With soccer's share of great teams, superb athletes, exceptional events, and its recent rise in popularity State-side, the American market for Soccer memorabilia has a bright future.
Today American soccer collectors will spend up to $250 for a Freddy Adu signed ball and possibly up to $1,000 for a ball autographed by members of the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup winning team. Since the American market is still in its infancy though, American collectors would be wise to follow trends set across the pond.
In 1989 Auction house Christie’s of London, held its first sale of football memorabilia, which offered 284 items and brought in just over 45,000 pounds. A Christie’s auction of football memorabilia in May 2005 brought in over 1 million pounds and featured the $879,778 sale of the oldest existing F.A. Cup (awarded to winners from 1896-1910 and presented to Lord Kinnaird). The auction also featured the $300,000 sale of Alan Ball’s 1966 World Cup Winner’s medal.
In September 2000, Geoff Hurst’s red England shirt from the 1966 World Cup final brought 91,750 pounds. Two year’s later a collector spent 157,750 pounds for Pele’s shirt from the 1970 World Cup final.
The total sale of 1.16 million pounds for that auction is the highest ever realized for an auction of football memorabilia, and the highest for ANY sporting memorabilia at Christie’s according to David Convery, of Christie’s Sporting Memorabilia. It might not be long before the multi-million dollar plateau for a single item will be reached.
Next up for Christie’s in June, 2006 is a piece of American soccer history. The auction house will offer the 1930 World Cup third-place medal awarded to Thomas Florie, captain of the USA team that was beaten by Argentina in the semi-finals of the first ever World Cup. It is estimated to bring $20,000 to
The American collectors market will soon see a plethora of material- good, bad, and ugly from which to choose - everything from obsolete Metro Star textiles and ephemera (paper goods) to veritable NASL Cosmos goods, including the always popular, but overdone Pele (his signed ball can bring anywhere from $500 to $2000).
It takes success, name recognition and a loyal fan base to support a collectible sports market. A Claudia Reyna signed Rangers shirt is now on sale on the Internet for $200. That’s down from a list price of $350. American players spending time in Europe sometimes become forgotten at home. Current MLS foreign players may have cult followings in their own communities, but that doesn’t usually transcend into a broader market.
Fortunately, the collecting category is wide. "Every sale offers lots from 150 pounds, and people are often just as happy to have bought a shirt worn by their favorite player for hundreds of pounds as if they had bought a world cup medal for thousands of pounds or the FA Cup for hundreds of thousands of pounds," said Matthew Paton of Christie’s London.
Newbie collectors of US Soccer memorabilia should heed some simple advice.
"You need to start small, but start smart. Collect original material. Don’t collect replicas or items termed vintage or retro. Here are some simple tips: Collect quality. One can decorate a room with all kinds of soccer junk, but the wise collector will pick one good item over five not so good," said appraiser Brian Kathenes of the Ne8.0w Jersey based National Appraisal Consultants. "Seek history or provenance. Always place an item with a specific game or event. A signed Pele ball from a specific known game is always worth more than one that has no history. And stay away from anything sold as a future collectible. It hardly ever is."
So maybe the Freddy Adu ball is a good place to start - but not at $250. A signed autograph from a pre-game warm-up might be better. It’s legitimate, it’s personal, and it’s free.
by Leon Castner, Certified Appraiser and Educator - Article appeared July 2006