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Sports Collectibles Mean Big Bucks For Retailers and Individuals Alike
There is no doubt that sports make a lot of money in the US, one only needs to look at the salaries of top professional athletes or the attendance at major sporting events to realize that there is a lot of money out there.
Annual revenue for the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB is about $11 billion, and that’s after expenses that range from paying their average players $1.25 million (on the low end of the National Football League) to nearly $5 million for the average player. In the National Basketball Association.
Add to that the fact that $52 billion is spent annually in the US on sports equipment and $57 billion is spent on sports apparel and shoes, and the money just keeps piling up. No matter which resource you use to define the total sports market, the numbers are staggering. A reasonable estimate of the money brought into our US economy by sports is $425 billion per year.
So it should come as no surprise to learn that when it comes to sports memorabilia and sports collectibles, there is also money to be made. From sports franchises and giant retailers to online sellers, there are people who are making money with sports collectibles every day.
The great thing about sports collectibles is that their popularity crosses over from professional to amateur and college sports. Fans buy miniature Oklahoma Sooners football helmets, hockey pucks autographed 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 can find more than 3000 items related to him on eBay, and his personal line of golf apparel, the Tiger Woods Collection, brings in millions each year.
Since there are no hard and fast numbers specifically related to sports collectibles, one might assume that online and retail stores, large corporations and sports franchises in the sports memorabilia business are making all the money. You can also assume that the number keeps increasing.
Obviously the individual popularity of a particular athlete or the rise and fall of a particular team’s success can make a difference in the value of collectibles.
While Lance Armstrong was still racing and winning the Tour de France, his merchandise sold like hot cakes. Although still popular in the biking community, Lance’s wares don’t move like they used to. The same can be said for fallen stars like former Atlanta Falcons 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 collecting? Trends are constantly changing, experts say. The National Basketball Association reports that sales of NBA Hardwood Classics jerseys have tripled over the past three years. NASCAR is the fastest growing sports revenue as the sport’s popularity has spread nationwide.
Many online retail stores have a unique advantage of being able to move quickly by capitalizing on the success and popularity of sports teams. When a team wins the Super Bowl or the NBA World Championship, sales of that team’s merchandise and collectibles increase. Online retailers can often move faster than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, posting hot merchandise online and taking advantage of striking the fire while it’s still hot.
The recent trade of Green Bay’s Brett Favre to the New York Jets led to an almost 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 most is the breadth and depth of the field. The Street & Smith Sports Business Journal recently concluded that fans spend as much annually on NFL licensed products as they do on college licensed products, both spending more than $2.5 billion a year.
Sports collectibles mean something to someone who buys them. Whether you pay $20 for a licensed ball cap for your favorite MLB team or $100 for an authentic helmet with your favorite NFL team’s logo, fans buy merchandise and sports memorabilia because they love their team and want to be a part of what they watch. So special.
Collecting sports memorabilia is like collecting art. People do it more because they like what they’re buying, not so much because they expect value to increase. Although collectibles, and even sports items that no one considered collectible at the time, can certainly be appreciated.
In 1893, when Montreal’s nine-man hockey team won the first Stanley Cup, no one thought to save the jersey. Photos from the era exist that show the jerseys, but they have never surfaced. According to sports experts, one of the jerseys could fetch $400,000 if it turns up, likely from curators at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
So with both the dreams of appreciation and the love of the game working in its favor, sports collectibles will remain big business, as will the games they celebrate. In fact, officially licensed merchandise from professional US sports teams and colleges will bring in more than $10 billion this year for leagues and retailers who are in this very hot industry.
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