Tom Brady got up early Wednesday morning, grabbed his phone and headed to the beach where he recorded his retirement announcement. Brady said he wanted to play in until age 45 and he accomplished that goal, even if his career ended with more of a babbling brook sound than mighty waves crashing ashore. As with all great athletes, though, it’s the wow moments we’ll remember, not the struggles. In fact, from a memorabilia perspective, Brady’s retirement (“for good”, he said) is probably a good thing. His sustained greatness will outlive the struggle at the very end.
Brady has his haters but the numbers don’t lie and by any measure, he’s among the best in any sport in any era. A 23-year career and much of it at or near the top of his profession? Not exactly a common occurrence in sports.
Eight years ago Wednesday, I had compiled a list of the highest selling Brady memorabilia sold at public auction to that point. The highest priced item was a game jersey that had sold for $46,000. The list is almost quaint by today’s standards.
So what’s ahead for Brady-a-bilia?
Michael Jordan was a worldwide sports icon (who also retired more than once) so it’s a little hard to compare his status with Brady’s but it’s been a long time since a player considered the absolute best in one of the five most popular North American sports has retired. I think a similar path lies ahead for Brady memorabilia. Like Jordan and a few other true icons, his top cards and special game-used items will be very desirable for many years.
Sometimes when a great athlete starts to slide down the other side of the mountain they’ve climbed as has happened with Brady since his last Super Bowl win, their card prices take a dip, too. When that player retires, though, things start to inch back up as they’re looked at through a new lens. No longer seen as a declining active athlete, but rather an accomplished legend, demand grows once again. That already started happening with Brady after his video dropped.
No, his cards (and autographs) aren’t more scarce than they were on Tuesday, but the natural reaction is that people want something tangible from that player’s career. And while the market will quiet down, the sustained, long-term demand will continue. No one’s beating Brady’s Super Bowl championship record anytime soon and many of his other records are pretty safe. Barring any off the field craziness–which seems unlikely–he’ll be talked about in glowing terms for the rest of his life, now, rather than the cynical nature of fans and commentators when a superstar player is having a rough time. That’s a big deal.
In the good timing department, one of the best items from Brady’s career—one with impeccable provenance—is actually up for auction now. The jersey he was wearing when he passed Peyton Manning for most all-time fourth quarter comeback wins late this season is at Goldin Auctions. The red Bucs jersey was given to teammate Chris Godwin after the game and proceeds will benefit Godwin’s foundation which helps homeless pets and kids. The current high bid is $205,000 and it’ll undoubtedly go for much more.
Heritage Auctions has a jersey worn in another of those comeback wins back in 2010 when he was a Patriot—this one inscribed with the score of the game—that’s already shot past $200,000.
“To me, game-used Tom Brady items are going to be more in demand and valuable,” Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions remarked. “These are items that are personal to Tom, that tell the story of his career and of which there is a limited supply. I expect these items will go up in value immediately and continue to rise throughout the years in a similar manner to Michael Jordan as Brady has achieved that same status as the greatest of all time.”
Much of Brady’s memorabilia from his days in New England has been carefully preserved inside the Patriots Hall of Fame and belongs to him. With money not likely to ever be an issue, it’s possible many of those items won’t ever reach the hobby, instead remaining on public display. He did swap jerseys with numerous opposing players quite a bit so some of those may eventually hit the market if a player decides to part with his career memorabilia, but don’t look for that to happen for quite a while. However, players who have items associated with Brady, such as touchdown balls, may opt to sell them privately to collectors because of the value. We know that’s already happened from time to time. Brady’s last interception? Jayron Kearse of the Cowboys has it:
Good thing I held on to this one… Helluva career TB12, the GOAT!! pic.twitter.com/fi0H03rUKt
— Jayron Kearse (@Jayronkearse8) February 1, 2023
NFL Auctions has sold footballs from Super Bowl games in which Brady’s teams have played. If there’s provenance to a specific time of the game in which they were used that coincides with use by Brady, they’ll be in demand as well as anything associated with Brady’s first, last and most memorable Super Bowl games.
Brady has an autograph deal with Fanatics after many years with Tri-Star. I wouldn’t look for him to sign more autographs now that he’s retired since he’s undoubtedly under contract to provide a certain number of autographs over a certain time frame. In the future, though, we know the inscriptions he signs won’t be outdated. Several years ago, Brady was signing footballs listing accomplishments and Super Bowl titles that were later surpassed. Items he signs and inscribes from here on out will be the the best items to own.