Often overlooked by collectors, classic Super Bowl memorabilia – helmets, rings, programs and tickets – can be had for much less than top level baseball items.
With the Indianapolis Colts- New Orleans Saints matchup for Super Bowl XLIV finally set, the sports memorabilia world ponders the effect this year’s game might have on the industry.
Inevitably, with two weeks to debate the details of every angle of the game before kick-off, the conversation turns to Super Bowl memorabilia, itself a multimillion dollar industry. The game itself will generate a tremendous amount of items – some of them quite expensive, perhaps even valuable one day, and some… not so much.
What most football fans may not know is that collecting good-to-high-end football material, unlike baseball, is still relatively inexpensive – think in the range of several thousand dollars with good football items as opposed to the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars for the best baseball-related memorabilia.
“For a lot of football fans that may want to get into collecting, but don’t know where to start, the Super Bowl in particular can provide some very concrete and affordable opportunities,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports at Heritage Auctions.
“We don’t deal too much at Heritage Auction Galleries in players still on the field – except (Brett) Favre, since he’s been around for two generations – but we have seen some Super Bowl players and some types of Super Bowl memorabilia that are both special and won’t set you back a tremendous amount.”
As for this year’s big game, it features two of the upper echelon quarterbacks in the NFL. Peyton Manning is clearly first ballot Hall-of-Famer in the making and he already owns a Super Bowl ring. It’s the third time in four years a Manning brother will quarterback a team on the last day of the season. This year, the Colts face the Saints, a team for whom Peyton and Eli’s father spent the bulk of his career.
“Anything Manning related – even if it’s Archie or Eli – is going to see a spike,” said Ivy, “just because of the athletic greatness of that family. If the Colts win, and they’re a four-point favorite right now – then any Peyton autograph, game ball or game-used equipment, is going to go up.”
The Saints’ 42 years as a franchise has largely been an exercise in futility and the amount of high-end memorabilia relating to New Orleans’ only major sports franchise is limited. They’ve broken through this year, which automatically makes game balls, team autographs or signed jerseys more relevant, and relatively more pricey.
“If the Saints win, then any really rare and important piece of memorabilia associated with this team will instantly be a valuable piece of football history,” said Ivy. “Conversely, there will be thousands of specially made ‘collectibles,’ marketed just after the game, which will be made by the thousands and will more than likely never equal to the initial value paid to obtain it.
The road to real value lies not only in collecting diligence and patience; the most important element is a passion for the game itself, and for the pursuit of the collection. Real value does not come in the hype of the moment, say a week or two after the win, but in the appreciation of the thing itself as a rare and valuable piece of sports history.
For instance, coming out of Super Bowl XLIV, if a collector were able to get a team signed football from the winning team, if cared for properly, and held on to for a few decades – like this 1966 Green Bay Packers Team-signed ball, which sold for $2,868 (all prices in include Heritage’s 19.5% Buyer’s Premium) in 2007, or this one from the 1984 San Francisco Forty-Niners, which sold for $449.32 in 2006 – then it can start to accumulate value.
The holy grail of Super Bowl memorabilia, though, is the game worn uniform or helmet. These treasures don’t come around too often given their singular nature and the fact that most times players and their families want to hold on to these keepsakes themselves.
“Needless to say, a game-worn helmet from a Super Bowl winning quarterback, like the 1985 Dan Marino Super Bowl XIX game worn helmet we auctioned in 2007 for $33,460, will bring a true premium,” said Ivy. “Even though the Dolphins lost the game, that helmet represented Marino’s only title appearance, was actually part of the game, and is certainly in the realm of the top football collectibles, just like a Super Bowl worn helmet from Manning or Brees would certainly one day be.”
Hardcore collectors of football memorabilia know that there is currently relatively little in the sport that can compare with the age, history and value of the best of baseball memorabilia, but they also know that that therein lies the secret to assembling a great, lasting and valuable football memorabilia collection, and most experts would agree that Super Bowl-related items are a choice place to begin.
“There’s great collectibles to be had, from championship rings, to game tickets and early mint-state game-day programs,” said Ivy, “there are many places to get started building for the future. Don’t collect thinking you can make a fast buck. Collect because you enjoy the pursuit, because you are in for the long haul and because the real value lies in your love for the game.”