U.S. Sports Memorabilia Market Estimated to Be Worth $5.4 Billion Annually


David Yokun (founder of collectable.com) has estimated that the total value of the U.S. sports memorabilia market is worth an estimated $5.4 billion annually, a figure that includes “the total gross merchandise volume from eBay ($4.7 billion), independent auction houses ($290 million), auction house private sales ($62.5 million), online retail venues and other sources ($400 million).” Fan apparel, products produced in mass and modern trading cards (even the rare ones) were excluded from the calculations. It’s possible (if not likely) that modern trading cards will be included in future estimates (in aggregate their value is significant), but pricing volatility makes it difficult to include them.

Howie Long-Short: Vintage baseball jerseys (pre-1972) are drawing record bids at auction due to their “extreme rarity and demand” (particularly when compared to cards and bats); a 1964 Mickey Mantle World Series jersey recently sold for 3x the previous high ($1.32 million). Curious as to why jerseys worn after the early 70s aren’t as highly sought after? Through the disco era players would receive up to 6 uniforms per season, but by 1980 teams were assigning players additional uniforms with the intention of re-selling them later to collectors (i.e. they were no longer rare).

Fun Fact: The most expensive sports collectible ever sold was a 1920 Babe Ruth game-worn away jersey, selling in ’12 for $4.416 million; it’s now estimated to be worth $10 million.

Fan Marino: The NFLPA Panini trading card index (released quarterly) ranks the top-performing football players in the licensed trading card industry, on factors ranging from secondary-market transactions to collectability based on rookie hype and collector speculation. The newest ranking, released on September 18th, indicates that Saquon Barkley remains the most valued rookie (Darnold was 2nd), while Tom Brady (up from #3) finished ahead of Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes II to top the veteran list.

Wondering what rare modern trading cards are worth? During the most recent quarter, an autographed 2018 Origins Football Barkley card (limited to 2) sold for $5,500. While that sounds like a lot, it’s just a small fraction of the $40,000 that a 2000 Contenders Football Tom Brady autographed rookie card (limited to 100) went for. $40,000 sounded like a lot for a card with 100 copies floating around, so I checked in with our resident card expert Jason Howarth (VP of Marketing – Panini America) to get his thoughts.

Jason: Cards numbered to 100 are still very rare. A Brady Autographed Contenders Rookie Ticket is definitely one of the cards you’d want from his rookie year and the value of that card continues to hold and could go up as Brady continues to perform.

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Author: John Wall Street

At the intersection of sports & finance.

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