Learn about sports memorabilia, and the history of it, with our ValueMyStuff valuations and appraisals experts. Find out how it has developed over the years.
Sports memorabilia collecting is one of the most open categories of collecting, drawing in casual and keen collectors alike, united by their love of sports. While sports memorabilia collecting has not been a recognised pastime for very long, it has caught on very quickly and this is reflected in the popularity of sports museums around the world.
Baseball is perhaps the sport most associated with memorabilia collecting, with baseball cards recognised as some of the most important objects of collecting in sports. Not only do they remain immensely popular among collectors but were some of the earliest examples of mass-produced collectors’ items, first introduced into cigarette packets in the 1870s along with other types of cards including film stars, nature and city views. It was in gum packets during the 20th century, however, that baseball cards would be most popular. From the fascination with baseball cards grew the interest in signed items such as a balls and sportswear, and in items associated personally with the big names of 20th century baseball such as Babe Ruth. The emergence of Hollywood in the early/mid-20th century further enhanced the field of baseball collecting with films such as Pride of the Yankees.
Golf and Cricket Memorabilia
As sports with a long and rich history originating in the United Kingdom, golf and cricket have a lot in common as sports but diverge when it comes to memorabilia. When it comes to equipment, golf has transformed in the last 150 years whereas modern cricket bats and cricket balls would be recognisable to a Victorian cricketer. Until the second half of the 19th century, for example, iron clubs were used only in extreme circumstances as early golf balls, made of leather and stuffed with feathers, couldn’t stand up to repeated use. Between 1850 and 1960 golf balls changed dramatically from feather balls, to ‘gutta’ balls, to ‘Haskell’ balls and finally to the modern single-piece dimpled ball known today. While collectors of Cricket memorabilia focus on either very old examples of equipment or other items such as art and printed material, the changes brought about by golf ball design have opened up a collecting market for distinct golf equipment.
Tennis and Football Memorabilia
In contrast to golf and cricket, association football (also known as soccer) and lawn tennis are relatively modern games in their recognised forms; the Laws of the Game for football being written in 1863 and the first Championship at Wimbledon being held in 1877. In both cases there have been world-renowned players such as Pelé or Jimmy Connors whose memorabilia attracts international interest. In both cases the collecting of programmes from major events such as World Cups, FA Cups and Grand Slams has been popular for some time now. The first Wimbledon Championship was attended by only 160 people and the first FA Cup final by only 2,000 so programmes for those events are unsurprisingly rare. It is also not uncommon to find novelty items associated with these sports thanks to their recognisable motifs such as balls, racquets and club crests.