SoCal memorabilia dealer is ready when champions prefer green to gold.
For someone who never played major college sports, Tim Robins owns a lot of championship rings.
“I probably have a little over 200 college and pro rings right now.”
The California-based former TV producer is carving his own niche in the sports memorabilia market. His business is buying and selling sports championship rings.
“They’re very sought after and the market is growing,” Robins said. The sometimes-gaudy and usually very large pieces of custom jewelry can run from a few hundred dollars into the thousands. “It depends on the player, condition and what it’s made of. Gold, gold-plated, non-gold, whether it has diamonds or c.z. (cubic zirconia). And Condition is everything.”
Players don’t often want anyone to know they’ve sold off what their teammates might consider a sacred piece—the tangible end result of a shared journey– so Robins’ web site, www.championship-rings.net, doesn’t name the identity of those who wore those that are for sale. The names, however, are often found in the engraving.
“Players usually give up their rings based on what we call ‘the 3 D’s; drugs, divorce or death,” Robins said. “Some players also have family and friends who get used to getting handouts and gifts while the player is active. When the player retires, the money is no longer there but the players don’t cut back on their lifestyle and then they need money to keep everyone happy. That’s when they sometimes decide to sell their rings.”
Some rings are more elaborate than others, offering the chance to sell perhaps only a part of it.
“One player needed money so he sold the diamonds in hopes of at least holding on to the ring. He had it filled with cubic zirconia but later he had to sell even the ring itself and that was priced at $15,000. With the diamonds it would have been a $20-30,000 item.”
Rings worn by players who are still in school are rarely sold.
“After 1986, players couldn’t receive anything of monetary value before they
graduate. Now, If you sell a ring before you leave school, you could lose your scholarship and maybe a chance to play professionally.”
Some of the rings in Robins’ stash are a bit obscure like those from minor bowl games or regular season championships. Others are a magnet for those who seek out rare or hard-to-find items related to a specific team or school. He’s currently offering a 1968 Ohio State football championship ring and a later-day Notre Dame championship ring.
Robins sells it all, from bowling to golf to World Series rings to less expensive salesman’s samples in virtually every arena. Rings from the major pro sports are harder to come by.
“The most expensive ring I had recently was a 1999 Yankees World Series ring. It belonged to a lesser-known player but sold for $32,500 in less than three hours after I put it on our web site. A family member had some health issues and the player needed extra cash.”
One member of the 2001 St. Louis Rams sold him his Super Bowl ring. Robins had it displayed at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim at a ‘show special’ price of $10, 9995.
Sellers find him largely by word of mouth and now, his web site. The fraternity of players will share the knowledge with each other that there is a willing buyer of their ring should they choose to part with it. Robins’ business is largely word of mouth among the athletes themselves.
“Usually they’ll contact us and if they sell the ring and were treated well, they’ll tell their friends or teammates about us. It’s often ‘hey, you won’t believe what I sold my ring for’.”