Muhammad Ali celebrated his 68th birthday last week. Nearly 29 years after his last fight, collector demand is still strong for items from the actual venues where fans around the world watched "The Greatest" at his best.
by Dave Beesley
One of the most collectible areas regarding Muhammad Ali is "site memorabilia"; that is boxing programs, tickets and posters from Ali’s actual fights.
Ali site memorabilia ranges from his early amateur days through to his last professional fight against Trevor Berbick in 1981. Some collectors even chase after site memorabilia from his many worldwide exhibition contests which can be just as rare.
The reference guide for any Muhammad Ali Site Memorabilia collector should be the 1997 Christies LA Paloger Auction guide. This book contains many photographs of Boxing Programs, tickets and Posters from the majority of Ali’s contests.
The desirability and price of Muhammad Ali site memorabilia is governed mainly, and not in necessarily in this order, by:
Significance of the fight
The biggest Ali fights will always attract even the casual Ali site memorabilia collector and even though they might not be the rarest items, their desirability means they are a premium item:
Clay Liston I – Ali wins Heavyweight Title for the first time. Ali Frazier I – Fight Of The Century Ali Foreman – Rumble In The Jungle. Ali Frazier III – The Thrilla in Manilla.
For certain Ali fights, more programs and posters were produced than sold at the fight. Site memorabilia for certain fights may have been found hidden away in a warehouse and recently discovered.
If a program, poster or ticket has fold marks, creased corners or water stains, etc, it will obviously not be as collectible as an item in mint condition.
Muhammad Ali fight programs from the site of the event are probably the most widely collected of all Ali memorabilia. Many collectors are after the holy grail of collecting: every Muhammad Ali fight program ever issued. Keep in mind some of Ali’s early programs were just one page bout sheets.
Closed Circuit Programs were produced during Ali’s career and these should not be confused with the Actual Site Programs.
Prices for Muhammad Ali Site programs can range from $15 up to and over $5,000 for the most rare programs.
Again a much sought after site collectible, there are different variants of a Muhammad Ali site boxing ticket.
Full tickets, with the stub still attached, are the rarest and most collectible. These are tickets that were purchased for the actual fight and the original owner either could not attend, or he had the foresight to get the ticket attendant to not rip the ticket or the ticket had holes punched in it.
‘Printer Proof’ tickets do not have a seat number and were usually produced by the printer as part of the initial print run as spares before being numbered. Still collectible, they are not worth as much as the original full tickets. They sometimes have holes punched in them so they could not be used.
Stubless tickets are also very collectible, due to the rarity of full tickets.
Ticket stubs can be very collectible especially in the absence of the other variants. This is especially the case with the early fights in Ali’s career.
Phantom tickets were made for fights that did not take place such as Ali-Liston II which was postponed. Always check the date and venue against Muhammad Ali’s ring record.
Closed Circuit tickets are from theater venues that showed the fights and are least collectible.
Again the prices of Muhammad Ali site tickets can range from around $50 up to and over $5,000
Site Boxing Posters were used in and around the actual venue to advertise the forthcoming fight, date, ticket prices, and usually consisted of pictures of Ali and his opponent. They vary in size and vibrancy but are not usually smaller than say 18×22. Few survived the actual event and thus are indeed very collectible and scarce.
Closed Circuit Posters and movie posters were produced in numerous quantities for worldwide theatre venues but are still collectible.
Prices can range from $500 up to and over $10,000 for rare Muhammad Ali site Boxing Posters.
I have, through the years, collected all types of Muhammad Ali’s site Memorabilia. However, in recent years I have concentrated on Ali site boxing posters. The main reason was that I would store my programs and tickets in binders hidden away in the loft. My posters would be framed (for protection) and hung on the walls.
These posters would provide much discussion and pride with any visitors. The expense of purchasing my remaining ‘wants’ made it necessary to make a decision to concentrate on a single type of Ali site memorabilia. However I just purchased two full Ali Frazier 1 tickets! We collectors never learn!
Other Site Memorabilia (sleepers)
There are many other items of site memorabilia which in my view make a great investment which are obtainable at reasonable prices. Such varied items that can be seen are commemorative Everlast Gloves from Ali Frazier fights, pennants from fights, pins, and even seat cushions from the Ali vs Holmes fight.
With the advance in today’s printing techniques I have come across reprinted tickets, programs and posters from various Ali fights. The same rules apply to site memorabilia as collecting autographs.
Dave Beesley Muhammad Ali Memorabilia Specialist
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