If you have ever taken an interest in collecting sports cards or jerseys, or even been a fan for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard the words memorabilia and collectible. These words are often used interchangeably, but there is technically a difference between them.
Something is generally considered sports memorabilia when it has been signed by an athlete and the signature has been verified and certified by a reputable source. Items range from photos to jerseys to cards to sports equipment. The source certifying the signature is usually a distributor or dealer.
On the flip side, sports products that aren’t signed by an athlete or are signed but haven’t been officially authenticated are considered collectibles. These won’t be as valuable as sports memorabilia, but they are still nice to have for personal collections.
Going Up and Going Down
Sports memorabilia can be a great investment, but it can also leave you pulling your hair out in frustration, depending on the state of the market at any given time. There is always the possibility for appreciation or depreciation of sports memorabilia, depending on factors and conditions that are beyond your control. As an example, you might think the record-breaking home run ball hit by Mark McGwire that sold for $3 million in 1999 was well worth it, until he eventually admitted to steroid use.
Now, that same ball probably isn’t worth even a fraction of what the collector paid for it, if anyone would buy it at all. However, if steroid-era sports memorabilia becomes popular sometime in the future, the value could rise again.
Advice for Prospective Investors
One piece of advice for prospective investors in sports memorabilia is to go after smaller numbers or ‘high-end’ memorabilia instead of higher numbers of ‘lower-end’ items. It’s also a good idea to focus on memorabilia from prior to 1980 because of how it has been mass-produced in the years since that time.
You almost need to have the predictive qualities of a scout in order to be successful in collecting sports memorabilia. If you can develop a skill for predicting which players’ items will be in high demand in the future, you may be able to create a valuable collection.
This includes athletes who are temporarily popular and athletes with questionable character who may get caught taking performance enhancing drugs or doing something else illegal. Learn the trade well before you begin, decide if its memorabilia or collectibles you’re after, and then have fun.