Chicago Sports Memorabilia Always Percolating

by Diane Carter

Several American cities rate high when it comes to sports fans and collectors–New York, Boston, Detroit and St. Louis to name a few. But, no list would be complete without Chicago positioned near the top as well. Whether it be the Cubs, White Sox, Bears or Blackhawks, fans fill the stands and Chicago sports memorabilia is among the most active in the market.

Both the White Sox and the Cubs have been around since the beginnings of the American and National Leagues. That leaves plenty of time for fan favorites whether they be from the Cubs last World Series Championship team of 1918 or a part of this year’s fascination with Starlin Castro.

As for baseball card prices, a high grade 2010 Topps Finest Redemption Castro rookie card can bring $50 or more while regular Topps rookies for Castro are in the $2-4 range. This is one of those times when collectors will buy up rookie cards in hopes of a big return down the road.

Other Cubs cards which are always big sellers include popular Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks and Ferguson Jenkins. A 1954 Topps Ernie Banks rookie currently has a book value of $1500 and can be found on 1954 Topps Ernie BankseBay for around $1000-1300 in nice shape.  Third baseman and Cubs radio commentator Ron Santos, a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glover winner, who died in 2010, is a favorite of collectors as well with his post-career visibility helping push prices upward.

Among the most popular modern Chicago White Sox cards and autographs feature players such as Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham. Carlton Fisk has always been popular among both White Sox fans and those of the Boston Red Sox. One of Frank Thomas’ most collectible cards was the 1990 Topps No Name Rookie. The card was misprinted with a blank name box. These cards are still valuable and rare but sell for considerably less than their original high of $800-$1200 each.  Expect an uptick across the board when Thomas enters the Hall of Fame.  He was among the favorites of youngsters who were buying cards during the hobby’s boom in the early 1990s.

1915 Cracker Jack Joe JacksonMemorabilia associated with players for the 1919 Chicago Black Sox has been in constant demand over the decades. Eight White Sox players were banned from baseball for life for allegedly conspiring with bookies to throw the 1919 World Series. The White Sox had won the World Series in 1917. Among the players banned, of course, was Shoeless Joe Jackson, who hit .375 during the Series. All of the players were cleared of wrongdoing but remained pariahs in the sport.

Chicago sports memorabilia related to the 1919 World Series is pricey. In 2008, Shoeless Joe Jackson’s bat, Black Betsy, sold for over $300,000 at a Sotheby’s auction.  Jackson’s 1910 Old Mill minor league card and the Jackson rookie card showing him as a member of the Philadelphia A’s both draw intense bidding.  Buck Weaver, Eddie Cicotte and other members of the Black Sox retain enormous popularity with collectors of vintage cards and memorabilia.  A ticket stub or a 1919 World Series program is worth several thousand dollars when found in nice shape.

BGS 10 Michael JordanChicago basketball fans have not been left out of the action either. In the mid-1990s, the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan won six of eight NBA Championships.  His career is now in the rearview mirror but Jordan is still celebrated by collectors.  With five NBA MVP awards, three All-Star Game MVPs and six NBA Finals MVP awards, Jordan is the icon by whom all other NBA players are still measured.

All of these accomplishments tend to raise the value of Michael Jordan rookie cards and Chicago Bulls collectibles.  1986-87 Jordan cards go for $400-1500 on eBay, but a BGS 10-graded Jordan rookie was sold via Memory Lane Inc. recently for $100,000.  An autographed Jordan ball or jersey sells for around $2000+ and there are always buyers for Jordan signed items that are priced right.  He recently signed dozens of cards for inclusion into Upper Deck products.

Other Chicago Bulls collector favorites from the 1960s to 1990s include Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker, Dennis Rodman, Jerry Sloan, and Bob Love.

Even though he has not yet accumulated as many awards as Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose is well on his way. Many collectors are holding onto Rose rookie and current cards, considering them a good bet to yield a high return later on. Rose has been a pro since 2008 and thus far has won NBA Rookie of the Year 2009, NBA Most Valuable Player 2011, 2x NBA All-Star, NBA All Rookie First Team 2009, and Skills Challenge Champion 2009.  Collectors were looking for a Chicago superstar to fill the void left by Jordan and Rose appears to be the guy, although he’s got a long way to go.

If hockey is more to your liking, there’s plenty to talk about in Chicago. That’s what happens when in a decade a team goes from the worst in the league to be the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions. Chicago has had many well-loved hockey players over the years and incredible fan loyalty. Fan favorites are Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, Tony Certified Champions: Chicago BlackhawksEsposito, and Pierre Pilote.

The advent of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to the Blackhawks in 2007-2008 were among the first inclinations that the team was about to change its lot in the NHL. Winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 upped the worth of Blackhawk collectibles exponentially. Any autographed memorabilia from the 2009-2010 team is highly sought after.  Of course, the hunt for the Cup-winning puck has been the topic of much conversation in the city with a $50,000 reward being offered.

The Chicago Bears have never had a problem attracting fans. They were among the teams which first formed the NFL in 1920. When you think about the Bears’ best players, a lot of different names come to mind. Today Brian Urlacher is one of the collectors’ favorites.

Everyone remembers defensive player Dick Butkus and running backs Gayle Sayers and Walter Payton. Many people consider Payt1976 Topps Walter Paytonon to be the greatest Chicago Bear Player of all time. He became an instant star and broke the All-Time Rushing Record for the NFL while led the Bears to a Super Bowl Championship in 1985. In 2009, a jersey Payton wore in his last game sold at auction for $53,502.  His rookie card is considered among the top football cards of all-time.

Current and former Chicago sports stars will appear at the National Sports Collectors Convention to be held in Chicago August 3-7.  Expected guests include Starlin Castro, Kerry Wood, Jody Davis, Leon Durham, Paul Reuschel, Ozzie Guillen, Matt Garza, Jack Clark, Goose Gossage, Billy Pierce, Carlos May, and Floyd Bannister, among others.

The Chicago Bears are represented by several celebrities, such as Bobby Douglass and Gale Sayers. The Blackhawks 2009-1010 Stanley Cup Championship goalie Antti Niemi will be there to sign as will Pierre Pilote and Bill Gadsby.

If you are a diehard fan of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, or Blackhawks, there are plenty of items available to add to your collection.  Having the National in Chicago means a bounty of items from which to choose, but there will also be stiff competition.   Buying Chicago sports memorabilia there  means preparing for dealers who will probably have what you’re looking for also coming ready to hunt hard to find a bargain, especially for popular or rare cards, autographs and championship-related items.