Collecting Sports Memorabilia: Money or Memories?

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Collecting sports memorabilia is a wise investment. It can be good for the soul, as well as for your savings account. A Honus Wagner baseball card – perhaps the rarest find in the sports-trading world — recently sold at auction for a record $6.6 million.

That jaw-dropping sale destroyed the previous record: a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card, which sold for $5.2 million at an auction earlier this year.

Clearly, the sports memorabilia market is booming these days.

“The card market has outperformed the stock market this year,” Howard Epstein, a Charlotte-based collector and one-time show promoter, told Forbes. “Millennials are spending money like crazy. The pandemic kept people home, and some of the older guys are pulling out stuff and selling.”

And that begs the question: What is driving collecting sports memorabilia? Is it the memories or money?

Collecting sports memorabilia – it’s personal

For me, the joy of collecting has always been about the memories it provokes. I have a stash of sports memorabilia that I have accumulated over decades. It began with a fascination with baseball cards, then football cards, and along the way expanded into other collectibles that I consider priceless.

I have an autograph from Baltimore Orioles great Brooks Robinson that dates back to the days when I was a college student, and the Orioles were training in Miami during a labor dispute.

I have two signed pieces from Muhammad Ali: a signature scribbled on a sheet of paper and a signed boxing glove that was a gift from my dear friend, Orlando artist Donna Dowless.

I still have a weathered 50-cent game program from an Aug. 31, 1968, exhibition football game. My late cousin, Greg, took me to my first NFL game that night, allowing me to see former Baltimore Colts great Johnny Unitas. I latched onto Unitas – in the splendid wonder of his crewcut and black high-tops – as one of my first childhood sports heroes.

There are other collectibles, including several signed pieces from legendary boxer Roberto Duran, whom I had the honor of ghost-writing his autobiography (shameless plug)..

But here’s my truth: I am not selling any of it. Why would I? The magic is in the memories, not the money.

Looking at those cards, autographs, and other memorabilia soothes my soul and takes me back to the innocence of childhood. And that is priceless.

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