Tag Archive for: sports memorabilia


This original 1934 World Cup runners-up medal, awarded to the Czechoslovakian player Josef Kostalec, features the figure of Victory that also appeared on medals awarded to World Cup finalists in 2018. This early medal, sans ribbon, earned £9,500 (about $11,175) plus the buyer’s premium in November 2019. Image courtesy of Graham Budd Auctions Ltd and LiveAuctioneers

World Cup soccer is a phenomenon like no other. It’s one of the few events with the power to bring together more than half the planet’s population for one month. According to some news stories, the World Cup wields so much power, it has brought about ceasefires in the bloodiest of conflicts. Entire nations feel a great sense of pride when their team advances or wins any of the 64 games that culminate with the hoisting a heavy vermeil trophy designating the world’s best players.

A pair of soccer boots worn by Argentine player Rene Houseman in the 1978 World Cup final between his country and Holland, signed by him in silver marker, sold for £460 (about $545) in June 2019. Image courtesy of Graham Budd Auctions Ltd and LiveAuctioneers

Soccer, or something like it, has been played for millennia. A Chinese game known as “cuju,” which was described in writings around 206 B.C., involved kicking a ball into a net. The sport began to evolve into its current form in 1863, following a series of meetings held in England that led to the creation of the Sheffield Rules, which prohibited the most aggressive and injurious tactics in official matches. Not long after this decree, the game split into two related but separate sports. Soccer, which is officially known as football everywhere on Earth except the United States and Canada, adopted the less aggressive laws of the game, while rugby, which is named for Rugby School in Rugby, England, where its rules were codified, retained the rougher style of play.

Nothing says soccer like a dark brown leather soccer ball from the early 1950s such as this one, which predates the current white and black hexagon pattern design that makes the ball easier to see on the field. The signature of Pele, the greatest player of the 20th century, helped the ball earn $500 plus the buyer’s premium in February 2022. Image courtesy of Teddies’ Collectables and LiveAuctioneers

Today, soccer counts more participants than any other sport. There are nearly 250 million registered players, from every country in the world, according to soccer’s 118-year-old international governing body, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which also oversees the World Cup. That number does not count the billions who play at home, in school, on the streets or anywhere that people can scare up a ball and two structures to serve as goal posts. The playing field, known as the pitch, need not be fancy or even of regulation size. It just needs to be accessible.

An official Brazilian National Football Team jersey worn by forward Neymar (no last name needed) during a match in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil includes not only the superstar’s signature, but those of other Brazilian soccer players. It realized $2,020 in July 2020. Image courtesy of RR Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

As the sport gained fans and recognition around the world, FIFA created six regional confederations registering nearly 190 amateur teams by nation. These teams compete for the final prize – the World Cup – as they have every four years since the first such competition was held, in 1930. The inaugural winner was Uruguay, and for their efforts, the team received the Coupe du Monde (French “World Cup”), a stylized figure of Victory fashioned from vermeil (gold over sterling silver) on a lapis lazuli base that weighed nearly nine pounds. In 1946, the cup was renamed the Jules Rimet Trophy to honor the FIFA president who created the World Cup competition in 1929.

This Jules Rimet Trophy was presented during the 1970 World Cup to Marco Antonio Feliciano, a member of the winning Brazilian national soccer team. The 1970 World Cup was the last to feature the Jules Rimet Trophy with the winged Victory figure, as it was retired according to FIFA rules. This participant trophy brought $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2020. Image courtesy of Julien’s Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

In 1970, the Jules Rimet Trophy was permanently awarded to Brazil for having won three World Cups in accordance with FIFA rules at that time. A replacement trophy was designed and dubbed the FIFA World Cup’s Winners Trophy. The hollow trophy depicts two athletes holding up the world and is made from nearly 14 pounds of 18K gold on a base of malachite. National teams typically pose with the World Cup raised high after a spectacular win, but are given a FIFA bronze replica that they are allowed to keep. Replica trophies and players’ trophies occasionally come to auction, as with the December 2020 offering of a 1970 Jules Rimet player trophy that changed hands for $5,000.

A full-size replica of the vermeil and malachite World Cup trophy sold for £800 (about $950) plus the buyer’s premium in November 2019. Image courtesy of Graham Budd Auctions Ltd and LiveAuctioneers

World Cup memorabilia sparks almost as much competitive interest at auction as the actual games. Soccer is, of course, a team sport, with position players who defend, attack and pass. As in any sport, though, standout players gain fan followings. The list of the greatest soccer stars of all time will always include Pele and Diego Maradona, who dominated 20th-century competition. Both rank on any collector’s must-have list for early team sport cards and stickers in albums (which pre-date the soccer cards of the 1960s), except in later box sets. As with baseball, sports cards featuring legendary soccer players when they were rookies inspire heated auction competition.

The Panini company created stamps which collectors amassed in albums prior to the advent of soccer player cards in the 1960s. It still issues sporty stamps such as this one featuring David Beckham from when he played for Manchester United. His signature helped the stamp achieve $11,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2021. Image courtesy of Mynt Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Among 21st-century players, Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Neymar (no last name needed) and Cristiano Ronaldo are the most sought-after for autographs, jerseys, collectible cards, and albums of stickers. Memorabilia featuring these contemporary athletes command strong auction bids, with material from their rookie years being the hardest to find.

As for trading cards, soccer is unusual in that cards featuring its players were almost always sold in sets, not individually. Until recently, soccer cards were almost exclusive to Europe and rarely sold in North America. That has begun to change, and the speed of that change will only accelerate as the United States, Canada and Mexico prepare to welcome the World Cup in 2026, marking it the first time that three countries have jointly hosted the contest. Women soccer players are gaining recognition for their feats, as well. A soccer card featuring American Mia Hamm in her 1992 rookie year achieved $34,440 in June 2021, setting an auction record for the most expensive sports card depicting a woman athlete. Would-be collectors, take note: Industry reports state soccer card values grew by 1,600 percent in 2020, with rookie cards securing the biggest sums.

FIFA finally allowed women within its soccer confederations in international matches in 1991. The United States won that year’s Women’s World Cup and went on to win in 1999, 2015 and 2019; the men have yet to match them. This jersey celebrating the 2019 World Soccer winning game against Japan, covered with team signatures, sold for $950 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2018. Image courtesy of Antiquities of California and LiveAuctioneers

Autographs are, of course, an auction favorite. Matt Powers of Powers Sports Memorabilia stated in an interview with sportscollectorsdigest.com, “What makes them unique is soccer is the world’s number one most popular sport and has some of the biggest superstars [where the] growth potential for the market is much greater than other growing sports.” That is especially true for game-worn jerseys, World Cup soccer balls and other official game memorabilia such as tickets, programs, official credentials and early advertising posters. Prime examples sell for thousands at auction.

Game-used gear from the World Cup is coveted, no matter how seemingly mundane it is. This referee’s whistle, blown during the final World Cup game in 1974, went for £4,200 (nearly $5,000) plus the buyer’s premium in November 2019. Image courtesy of Graham Budd Auctions Ltd and LiveAuctioneers

During the World Cup, you can walk down streets and alleys of almost any major city or town in the world and not miss a minute of the action as it plays on home televisions and personal radios. Nearly four billion people watched some part of the 2018 World Cup – almost half of the world’s population. It’s reasonable to estimate nearly five billion will watch at least some of the 2022 contest, which will be hosted by Qatar from November 20 through December 18. France is the defending champion.

An official tournament program for the 1938 World Cup in France provides a history of the World Cup, details of the competition, team profiles, team jersey colors and accompanying biographies. It auctioned for £1,200 (about $1,400) in November 2019. Image courtesy of Graham Budd Auctions Ltd and LiveAuctioneers

There is no organized sport that unites the world as completely or as thoroughly as soccer. That’s what makes it “The Beautiful Game” in every way – collectible and otherwise.

Headliners and heavy-hitters of sports memorabilia

Road gray, game-worn New York Yankees jersey, 1920, sold for $4.4 million in May 2012 by SCP Auctions and purchased by sports memorabilia auction company Lelands.com, with plans to sell the jersey privately, according to an article on ESPN.com. SCP Auctions image.

The sports card and memorabilia market cheered some history-making sales in 2017. However, it’s not only about the pristine and the priciest items. The character of today’s market is also about people of all ages continuing to seek out and attend collector shows, connecting with sports memorabilia dealers and participating in auctions. Companies continue to turn out cutting-edge and innovative memorabilia today that may very well be tomorrow’s cherished collectibles.

As much as collectors may be attracted to a specific type of memorabilia (cards, jerseys, posters, game-worn gear), it’s still a name game. To gain a better understanding of the big names in the sports memorabilia market and the market itself, we turned to Michael Russek, director of operations at Grey Flannel Auctions.

Which seven athletes are the most sought-after when it comes to sports memorabilia?

Michael Russek (MR): The number one athlete on this list must be Babe Ruth. Ruth is synonymous with American history and the game of baseball. He was a larger than life figure whose legend extends much further than the sport. Ruth currently holds the record for the most expensive game-used jersey ever sold.

The only known complete set of New York Yankees World Series tickets, from 1921 to present. The set, which was encapsulated and authenticated by PSA/DNA, sold for $144,000 in a December 2017 auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image.

Bio: George Herman Ruth (1895-1948) batted and threw left-handed. He made his major league debut in 1914 with the Boston Red Sox and won 89 games as a starting pitcher over six seasons. He is best remembered for the 14 seasons he played outfield for the New York Yankees. Crowned the Sultan of Swat, Ruth hit 714 home career home runs, a record that stood until 1974. Ruth opened the 1935 playing for the Boston Braves, but retired three months into the season. He was one of the first players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, a member of seven World Series championship teams, and named the greatest baseball player of all time by The Sporting News, and greatest baseball player of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated.

MR: Ruth’s longtime teammate with the New York Yankees, Lou Gehrig, arguably has the most elegant signature in the history of the sport. One of the all-time greats and well known for his tragic death from ALS, Gehrig remains highly sought-after in the market.

Bio: Native New Yorker Henry Louis Gehrig (1903-1941) batted and threw left-handed and was a talented athlete not only in baseball but football as well. He spent his entire professional career with the New York Yankees, signing his first contract in 1923. His illness forced him to retire early in the 1939 season. He participated in six World Series championship victories, he was the first player to play in 2,000 consecutive games, first to hit more than 20 grand slams during his career, first to have his uniform number retired, and the first athlete to appear on a box of “Wheaties” cereal.

Lou Gehrig’s 1925 contract with the New York Yankees specifying payment of $3,750. The document sold for $197,287.48 at auction in November 2017. Steiner Sports Auction image.

MR: Michael Jordan is a modern athlete whose memorabilia is highly sought after. Widely considered the best basketball player ever, who played for some of the most accomplished teams of all time, Jordan’s memorabilia will always be highly desirable.

Bio: Michael Jeffrey Jordan (1963) was an NBA shooting guard with the Chicago Bulls from the 1985-1993 seasons, reactivated in 1995 and played through the 1998 season. He returned again in 2001, this time playing for the Washington Wizards, a team with which he held ownership. He wrapped his career for good after the 2002-03 season. He’s a six-time NBA champion, 10-time All-NBA player, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and five-time NBA MVP, among other professional successes.

Michael Jordan game-worn, dual signed Converse shoes from the 1984 Olympic game that saw the U.S. team defeat Spain to claim the gold. Sold for $190,373 during a June 2017 auction. SCP Auctions.

MR: Kobe Bryant is another modern athlete with an international following who is beloved by fans across the globe. Kobe holds the record for international jersey sales and is a superstar in every respect.

Bio: Kobe Bean Bryant (1978) was drafted in the 1996 NBA draft. He was a member of five NBA championship teams, playing guard for the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire professional career. During his 20-year career, he also earned 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP award, and two Olympic gold medals.

A Kobe Bryant 1996-97 season game-worn Los Angeles Lakers jersey, autographed by Bryant during his rookie season. Sold for $12,000 during a September 2012 auction. Grey Flannel Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image.

MR: In the current baseball market Mike Trout is an athlete who is highly sought-after following his rise to stardom and multiple MVP seasons. Collectors understand the potential Trout has to be regarded as one of the all-time greats.

Bio: Michael Nelson Trout (1991) made his MLB debut in 2011 after being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels. He bats and throws right-handed, plays centerfield and is under contract with the Angels through 2020. He’s a two-time MVP of the MLB American League and two-time MVP of the MLB All-Star Game.

Signed Mike Trout game-worn Nike cleats, 2016, sold for $2,185 during a December 2017 auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image.

MR: LeBron James’ memorabilia extends back to his high school days, as well as his championship teams with the Miami Heat and currently with the Cleveland Cavaliers. With James’ growing following and legend his market for memorabilia continues to grow.

Bio: LeBron Raymone James (1984) plays forward for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. He was the first pick in the 2003 NBA draft, became the first Cavalier and youngest player (age 20) to earn the NBA Rookie of the Year title. He’s a three-time NBA champion, four-time NBA regular season MVP, 14-time All-Star team member, and a three-time Olympic medal winner (two golds).

MR: With the rarity and lack of memorabilia in the market, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time Tom Brady is a highly sought-after athlete. Will he win another? (We will find out Sunday, Feb. 4.)

Bio: Tom Brady (1977) was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2000 and remains there to this day. He took on the starting quarterback position during the 2001 season and has been at the helm ever since. He’s been the quarterback on five Super Bowl championship Patriot teams, is the first player to earn four Super Bowl MVP awards and is a two-time NFL MVP winner.

What types of memorabilia are most popular presently, and why?

MR: Currently, the most popular material is photo-matched game-used jerseys. Collectors value actually “seeing” their specific shirt on the athlete’s back. A true “one-of-a-kind” jersey is very popular. This type of item can tie collectors to memories and times of great success for the athlete. Also, vintage Hall of Famer autographs have been very popular since the beginning of time and they continue to rise in value.

What are some of the positives aspects and challenging factors within today’s sports memorabilia market?

MR: Being able to satisfy customers and on our end, delivering them authentic items that they can trust, is very empowering. The most challenging aspect is uncovering those true one-of-a-kind-collectibles that are “hobby fresh.” Routinely bringing a high impact piece to market that no one ever knew existed is what keeps us at the forefront of our industry.

Regarding the authenticity and instance of forgeries among sports memorabilia, what is your advice for people with interest in sports autographs?

MR: With such a high demand and value of athlete autographs, they, unfortunately, are some of the most forged. Anybody who is interested in sports autographs should rely on the highly regarded and proven autograph experts to avoid forgeries. Brands matter and the authenticator’s track record is paramount. You want to make sure your investment is liquid if you ever go to sell.

Not that you have a crystal ball to predict future, but which elements of the sports memorabilia marketplace do you see possibly being in a position to perform well at auction in 2018?

MR: Photo-matched game-worn jerseys gained serious interest in 2017, and I expect that trend to continue in 2018. As mentioned earlier, collectors highly value the true “one-of-a-kind” jersey that can be definitively attributed to a specific career milestone or historic event.

Visit Grey Flannel Auctions online at www.greyflannel.com

Sports Memorabilia That Hits it Out of the Park

Sports legends of the past and present are recognized in this all-star collection of trading cards and memorabilia. Superstars of pro basketball, football, hockey and baseball are all represented in this curated auction, which truly hits it out of the park and scores many home runs. Read on to review the highlight reel of 6 MVPs from this collection.

One of the sharpest cards in the catalog is a John Tavares 2006 Phenoms card by In The Game, which pictures the New York Islanders captain when he played for the Oshawa Generals at the major junior level. Incorporated in the design is a piece of a John Tavares/Oshawa Generals game-worn jersey. Canadian John Tavares, born September 20, 1990, was selected first overall by the Islanders in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. This unusual card has a $50-$70 estimate.

2006 In The Game John Tavares Phenoms Game Used Jersey card, New York Islanders/Oshawa Generals, #GUJ-JT. Estimate: $50-$75. Jasper52 image


With the NBA season wrapping up, the auction marks the opportune time to reflect on the remarkable career of LeBron James. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 14 years since “King James” was the first overall pick by the Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA draft. Offered in this collection is a 2003-04 Upper Deck Victory LeBron James Rookie Orientation Cleveland Cavaliers Card #101, which has an estimate of only $5-$12.

2003-04 Upper Deck Victory LeBron James Rookie Orientation card, Cleveland Cavaliers, #101. Estimate: $5-$12. Jasper52 image


Staying on the hard court, bidders will find a 1990 Fleer of Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, which also has a $5-$12 estimate. Jordan went on to lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. He is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time.

1990 Fleer, Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls card #26. Estimate: $5-$12. Jasper52 image


Also featured in the auction is a 1992 Classic Draft Picks, Shaquille O’Neal rookie card, #1, which is estimated to bring $5-$12. Nicknamed Shaq, the 7-foot-1 center won three consecutive championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000, 2001, and 2002 and picked up a fourth NBA championship ring with the Miami Heat in 2006.

1992 Classic Draft Picks, Shaquille O’Neal rookie card, #1. Estimate: $5-$12. Jasper52 image


Harking back to an earlier era when the Boston Celtics dominated the NBA is a 1970-71 Topps John Havlicek card, graded BVG 6, which has an estimate of $150-$280. After winning the NCAA national championship with the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1960, Havlicek won eight NBA titles with the Celtics from 1963 through 1976.

1970-71 Topps John Havlicek, SP Graded BVG 6, Boston Celtics. card #10. Estimate: $150-$280. Jasper52 image


Baseball is not forgotten! Boston Red Sox fans will want to relive the highlights of their unforgettable 2004 season in which they overcame a three games to none deficit to the New York Yankees to win the American League Championship Series and went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years. It’s all recounted in words and pictures in the Sports Illustrated World Series Commemorative Boston Red Sox World Champions 2004 magazine, which has a $10-$15 estimate.

‘Sports Illustrated’ Boston Red Sox World Series Champions 2004 comemorative magazine. Estimate: $10-$15. Jasper52 image


Peruse the full catalog and start adding to your personal sports memorabilia archive.