Since we’re think into March Madness I figured why not talk about people who are truly mad. Those who spend exorbitant amounts of money on jerseys and memorabilia. A year ago, Christian Laettner’s college jersey was sold at auction via Lelands. Yes, his Duke jersey. That Duke jersey. As in the one he wore on March 28, 1992 when he nailed a buzzer beater giving the Blue Devils the win over Kentucky in the NCAA Championship game. It sold for a whopping $119,500!
According to the auction company, a consigner received the jersey from Laettner himself following that historic 1992 season. I personally can’t think of a logical reason why Laettner would actually give his jersey away, but apparently he did. For that matter, if an athlete gave you a jersey as a gift, turning around and selling it is a bit rude, right? Had I owned it, that jersey would be hanging in my man cave somewhere. I would keep it for my kids to pass down to their kids, but I guess said consigner was more interested in the money.
According to ESPN.com, Laettner’s jersey fetched the second-highest price ever paid for a game-worn jersey with the top spot going to Julius “Dr. J” Erving’s ABA Virginia Squires threads in 2011. That jersey raked in $190,414! To put it in perspective, that’s more than the MSRP on a Porsche 911 Turbo.
You would be surprised at the authentic gear that gets auctioned off. Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Rookie of the Year award, Juan Gonzalez’s 1996 AL MVP award, and Livan Hernandez’s 1997 World Series Ring were mentioned. Frankly, I’m amazed these athletes ever part with this stuff. There are instances where you hear of players parting with their Heisman trophies or Super Bowl rings if they fall on hard times. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think that makes up the majority of the high-end memorabilia out there. I can certainly see why jewelry would fetch such a high price, but for some super collectors, like Todd McFarlane (the creator of the comic book character Spawn and former artist of Spider-Man), who have the money, no price is too high for the right item.
According to Time Magazine, the ten most expensive sports memorabilia items ever sold are:
1. Babe Ruth 1920 baseball jersey – $4.4 Million
2. James Naismith’s founding rules of basketball – $4.3 Million
3. Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball – $3 Million
4. Honus Wagner 1908 card – $2.8 Million
5. First known set of soccer rules – $1.8 Million
6. 1972 Team Canada Paul Henderson hockey jersey – $1.2 Million
7. Babe Ruth’s bat from his first home run at Yankee Stadium – $1.2 Million
8. Muhammed Ali’s boxing gloves – $1.1 Million
9. Babe Ruth’s 1919 contract with the Red Sox – $996,000
10. Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” jersey – $940,000
Babe Ruth is clearly the winner of the athlete with the overall most expensive sports memorabilia as he has three of the top ten entries. According to Sports Illustrated, of the top 30 most expensive sports memorabilia ever sold, the Naismith rules of the game is the only college sports item ranked.
Grey Flannel Auctions once sold a Michael Jordan game-used North Carolina Tar Heels jersey for $114,000. I guess Laettner can say he at least was better than MJ in that respect. When it comes to college sports memorabilia, the value doesn’t seem to be there like it is with baseball. Some of it may have to do with baseball being America’s number one sport for so many years, and it has the longest history. However, I think college memorabilia value is down mainly because many of the jerseys that are autographed are either reproductions, or counterfeit. The more current the athlete, the lower the price will be because in today’s society, access to athletes is much more open.
Collectibles stores are always doing autograph signings with players, and in the case of former University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley, some of those signings aren’t even legal. The more popular collecting is, the more items available on the market. Thus, basic business rules apply. The more supply, the lower the demand.
If I could rock an authentic college basketball jersey for March Madness, I think I’d want to go with a 1990 Larry Johnson UNLV jersey. That Runnin’ Rebels team, led by the late Jerry Tarkanian, was a force to be reckoned with. They were fast, fun, and they even had Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. I think many people would pick one of the Fab 5 Michigan jerseys, but I felt that was just too easy.
If you had the chance to acquire any college jersey, whose would you pick? Hit me up on Twitter @rmackman and let me know.