Sports memorabilia has become increasingly popular and valuable in recent years, and is a market which continues to grow. While sporting mementos, keepsakes and autograph collecting have been fairly common place since the 1920s and 30s, memorabilia only really became serious business during the 1980s, coinciding with when sports teams first began selling jerseys/shirts. From this came the sale of used/signed shirts, and from that a real market for memorabilia and these kind of items opened up.
The most expensive pieces of memorabilia unsurprisingly tend to be from the most iconic athletes, teams and moments in sports history. This list only includes the price at which items have sold for, not that they are valued at. Items such as Joe DiMaggio's Journal and Geoff Hurst's 1966 World Cup final shirt have both been valued at well in excess of $1 million, but as neither have sold for or even near to those prices, they cannot rank on this list.
Similarly, a number of highly valuable items are kept in museums or were sold before the market for such items skyrocketed, and have not since become available. Remarkably, one man features seven times on this list, making up almost half of the entries. Items that narrowly missed out on the list include Shoeless Joe Jackson's Bat ($577,000) and Lou Gehrig's 1939 Yankees Uniform ($451,000). Here are the top 15 most expensive pieces of sports memorabilia:
15 Hank Aaron's 755th Home Run Ball - $650,000
14 Babe Ruth's 1933 Jersey - $657,250
13 Babe Ruth's 1934 World Tour Uniform - $771,000
12 Babe Ruth Signed 1933 All-Star Game Home Run Ball - $805,000
11 Babe Ruth's 1932 Jersey - $940,000
The most observant readers out there may have caught on that it is Babe Ruth who is the man to feature seven times on this list, and it is that man again who comes in at number 11. The legendary slugger, best known for his home run power, became arguably the first great sporting celebrity during the Roaring Twenties and appears to be the most marketable athlete of all time when it comes to memorabilia.
10 FA Cup - $956,000
The second most expensive piece of soccer memorabilia ever sold was the FA Cup in 1997. The Football Association Challenge Cup, better known today as simply the 'FA Cup', is the oldest football competition in the world and the most highly-regarded domestic knockout competition in English football. Founded in 1871, 736 teams are currently eligible to enter the competition, and Arsenal are the reigning champions, as well as holding the record for the most successes in the tournament, with 12 wins to their name.
9 Babe Ruth's 1919 Yankees Contract - $996,000
8 Muhammad Ali 1965 Floyd Patterson Fight Gloves - $1.1 million
Out of the hundreds of thousands and into the millions and, more surprisingly, someone who isn't Babe Ruth. Muhammad Ali is perhaps the most recognizable athlete of all time, and in many people's eyes the greatest; certainly in his own throughout the 1960s and 70s. Crowned both the 'Sportsman of the Century' by Sports Illustrated and 'Sports Personality of the Century' by the BBC, it will come as little shock to most the Ali memorabilia is highly lucrative.
7 Sheffield Football Club Rules, Regulations & Laws -$1.24 million
Association football memorabilia is a market which has seen growth even greater and more rapid than most in recent years, but despite being by far the biggest sport on Earth, only two entries from the sport make this list. The 'Sheffield Football Club Rules, Regulations and Laws' are believed to be the first official rules for football ever drafted.
6 Babe Ruth 1923 First Yankee Stadium Home Run Bat - $1.265 million
Number six and it's that man again. The first and only bat to make this list, it is stated in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive bat of all time. Quite rightly too in many respects. The bat was used by Ruth in the first ever game at the original Yankee Stadium, often referred to as 'The House That Ruth Built', such was his importance in kick-starting the Yankees fame and success.
5 Paul Henderson 1972 Jersey - $1.275 million
Perhaps the least well-known athlete globally on this list, Paul Henderson is a Canadian national hero, on a level attained by very few in any country, and it is not difficult to see just why his 1972 jersey became so valuable. Canada and the USSR were - quite rightly - regarded as the two finest ice hockey nations on Earth at that time, but as Canada had withdrawn from the IIHF, a 'Summit Series' was created in 1972, an eight-game series between the two nations to determine who was truly the best.
4 Honus Wagner 1909 Baseball Card - $2.8 million
Widely regarded as one of the greatest MLB players of all time, and certainly one of the finest of the sports earlier years, with only Ty Cobb as genuine competition, Honus Wagner played baseball for 21 years with the Louisville Colonels and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nicknamed 'The Flying Dutchman', Wagner was one of the first five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, receiving the second most votes, behind only his contemporary Cobb, and tied in second with Babe Ruth.
3 Mark McGwire's 70th Home Run Ball - $3 million
Ten entries on this list are from the sport of baseball, and Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball is the ninth of these. An outstanding player, Mark McGwire set the record for the most single-season home runs in history with 70, smashing the previous record of 61, only to see his record be topped three years later by Barry Bonds. McGwire still holds the record for the highest at bats per home run ratio in history, with a record of a home run once every 10.61 at bats, the second highest is Babe Ruth with 11.76.
2 James Naismith's 1891 Rules of Basketball - $4.3 million
1 Babe Ruth 1920 Jersey - $4.415 million
It simply had to be Babe Ruth who topped this list didn't it. The man who dominates the list constituting just shy of half the entries, Ruth also takes top spot, with the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold. The record was set when the item was sold at auction in 2012, eclipsing the fee paid for Naismith's rule book which had been set two years earlier. The item, described as 'the most desirable baseball artifact' in history, had previously been kept at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum.
The incredible price is said to be because the jersey is the oldest known New York Yankees jersey worn by Ruth. Its significance in the power-shift of baseball, as well as its cultural impact on New York outside the world of sport, is massive. The jersey which was first worn in 1920, sold for $4,415,658, and far exceeds even the second most expensive item of Babe Ruth memorabilia.
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