Even as they’ve become a virtually extinct method of entry into stadiums around the world, the market for collectible vintage sports tickets has never been hotter.
Trading cards picked up steam just prior to start of the current decade and then exploded during the pandemic. Now, it’s the turn(stile) of the once lowly ducat that’s driving hobbyists to seek out sports ticket stubs for sale on eBay, via major auctions and elsewhere.
It’s all too ironic. As the hard copy ticket gets phased out in favor of electronic ticketing, interest in the physical versions tied to superstar debuts, milestone events, historic performances and other important dates has skyrocketed. Demand–and prices–have been climbing at an unprecedented pace.
The highest graded unused ticket from Michael Jordan’s NBA debut sold late last year for a whopping $264,000. A recent auction saw more than a half million dollars worth of vintage baseball, football and soccer tickets sold in a matter of 48 hours.
As collectors look beyond trading cards to other segments of the sports collectible market, it’s the full tickets from past games that have led the way. The most valuable sports ticket stubs are actually the ones that were never used as they were intended. Why? Because generally most did get used. Until the use of scanners came into prevalence, they were torn in half by a ticket taker, often tossed on the ground or stuck in a pocket and thrown away.
Still, more stubs made it home with the fan than stayed home from the game. That’s not to say truly rare vintage stubs aren’t worth much. Quite the contrary. Depending on how many survived and the demand for that particular game, stubs can be worth plenty. The older the better, although interest in a 1920s college football ticket between two non-powerhouse schools is likely worth far less than a debut stub from a popular post-War athlete. Interest in a ticket to Tom Brady’s debut and first start are red hot.
Collectors and dealers willing to do some research can often find historic importance to otherwise fairly ordinary events: a game in which Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle homered; a vintage NFL game ticket when Joe Montana or LeBron James reached a career milestone. Those ties can turn a cheap ticket into one worth much more.
Having your ticket evaluated and encapsulated can enhance the value. PSA graded tickets, especially those rated at the highest levels, have attracted interest from collectors who treat them like high-grade sports cards. It makes the buying and selling process easier, offers some organization and also provides a nifty plastic holder that helps preserve them.
We’re seeing more vintage sports tickets on eBay than ever before. For those who want to track the hottest ticket auctions there at any particular time, the live list of most watched listings is directly below. Even if you’re not in a buying mode, it’s a good barometer of the most valuable sports ticket stubs from a collector’s perspective and a snapshot of which types of tickets are in the highest demand. To see all tickets and stubs listed for sale, click here.