By Ken Ball
If you've ever investigated the possibility of purchasing a “salesman's sample” championship ring, you may have been surprised by a couple of things. First of all, you may have been shocked by how expensive they were. Secondly, you may have been surprised by how difficult it was to find them. Both of these mysteries are explained by considering what “salesman's sample” rings actually are.
Originally, these rings are made solely to assist championship teams in choosing designs for their rings. They are presented with a number of options, and the designs they don't choose don't get made again. As a result, there are often a very small number of them in existence--sometimes only one. Manufacturers will sometimes use these alternative designs as inspiration for commemorative collectible rings, but most often they are never duplicated.
Values can very, but like any sports collectible, those representing the most popular teams, players or franchises are sold at a premium. A salesman's sample ring from Super Bowl XX, bearing Refrigerator Perry's name on the inside, recently sold for $8500, generating attention thanks to the story of the young boy who bought it to give to Perry as a replacement for the real ring the big lineman sold in 2007 for over $20,000.
In general, modern era salesman's sample championship rings from the major pro sports usually sell at auction for between $1500 and $5000.
There are a number of factors which will effect the price you have to pay for one of these rings after you've located a seller. One of these, of course, is which sport it's from. Obviously, any sport that awards championship rings has salesman's samples. Rings are awarded on both the college and professional levels, also. Further, it isn't just world champions that get them. Division champions, and, in terms of high school football, even state champions are awarded such rings. The rule of thumb is, the more popular the sport, and the higher the level, the more expensive the ring, though there are exceptions to this.
One of those exceptions has to do with whether the design of your particular sample was the one ultimately chosen by the team or not. Another factor is the material the ring itself is made of. It is true that sometimes sample rings are actually made of white or yellow gold. More often, however, they are made of a less expensive metal. One such metal, which is commonly used, is called “Celstrium.' This is actually a particular brand of stainless steel utilized very often in jewelry manufacturing. It is very durable, inexpensive, and resistant to chemical reactions. What's more, it looks a lot like white gold!
As mentioned before, salesman's sample championship rings can be a little hard to come by. Keep looking, though, and you're sure to eventually find what you're searching for. You can often find them on eBay. There are even a few dealers out there who specialize in this sort of thing. Often, if they don't have what you're looking for, they'll help you find it...provided of course, you're a serious buyer.