23 Winning Ways To Make Money From Sport Memorabilia

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This is an exciting time for sport in Australia.

It’s also a potentially very lucrative time for anyone smart enough to want to make money from it.

Major new campaigns for our AFL and NRL teams are underway, rugby union’s Super 14 continues to set world class standards, Messrs Schwarzer and Co have at last boosted our soccer fortunes, and cricket, tennis and basketball continue to produce the superstars of tomorrow.

Add to this, the high profile world class Commonwealth Games in Melbourne earlier in 2006 – and the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and the stage would seem to be set for Australia to captivate the public, draw the media spotlight, and dramatically raise the profile of our great sporting nation and its elite athletes.

Such prowess also provides a highly lucrative window of opportunity for individuals who aspire to be entrepreneurs by leveraging the power and reach of the internet to find, buy and then resell collectable sports merchandise at a profit.

Indeed, with merchandise and memorabilia sales nudging $320 million last year, internet usage outstripped only by North America and Africa in terms of percentage take-up, and broadband penetration set to climb again this year from last year’s 2.6 million subscribers – Australia’s eCommerce planets would seem to be aligning.

If you’re serious about sport, and interested in making money from it, here’s a handful of top tips to get you on your way.


Wily collectors have now started snapping up and stockpiling Socceroos products which they will hold until the so-called win-win period immediately after the World Cup.

They know from experience that if Australia exits the competition early, product lines such as framed prints will have value to fans who may take the view that it could be another 30+ years before the nation qualifies again.

The real uplift in value, however, will come if Australia progresses to the knock-out stages, in which event the value of collectibles will increase sharply and demand could be expected to quickly outstrip availability for certain short run and one-off items.

The value will increase in proportion to how far the Socceroos progress and it goes without saying that a final place – or better – will send values, particularly in auctions such as eBay, into the stratosphere.


Look for product lines which have been produced to commemorate great recent moments. Collectors know that although these are cheaper now than when the moment took place, in many cases they will increase sharply in value among enthusiasts once the event appears on the calendar once again and memories are pricked – especially if the winner is considered unlikely or unable to repeat their performance.

Examples include the triumph of Makybe Diva; for which popular collectibles include official collectors’ photographs and even framed riding crops signed by history-making jockey Glenn Boss.


Find a hunting ground which gives you maximum choice. For example, almost 3,000 new collectable sport products moved a mouse click closer recently, when the new sport collectables megastore opened at www.iloveport.com.au.

As well as giving ardent followers of current teams and star players a one-stop-shop for all their branded merchandise, its launch enabled nostalgia-seekers to choose from over 800 authentic signed products which capture history’s defining sporting moments.

With 18 sports covered at launch – and another 6 planned for the coming weeks, the portal is already one of the web’s biggest signed and licensed online sports stores.

Many of the www.ilovesport.com.au products also appear in the iLoveSport eBay shop. Start your search there for products which relate to what could become defining moments upon which enthusiasts will look back as history unfolds.


Commemorative silverware holds its value particularly well. Look for smaller display items such as limited edition silver medallions and replicas trophies such as Premiers’ Cups which are specially manufactured to mark significant events.

An example would be last year’s Grand Final success of the Sydney Swans. If the Swans make it to another final – imagine how valuable the medallions will become overnight. If they don’t, collectors know they can profit from so-called eBay ‘commiseration purchases’


Boxing is a sport with supporters who seem to have an insatiable appetite for photographs – both autographed and not.

It’s also a sport where other products suit the collectibles market and which appreciate quickly in value given the relatively short-lived career of its stars.

Signed gloves are very popular and hold their value well – look for those which commemorate the bigger names of the past such as Ali or Frazier.

Robes and Trunks also suit autographs and thanks to some creative buying are now available at a price which renders many of them prime candidates for turning an overnight profit.


While in signed clothing mode, bear in mind that although signed gloves or trunks are wonderful items to have in a collection, the ultimate collectibles have to be those that have been worn or used by the big names.

The only problem here is initial outlay. To buy an item worn by, for example, you would have to be willing to part with a substantial some of money.

Returns for shrewd negotiation and careful timing, however, can be equally eye-opening. Recent examples abound of signed worn Ali items being snapped up by a collector for circa $20k and then being resold on eBay to a die-hard enthusiast for $30k - before the collector’s cheque had even cleared!


Look out for time capsule projects and consider leveraging them by making your own collectibles available to cash-in on the raised profile of certain lines.

One well-known soccer Club recently ran a poll asking its 100,000 fans which items they thought should be locked in a vault and buried beneath its new stadium. This made smart collectors spot opportunities to replicate the choices.

The time capsule poll produced items such as Ali’s boxing gloves from the “Rumble in the Jungle”, an England soccer ‘cap’, any World Cup medal and so on.
As the time capsule was buried and its contents plastered across the media, eBay was suddenly awash with replica Ali gloves, England soccer shirts and other memorabilia and soccer medals, and created a profit bonanza for collectors who swooped while the product lines were top-of-mind among sports fans.


Be a sports page junkie – search for stories which could prompt a buying trend.

Commentator John Arlott was known as the ‘voice of Cricket’ during a period where cricket commentary made the transition from radio to television. From 1946 to 1980 Arlott broadcasted around the world to three generations of cricket lovers.

But life at the microphone was only a small part of his career, and he liked nothing more to regale viewers with stories relating to his second love, port.

Shortly before he died, he wrote of a newly released tawny port which was generally considered to be a poor vintage: “This port was not released. It must have escaped.”

A range of limited edition collectible ‘Ask Arlott’ ports flooded the market, complete with wooden plinth – each numbered and sold with a certificate to verify its authenticity.

Look out for collector’s ports – especially those which commemorate sporting teams or events and which come with a personalised number or message. Be sure to insist on some form of verification certificate.


A word of warning about the run of collectible matchbox covers which recently became available through collectors across the internet.

One enthusiast reported paying good money for a Donald Bradman 100th Test matchbox cover 'with matches still inserted'.

The die-hard cricket fan assumed – not unreasonably - that, in the interests of safety, the contents should be burned off as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, half the value also went up in flames.

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Still in cricket, bats have become very popular among memorabilia collectors. If they take your fancy, framed items are likely to appreciate in value more reliably than unframed ones.

That said, look closely to make sure there’s no varnish over any signature on the bat as it will reduce the resell value even though it’s likely to have been over-varnished to preserve the value!

Also, inspect the case seal carefully – if there are any tears or gaps – however tiny – oxidisation will eventually render the bat worthless.

If you’re holding the bat (not literally) while waiting for your optimum resell moment, make sure you protect it from direct sunlight.

Don’t worry about the rubber grips – conversely, it’s generally considered that a naturally worn grip adds authenticity and therefore value.

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In years gone by, basketball was dominated by the USA. Now it’s undeniably a world game and its greater appeal has earned it a place in the arsenal of ‘most profitable’ sports of many collectors.

It’s worth spending some time looking for the relatively large number of special items which reflect the popularity of this fast-paced game. Among the more potentially lucrative lines are those which commemorate the dazzling careers of the more memorable world class players.

Their value is helped along by the media hype surrounding the likes of Michael Jordan; who was quoted recently as saying “Even when I'm old and grey, I won't be able to play it, but I'll still love the game and my memory will live on in the memorabilia collections of the world’s enthusiasts". Thanks Michael!

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On a random note to pause our sport-specific review of how to make a fortune from sport memorabilia, let’s consider opportunities which are much closer to home.

It’s a fair bet that every one of us has something special that has been in the family for as long as we can remember. It could be a medallion or a program – or maybe even a jersey or signed photograph.

In many cases such hidden gems have been handed down from generation to generation waiting patiently for the day when an auction decides how much they’re really worth.
Although it’s appropriate to consider that the intention may be that they continue to remain in the family, it’s worth finding out for sure. One thing remains certain, they are constantly being sought after by people who understand and value such items.
So next time you visit your grandparents…….why not pop the question!

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At the risk of stating the obvious, the more popular the sports figure, the more money the sports memorabilia item will demand. The whole industry is driven by supply and demand. The more demand the higher the price and vice versa. Conversely, the more supply of an item, the lower the price.

Sports cards are a great example. Only so many of certain cards were ever made, and they carry a much higher price than those that were made in bulk. Quality is also a very big determining factor. Although the worn look has its place in boosting the value of certain items, when it comes to cards, the better the quality, the higher the price.

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If you decide to focus your energies on buying licensed sports merchandise and then selling them direct from your website, be sure to consider shipping issues carefully and pay particular attention to the merits of drop-shipping until you get your feet under the table. This can be an easier way to operate on a small level, because the drop-ship company handles order fulfilment for you. Once you're established, you can take on more inventory and manage delivery yourself.

There’s a great drop-shipping guide maintained by eBay. Get hold of a copy today and see how it could help you start making money from memorabilia and collectable merchandise with less risk.

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And now for a quick reality check……it’s a fact that everyone that collects sports memorabilia likes to believe that they are sitting on a goldmine, but the truth of the matter is, a collection of memorabilia is only worth as much as someone will pay for it.
This makes calculating the worth of any kind of memorabilia rather tough. That said, with an understanding of what makes memorabilia valuable, you can begin to establish a ballpark value for your collectibles.

There are a few things to consider when you are trying to determine the worth of sports merchandise, but the most important factor tends to be whether or not the item is autographed. A Michael Jordan game jersey is certainly an important piece of sports history, and to a serious fan it would definitely be an interesting piece of memorabilia to own. However, if that same jersey was signed by Michael Jordan it could fetch an even higher price. If it were signed by the entire Bulls team, the price could skyrocket even more.

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Authenticity is another important facet of sport memorabilia trading. It’s great to have an autographed photograph from the Grand Final, but if you can't prove that you really have the star’s signature on it, the value of the piece is lessened. A great way to authenticate an autograph is to take a picture of the athlete as they sign it.

There are also several authentication services that use a variety of methods to study your piece and determine if the autograph is real. They will then issue you a certificate of authentication that proves the piece was indeed autographed by the name that resides on it. If you buy autographed merchandise from a retailer or dealer, always buy pieces that come with a certificate of authentication so that you can be completely sure that you are getting what you pay for.

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Another important factor in determining the worth of autographed sports memorabilia is to see if an unusual item itself was autographed. A signed seat from the final match at London’s Wembley stadium, for example, can be worth a lot more money than an autographed shirt of someone who played in the game itself, because the stadium no longer exists.

When you own that signed seat, you not only own a valuable signature, but you own a piece of sporting history. If you are thinking of taking an item to a game or show to have it autographed think carefully to determine what type of item will hold the most value when you come to trade it down the road.

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Another useful tip to remember when you’re trying to put a value on sports memorabilia is to leave sentimentality behind. Just because a player is your absolute favourite, doesn't mean that everyone else loves him and will cause his memorabilia to be highly valued.

While it’s nice to know what your collection is worth and sports memorabilia is a fine investment, it is also important to not only collect what you love. If you love the things you collect, how any earth are you going to be able to rely on your judgement when it comes to selling them for a handsome profit.

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Another important thing to look at when determining the value of an autographed piece of sports memorabilia is who signed it. You should approach this issue with a checklist – and don’t finish asking questions until you have enough ticks in boxes.

Start by asking whether the player is in the so-called ‘hall of fame’ or if they just made it into the limelight for one season or a single tournament? Did the player achieve notoriety off the field or on the field or both? Is there a strong amount of interest in the athlete that signed the item? Is the athlete still alive or has he or she died, limiting the amount of signed memorabilia that this person produced? If the athlete is deceased, how long has it been since he or she died? The longer a person has been gone, the less memorabilia about their career seems to survive in good condition.

Does the athlete that signed your collectible limit the amount of autographs they give? Does the athlete who's signature you have charge a lot for autograph sessions, making their signature rare? Was the item signed by more than one person. Each of these things factors into the value of the signature on your collection.

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Returning to the subject of big global events, be sure to think carefully how you might launch a specific collecting campaign on tournaments which catch the media eye.
Memorabilia and paraphernalia from Melbourne's Commonwealth Games, for example, went under the hammer at Port Melbourne late last month.
More than 600 lots were up for sale - many of the items were unique, and most were snapped up by people like you – looking to buy small items at the right price for quick turnaround.
Keep searching for Melbourne 06 commemorative items – there’s still plenty about and they’re getting packed up for sales both in bulk and as individual items on eBay and in online sport stores.

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In terms of where to get started in the sports memorabilia game, most people begin with eBay, local dealers, conventions, and catalogues. The upsurge in the popularity of eBay has meant that each year, more and more sports items are offered either via the auction route or via traditional online stores. With so many places to look for sports memorabilia, buyers have more options available to them than ever before. Collectors are no longer limited to the local footy card shop; now they can buy and sell items from all over the world.

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Before you ever decide to purchase an item, the first thing you must do is educate yourself about what you are buying.
Even if you trust the dealer or shop you are buying from, it is imperative that you truly understand what you are receiving. The key is to ask questions. Some dealers and vendors will be very unresponsive to questioning and that should tell you something about them and their products straight away.
If the dealer is not willing to answer questions for you or allow other parties to inspect the item in question, you probably are wasting your time with this seller. If a dealer is confident in the product that he or she is offering, they should have no problem allowing customers to ask questions about the item or allowing hobby experts to inspect the collectible for authenticity.

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And finally, another problem to look out for is the perception of rarity. Many dealers will tell you that an item is a limited edition product and use that fact to add a strong premium to its price.

The bottom line is simply this; demand will determine the value so make sure that the item, no matter how limited, is a good product regardless of the limited edition factor.

For example, if you want to purchase an authentic autographed cricket cap of Shane Warne and it happens to be a special limited edition cap commemorating his record-breaking season, that makes sense because any authentic Shane Warne autograph is a very popular collectible and in high demand.

On the other hand, if a dealer offers you an unautographed, limited edition Shane Warne cap and the only reason it is priced so high is because of the limited production, that is probably not a good value.

Remember that anyone can create a product that is technically ‘limited’ so make sure the item is of high quality before you consider a purchase. The market is flooded with so-called ‘limited edition’ items so don't be tricked by this factor alone.

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