluorescent lighting is powerful enough to damage your memorabilia, increasing its rate of aging. Go for a light bulb at a lower wattage, which poses minimal risk to your collection.
What if you have no interest in displaying your sports memorabilia at all? What if you prefer to buy, lock it all away, and keep it secure until it’s ready to sell? Buy airtight bins big enough to house any items you plan on keeping out of sight, and place them in a dry spot where they’re unlikely to topple over or be disturbed. For trading cards, photographs, and other smaller collectibles, place these in plastic sheets for posterity; go for PVC-free ones, as cheap alternatives may well cause autographs’ ink to rub off. Needless to say, you could end up defacing the photograph or trading card, not to mention costing yourself a lot of money.
How Much Could You Make?
Collectors of sports memorabilia are willing to pay staggering prices for their next big purchase. Over the years, certain pieces of baseball memorabilia have sold for unbelievable amounts:
- James Naismith’s rules of basketball, from 1891, sold at auction for $4.338 million
- Babe Ruth’s first Yankee Stadium home-run bat, from 1923, managed to secure a price of $1.265 million
- Mark McGwire’s 70thhome-run ball sold for $3 million
- Another piece of Babe Ruth memorabilia – his 1920 jersey – earned $4.415 million
As you can see, the biggest, most sought-after pieces of sports memorabilia can certainly attract plenty of attention from wealthy collectors. It’s also interesting that so many of the highest-priced items are from the world of baseball, a sport tied so intrinsically to American culture.
While the chances of you finding a rare, highly-valuable item are slim, you never know what might come into your possession. Furthermore, you don’t know which of today’s players will go on to become the next Babe Ruth or the next Michael Jordan – you could well come to own an autographed picture or jersey from your earliest purchases that gains immense value over coming decades.
The important things when collecting sports memorabilia is to have fun and be selective when high prices are involved. If you want to pick up items that speak to your personal interest in a sport, team, or player, go for it! If you’re more focused on buying only those pieces with a high chance of selling for huge profit in the future, do your research first.
The collecting community is thriving, so get involved and start weighing your options!