When it comes to most valuable sports memorabilia, the collectible items associated with some of the finest and iconic sports figures in the world has never failed to amaze the fans and the collectors. The sports memorabilia market has become a very big industry. Sports collectibles can be both a great hobby and an investment, with high-end collectible items being viewed by many as low-risk, for both long as well as short term investment. Personalities like Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Don Bradman and Honus Wagner, to name a few are all considered to be legends in their respective sports, and their memorabilia is highly sought-after among their fans and collectors alike. Here, we have listed some of the most expensive sports memorabilia that fetched huge prices at auctions. Read on:-
Original Basketball Rules
Price: $4.3 million
At an auction held by Sotheby’s in New York, David and Suzanne Booth bought the original documents of the James Naismith’s 13 basketball rules for $4.3 million. The rules got auctioned for twice the price it was expected. Speaking of the Naismith’s rules, these are unique in the annals of sports history as they represent the direct association between a sport’s founder, and the sport we know today.
Mark McGwires 70th home run ball
Price: $3 million
The Mark McGwires 70th home run ball, which was expected to fetch only $1 million, was bought by a comic book maker Todd MacFarlane for staggering $3,005,000. However, the auctioneer Guernseys started bidding for the record setting ball of McGwires at $400,000, and the price suddenly jumped as die-hard baseball fan bidders tried to get their hands on the ball called the “Hope Diamond of Baseball," by baseball historians. The ball was originally retrieved by Philip Ozersky, a research scientist who had been attending the game with a group of office friends from Washington University in St. Louis when the ball came flying at him.
Babe Ruth Bat
Price: $1.3 million
The bat Babe Ruth used to hit the first ever home run at Yankees Stadium got sold for $1.3 million, above its pre-sale price estimate. According to the auctioneer Sotheby’s, the bat which was in original, near-pristine condition and autographed by Babe Ruth himself was bought by Mastronet Inc., a Chicago based sports and memorabilia company, on behalf of an anonymous New York-based collector. Historically, Babe Ruth homered with the bat the day Yankee Stadium opened on 18 April, 1923.
Muhammad Ali's Boxing Gloves
Price: $ 1.1 million
The renowned casino owner and co-owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Lorenzo Fertitta splashed out an incredible $1.1 million on a pair of boxing gloves wore by legendary American boxer Muhammad Ali. Lorenzo bought the gloves at a charity auction by narrowly beating out Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had bid $1 million. Considered to be a cultural icon, Muhammad Ali wore the gloves 46 years ago during his first heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he defeated Floyd Patterson. However, the gloves were sold at a gala where Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs performed in honor of Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday celebration to raise money for brain research, a mission Ali’s family says it’s important to him part because of Ali’s battle with Parkinson’s disease since 1984.
1920 Babe Ruth sale contract
To Red Sox fans, Babe Ruth was not just a baseball player; he was the heart of the game. He is not recognized as a pitcher but a great pitcher, not mere a hitter but a dazzling hitter. And on January 6 1920, when supporters found that Babe Ruth had been sold to the New York Yankees, they all got shocked. Now, the Babe Ruth sale contract 1920, in which the Red Sox agreed to sell the legendary Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000, got sold for staggering $996,000 at Sports Memorabilia and Cards auction sponsored by Sotheby’s and SportsCards Plus.
Babe Ruth World Tour Uniform 1934
Sold by Mastro Auctions, one of the largest sports memorabilia auction house, in August 2005 in its first ever public sale, the uniform was worn by legendary Babe Ruth during an off-season barnstorming tour to Japan and other countries. In later years, Babe Ruth occasionally donned it for an exhibition game, but the uniform’s limited use kept it in excellent condition.
Hank Aaron's 755th Home Run
While playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, Hank Aaron slammed his career’s final home run against the California Angels, and set the home run record at 755. A part time member of the Brewers ground crew, Richard Arndt grabbed the home run ball with every intention to give it back. But, he decided to hold on to it, when he was not able to return it to Aaron in person. Then, a few days later, the team fired him for not giving the ball back, which they considered their own property. And, Arndt kept the ball in a safety deposit box, until a money manager Andrew J. Knuth in 1999 bought the historic home run ball for $650,000.
Shoeless' Joe bat
The only known “Shoeless” Joe Jackson signature model “Black Betsy” game bat in existence was bought by a 30-year old businessman, Rob Mitchell, who agreed to pay $577,610 on an internet auction, for one of sports’ most fables artifacts. Jackson, one of the baseball’s all time great hitter, was banned from the game for his alleged role in the World Series gambling scandal. His trademark dark colored bat, nicknamed ‘Black Betsy’ helped him compile career’s batting average of .356, and he used this bat for throughout his major league career.
Kirk Gibson’s historic bat
The bat which former dodger Kirk Gibson used for his historic home run in the 1988 World Series has bought by a father-son sports collector’s team based in Santa Barbara for staggering $575,000 in SCP Auctions. Besides buying the iconic bat, the buyers also took home four other Gibson artifacts that were available on sale.
Lou Gehrig Yankee Uniform
Leland’s sold the Yankee jersey and pants wore by Lou Gehrig during his famous farewell speech at the iconic Yankees Stadium on 4 July, 1939. The great Gehrig stood weeping his head bowed in a packed stadium as his amplified words “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” reverberated off the outfield walls to immortality over radio and on the soundtracks of dozens of newsreel cameras. It is believed that $451,541 was the highest price been paid for a uniform. And, the sellers, a group of Columbus, investors made a profit of 47% in just two years.
Bobby Jones green jacket
Made for the Robert T. ‘Bobby’ Jones, the 1937 personal Augusta National Golf Club green jacket has fetched $310,700 at Heritage Auctions, as part of the company’s Vintage Sports Collectibles Platinum Auction. However, the auction house expected that this green jacket will fetch $100,000. As per the auctioneer, these green jackets rarely comes under the hammer as August National restricts the jackets from being taken off club grounds, and the only exception is that the winner of the Master gets to keep it for a year. This rare green jacket was purchased by an anonymous overseas buyer.
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio signed Baseball
A baseball autographed by iconic actress Marilyn Monroe and New York Yankees legendary player Joe DiMaggio, got sold for $191,200 in a sports memorabilia auction held by Heritage Auctions. As per the director of sports auctions for Heritage Auction Galleries, Chris Ivy, the ball is the only known baseball autographed by both the Hall of Fame member Joe DiMaggio and the actress Marilyn. It was purchased by an East Coast collector who is a big fan of both DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. Ivy said that both the stars autographed the ball during the Yankees’ 1961 spring training in Florida.
Dr J Virginia Squires road jersey
An autographed Virginia Squares ABA road jersey game that was worn in year 1972-73 by the legendary Julius “Dr. J” Erving got auctioned for $190,414 at an auction in Grey Flannel’s May 11, 2012 sale.
Hank Aaron’s Jersey
The 1954 signed rookie Jersey which was worn by legendary Han Aaron, known as the non-steroid home run king, in his first baseball season with the Milwaukee Braves was sold for $167,300. Aaaron was known to most of the fans for having number 44 during his career, started with number 5 when Aaron first arrived in the Braves’ camp. Sold by Heritage Auctions, the jersey includes the faint remnants of ‘5’ beneath the number 44 on the grey flannel.
Don Bradman cricket bat
Price: $ 107,110
The legendary cricketer Sir Don Bradman’s first test cricket bat fetched a record price of $ 107,110 at an auction. Purchased by an undisclosed Australian buyer, the bat was signed by the entire Australian cricket team of year 1928-29 as well as England’s team which won the series by 4-1. As per the auctioneer, this is a record price for a cricket bat. Historically, Bradman was dropped after his inauspicious debut, and later he donated the bat to a competition run by a Sydney newspaper to raise money for a charity children’s hospital. Don Bradman is known to be the Australia’s greatest sporting legend, who maintained an unbeaten test batting average of 99.94, some 60-years after his last match.
Buckner’s Nightmare baseball
Heritage Auctions is selling the famous ‘Buckner Ball’ in Dallas next month, and it is predicted that it could for more than $100,000. It is the very baseball that Bill Buckner let slip through his first baseman’s mitt, allowing a run that contributed to the 1986 Mets improbable victory over the mighty Red Sox. Further, there’s a note written on the ball by Mookie Wilson, the guy who hit the extra inning ball through Buckner’s legs, when he gave it to Mets official. Mookie wrote, “This ball won it for us”. And, at one point of time, actor Charlie Sheen owned the ball cursed by all of the Red Sox fans.
Rare Honus Wagner baseball card
Price: $1.2 million
Such is the craze of Honus Wagner, one of the first five members introduced to the Baseball Hall of Fame who played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, that a man paid staggering $1.2 million for a rare Honus Wagner 1909 baseball card in an online auction. Described as sports ‘most famous collectible’, the Wagner card was part of the ‘Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XL‘, Goodwin & Co.’s auction of a total of 528 baseball cards from the T206 series, which was released by an American Tobacco Co. for distribution in cigarette packs, back in 1909. Nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman” due to its incredible speed and German heritage, Honus Wagner is known for winning eight National League batting titles, and hitting career’s batting average of .327. This rare card of the iconic Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner received a total of 14 bids in the auction, and was finally sold to an anonymous collector from New Jersey. The card auction began with a starting bid of $300,000, which was considered to be highest in the set.
Babe Ruth Home Run ball
Hundred and one years after the famous baseball player, Babe Ruth hit his career’s 136th home run and 33rd of the season, at the Sportsman’s Park; the ball has soared again, this time bidding at the Sports Collectibles auction held by Heritage on May 4th and 5th 2012. This particular home run crowned Babe Ruth the Home Run King. And, now that ball, considered as one of the most important baseball memorabilia is expected to realize a price upwards of $50,000. Babe Ruth fans considers July 12, 1921 as one of the greatest dates in baseball history. On this day, Babe Ruth tied Roger’s Connor’s career record of 136 home runs with his first homer of the game, and with his second, hitting the ball Heritage is auctioning, he became the Home Run King. All this happened during an away baseball game, when the iconic Yankees team visited the St. Louis Browns team at Sportsman’s Park. This ball was owned by 93-year old D. Berkeley Smith of Waterloo, lowa, who was given the ball by an uncle who attended that historic game.
Sir Garfield Sobers' cricket ball
Regarded as one of the greatest all rounder in the history of Cricket, Sir Garfield Sobers made cricketing history by scoring six sixes in one over for English county team Nottinghamshire v. Glamorgan at the St Helen’s Ground, Swansea. On 31st August 1968, Sobers became the first cricketer to hit every ball of an over for six. The same, red leather special county cricket ball which was the part of that historic match, is now again under the hammer as part of the Bonhams Summer Sporting Sales, specifically as the part of ‘Sporting and Golf Memorabilia’ sale to be held on May 29 at Chester, United Kingdom. Earlier, this ball was auctioned by Christie’s for $50,000 at the Sporting memorabilia auction held in South Kensington, London. In that particular over, three separate balls were used. Facing the Glamorgan bowler, Malcolm Nash, Sir Garfield Sobers began the over by hitting the first two balls into the viewer stands, which were allegedly took too long to return to the umpires. And, the third ball took most of the punishment as it was used throughout for the remaining over, and was massively hit out of the match grounds for Sobers’ triumphant six. This third ball was signed by the ‘King Cricket’ Sobers, and was sold at Christie’s in year 2006. Apart from being knighted and the best cricketer of his time, Sober’s legacy also includes for being the part of the cricket revolution which freed the game from the tradition which were strangling it, and led to the one day’s and T20 games.
Babe Ruth’s Used Pants
The Sultan of Swat who was known for his hitting brilliance, Babe Ruth’s NY Yankee pants worn during his second season back in 1921 has garnered handsome $183,000 at an online sale conducted by Gray Flannel Auctions. With Babe’s name embroidered in the sweat stained waistband, the pants that have hefty 42-inch waist actually came from Ruth’s 2nd wife, Claire Ruth.