There is no doubt that sports generate big bucks in the U.S. One needs only to look at the salaries of top professional players or the attendance at major sporting events to realize there’s lots and lots of money changing hands.
The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB bring in about $11 billion in annual revenue, and that’s after expenses that include paying their average players anywhere from $1.25 million (on the low end in the National Football League) to nearly $5 million for the average player in the National Basketball Association.
Add to that the $52 billion spent each year in the U.S. on sports equipment and the $57 billion on sports apparel and shoes, and the money just keeps piling up. No matter what resource you use to define the overall sports marketplace, the numbers are staggering. A reasonable estimate for the money brought in by sports to our U.S. economy is $425 billion a year.
So it should be no surprise to learn that, when it comes to sports memorabilia and sports collectibles, there’s also money to be made. From sports franchises and giant retailers to individuals selling on line, there are people making money with sports collectibles every single day.
The great thing about sports collectibles is that their popularity crosses the line from professional to amateur and collegiate sports. Fans buy miniature Oklahoma Sooners football helmets, autographed hockey pucks by pro stars, and virtually anything with the logo of their favorite football or baseball team. Tiger Woods is a pro athlete without a team, but on any given day you’ll find over 3000 items on eBay related to him, and his personal line of golf apparel, the Tiger Woods Collection, makes hundreds of millions every year.
Since there are no hard and fast numbers associated specifically with sports collectibles, one can only assume that individuals, online and retail stores, large corporations, and sports franchises in the sports memorabilia business are all making money. You can also assume that the numbers just keep on growing.
Obviously the personal popularity of a particular athlete or the rise and fall of a particular team’s success makes a difference in the value of collectibles.
When Lance Armstrong was still racing and winning the Tour de France, his merchandise sold like hot cakes. Although still popular today within the biking community, Lance’s merchandise is not moving like it once did. The same can be said for fallen stars like Atlanta Falcon’s former standout Michael Vick, whose merchandise was pulled from store shelves. Today it goes for pennies on the dollar on eBay.
So what are the trends in sports collectibles and can people make money by collecting? The trends are constantly shifting, say experts. The National Basketball Association reports that sales of the NBA Hardwood Classics jerseys have tripled in the last three years. NASCAR is the fastest growing sports earner as the popularity of the sport has spread nationwide.
Many online retail stores have a unique advantage of being able to move quickly too capitalize on the victories and popularity of sports teams. When a team wins the Super Bowl or an NBA World Championship, the sale of that team’s merchandise and collectibles soars. Online retailers can often move much swifter than their bricks and mortar counterparts, quickly posting hot merchandise online and taking advantage of striking while the fire is hot.
The recent trade of Green Bay’s Brett Favre to the New York Jets led to a nearly immediate posting of Favre merchandise on online retail sites. From 24 karat gold New York Jets or NFL coins to brand new “#4” Jets jerseys, sales were immediately brisk.
What fuels the sports collectibles and memorabilia industry the most is the breadth and depth of the field. Street & Smith Sports Business Journal recently concluded that fans spend the same amount each year on NFL licensed products as they do on college licensed products, with both bringing in more than $2.5 billion a year.
Sports collectibles mean something to the person who buys them. Whether you pay $20 for a licensed ball cap for your favorite MLB team or $100 for an authentic helmet with the logo of your favorite NFL team, fans buy merchandise and sports memorabilia because they love their team and want to be a part of something they view as very special.
Collecting sports memorabilia is much like collecting art. People do it more because they love what they are buying, not so much because they expect it to grow in value. Although collectibles, and even sports items that no one considers at the time to be collectibles, can definitely appreciate.
In 1893, when a nine man hockey team from Montreal won the first Stanley Cup, no one thought to save a jersey. Photos from the era do exist that show the jerseys, but one has never surfaced. According to sports experts, if one of the jerseys would turn up, it could fetch as much as $400,000, most likely from curators at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
So with appreciation dreams and the love of sport both working in its favor, sports collectibles will remain big business, just like the sports they celebrate. In fact, officially licensed merchandise from professional U.S. sports teams and colleges will fetch more than $10 billion this year for the leagues and retailers lucky enough to be in this very hot industry.