If you find yourself at a ball game and wind up catching a fly ball, don’t give it up. It could be valuable someday. If the player who hit the ball ends up being one of our country’s famed sports gods, you may own a prized piece of sports history that could be sold or auctioned off in the future. If you can get it signed by the player, even better.
Sports memorabilia come in many forms, such as sports equipment, a program or document that comes from a famous player, game or venue. The memorabilia that commands top dollar at auctions are from the most significant historical moments of famous players. In order to sell, the piece must be authenticated and come with a certificate that confirms its origin.
Sports enthusiasts have been collecting these sentimental objects for decades, back when trading cards were the rage. Items that belonged to such famed athletes like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio became immediate collector’s items. Other sports objects, from basketball, football and boxing, soon became as important as baseball memorabilia. Jerseys became a hot item and rock star level ball players like Michael Jordan began giving them away, along with their athletic shoes to lucky sports attendees.
We gathered ten of the world’s most sought after and expensive memorabilia to give you an idea of how many of the items are valued and the prices they went for at their last sale.
10. Babe Ruth All-Star Game Home Run Ball – $805,000
It was 1933 and sports marketers dreamed up a scheme to increase attendance at the Chicago World’s Fair: an All-Star game. The game drew in more than they ever expected and luckily for spectators, they got to watch Babe Ruth hit the first-ever home run during an All-Star game.
This game was so exciting that the concept was repeated each year thereafter. The ball Ruth hit was ultimately signed by 12 Hall of Fame sports heroes, which made it even more valuable. A few names you might know: Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove and Tony Lazzeri.
9. Babe Ruth Sale Contract – $996,000
This 1920 sale contract is for Baby Ruth, who is considered to be one of the best – if not THE best – baseball players of all time. He hit so many home runs that fans would come to expect the superstar to do it every game.
Even with his amazing statistical record, the Boston Red Sox sold him to the New York Yankees. He did not disappoint as in his very first season with the Yankees, he racked up 60 home runs and went on to lead the Yankees to victory again and again.
8. Babe Ruth Bat – $1.265 million
As you can well imagine, Ruth’s bats were always in high demand. However, the bat that he used when he hit his first home run in Yankee Stadium has become one of the most treasured and pricey objects of sports memorabilia and is likely to remain in the top ten for years to come.
This bat was last sold in 2004 for nearly $1.3 million, which was well above its presale estimate and was purchased by memorabilia company, Mastronet, Inc. It’s ironic how the bat was used to win a game against Ruth’s former team, the Boston Red Sox.
7. Paul Henderson’s ’72 Summit Series Jersey – $1,275,707
It was the eighth game of the Canada-Russia Summit Series in 1972 when the fight was on to claim the series title. The game was being played in Moscow, Russia, and although Henderson played masterfully in the previous games, it was in the eighth game that he made the most famous goal in hockey history.
His excitement was captured in his quote, “I jumped on and rushed straight to their net. I had this strange feeling that I could score the winning goal.”
6. Sheffield F.C. Rulebook – $1.4 million
The world’s oldest football rulebook was sold in 2011 after previously being owned by the first club – Sheffield FC. Evidently, it was put up for auction and sold to raise money for the club. This handwritten booklet was written in 1857 and covers the basic rules of football. Many of the rules are still used today and this book is one of the most rare sports documents to date.
5. Joe DiMaggio Journal – $1.5 million
It might surprise you that baseball hero, Joe DiMaggio, kept a journal. Steiner Sports lists this priceless memorabilia at $1.5 million. You’d think there would be something juicy in there about his marriage to sex symbol Marilyn Monroe or maybe even some dirty secrets about his teammates, but alas, his entries were apparently very bland. Still, anything this baseball legend would put to paper is definitely worth a ton of dough.
4. Honus Wagner Baseball Card – $2.8 million
Honus Wagner is considered one of the greats in American baseball, so the American Tobacco Company decided to design and produce a baseball card to go along with their cigarettes. The card was made for 3 years – from 1909 to 1911 – until Wagner elected to put a stop to further production. That means there were only 50 to 200 cards in distribution – no one knows the exact quantity.
The oddest thing is the cards were packed in cigarette boxes, which is the last thing parents in today’s world would allow their children to purchase, but back then smoking was very common. The T206 cards are still very rare, which is why National Hockey League legend Wayne Gretzky bought a 1909 card at a Sotheby’s auction in 1991, knowing his purchase would continue to increase in value.
3. Mark McGwire’s 70th Home Run Baseball – $3 million
McFarlane spent a huge chunk of his wallet to purchase this memorabilia and planned to take it on tour with the proceeds going to charity. He is quoted as saying, “Look, I’m a sports fanatic. I’ve had a successful career, but I’d throw it all out if I could play center field in the major leagues. In a heartbeat.”
2. James Naismith’s Founding Rules of Basketball – $4,338,500
James Naismith is known for inventing the game of basketball in 1891 and as such, he is the author of the first rulebook. He was also the founder of the basketball program at the University of Kansas. In 1904, basketball was added as a demonstration sport in the Olympics and in 1936 it became one of the recurring sports at the summer Olympics.
The original rules did not include “the dribble”, but many of the other rules are still used today. The rulebook was sold at auction in 2010 and is noted as being the second most expensive piece of sports memorabilia in the country.
1. Babe Ruth Jersey – $4,415, 658
Babe Ruth’s entry into the New York Yankees club was memorialized when he hit his first home run in 1920. His ball and bat from that game were sold for hefty sums and the bat comes in 8th on this list of the most expensive memorabilia.
What could be more special that Ruth’s bat and ball? His jersey, of course. After all, the material touched his superstar body for an entire game. The jersey was sold in 2012 for a record $4.4 million; the sale was so astronomically high that it was added to the Guinness Book of World Records.