Sports fans have long debated which sports are most popular, but one online seller says it may have ended the debate. According to a recent study conducted by SportsMemorabilia.com, NFL memorabilia makes up 34% of total autographed memorabilia sales. Major League Baseball is a close second, comprising 26% of all sales. Surprisingly, just ten percent of memorabilia sold comes from the NBA, while NHL memorabilia and college sports memorabilia each make up only seven percent of sales. Overall, these five leagues account for 82% of revenue.
The top five most popular sports teams and players are from the NFL and MLB. The New York Yankees are the most popular team. The Dallas Cowboys, known as “America’s Team,” is second, followed by the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Green Bay Packers.
The research was done in 2012 and at that time, the most popular player with buyers was New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning, followed by his brother Peyton.
In third place was former Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, the only baseball player to appear in the top five. Jones has now retired. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and 49ers legend Joe Montana occupy the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
Sales rankings include one team and three players that were not present in the top five in popularity rankings. The Chicago Bulls are the only NBA team to appear in the top five teams by memorabilia sales, finishing fifth with 2.4% of all sales. Memorabilia signed by Michael Jordan is second among players with 1.8% of total sales. The top five best-selling players list concludes with Yankees great Mickey Mantle and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Clearly, sports analysts are accurate when they say quarterbacks are the most valuable position. Three of the top five most popular and top five best-selling players are NFL quarterbacks. In addition, the past is just as important as the present in sports memorabilia sales, with historic legends Michael Jordan, Mickey Mantle, and Joe Montana placing high in these rankings.
Baseball and football’s dominance of the memorabilia market is also supported by statistics that separate sales by item. The most-sold items are those that are not sport-specific, such as autographed jerseys (24% of all sales) and photos (23%). The next most frequently purchased items clearly confirm the strength of the NFL and MLB in this market. Signed helmets and baseballs each encompass eight percent of total sales, followed by footballs (5%) and mini-helmets (3%).
SportsMemorabilia.com reports that 93% of its memorabilia sales occur in the United States. Within the U.S, most memorabilia sales are from customers in California, New York, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey.
The market for licensed (unsigned) sports merchandise is $12 billion, with the autographed market estimated to be $1.5 billion.