The world of sports memorabilia is a treasure trove of history, unforgettable moments, and (in some cases) risky investments that paid off. From legendary game-worn jerseys to iconic trading cards, to championship souvenirs, and more, collectibles ignite a certain type of passion that transcends time. On top of the nostalgia and sentimental value that sports collectibles hold, many command a staggering monetary value as well, making proper protection and care — including insurance — a necessity.
One such means of protection is insurance, crafted specifically with collectors in mind. Standard homeowners or renters policies often aren’t sufficient to cover collectibles, depending on their worth and the nature of the loss. As an agent, it pays to work with an insurance provider who not only understands and appreciates prized sports collections, but also stays abreast of the ever-changing trends within the sports memorabilia market with an eye toward how those trends may influence insurance offerings.
In this article, we’ll offer a primer on what you need to know about this space including the market outlook, top trending collectible pieces, common risk exposures for collectibles, and how insurance can protect a collector’s prized assets.
Market and Trends Outlook for Sports Memorabilia
Turns out, the COVID-19 pandemic actually benefited the sports memorabilia market. Prices on sports memorabilia had taken a hit in the early 2000s amidst the financial crisis. But during the global lockdown, people were home, itching for something to do. Folks started pulling collectibles off their shelves and listing them on eBay and other online auction sites. Eager (and bored), Millennial buyers jumped at the chance to snag a prized figurine, jersey, card, or bat.
From there, the market took off, and it’s only expected to climb. Expects project that the global sports memorabilia market will grow from $26 Billion (2021) to over $227 Billion by 2032.
Not only have Millennials driven a significant portion of the more “traditional” sports memorabilia market, they’re also more likely to participate in digital sports memorabilia collecting, known as NFTs (nonfungible tokens). Built on blockchain technology, NFTs are digital assets that represent ownership of a specific item or piece of content (for example, a limited-edition video of a major sporting moment). Just like collecting a physical item — like a jersey, football, or trading card — NFTs allow collectors to own and trade digital versions of still images or videos. According to Market Decier, NFT sports collectibles are individually estimated at $1.4 Billion in 2023, with projections to reach $92 billion over the next 9 years.
Source: Market Decipher
Most Popular Collectible Items
For some collectors, sports memorabilia has intrinsic value, driven by memories and personal meaning. For others — particularly investors — the value may be more extrinsically driven. They’re motivated by exclusivity and possible lucrative return later on down the road, rather than nostalgia.
Though the reasons for collecting may vary, these are some of the most popular collectible items in the sports memorabilia market:
- Sports jerseys: Sports jerseys rank among the most coveted and lucrative sports collectible items. If once worn by sporting legends, jerseys can be worth millions of dollars. For example, in 2022 Michael Jordan’s 1998 “Last Dance” Chicago Bulls jersey sold for $10 million!
- Game-used equipment: The idea of owning a piece of equipment used by a sports star is undeniably alluring for many. Game-used items like basketballs, baseball bats, and football helmets connect collectors to iconic moments in sports history. Mickey Mantle’s 1950s signed Rawlings baseball glove, for instance, is one of the most valuable gloves in baseball history, and has sold from collector to collector for millions.
- Vintage sports posters: Vintage sports posters bring back memories and make us feel nostalgic. Because these posters capture the essence of historic sporting events, they become highly sought-after sports memorabilia collectibles. Value can vary, depending on many things, such as whether it’s a first edition versus a reissue. The winning bid for this signed Kobe Bryant poster was $3,325.
- Championship rings: For many, championship rings represent the ultimate symbol of athletic achievement. The rings awarded to players signify a victorious moment. Most athletes tend to keep these rings throughout their lives. However, on some rare occasions, these rings are found in auctions — and can be highly sought after. A Lawrence Taylor Super Bowl ring sold at auction for $230,401.
- Sports Cards: Collecting sports cards is a beloved hobby for many sports enthusiasts. Their value can range from just a few dollars to millions. Out of all sporting cards, baseball trading cards are the most popular, like this 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card, which sold for $12 million at auction in 2022.
Although rare items can be worth millions, the selling point for sports memorabilia items varies, with some items selling for as low as $5 or $10. Value comes down to a number of factors, including things like condition, rarity, historical significance, and proven authenticity.
Common Risk Exposures for Sports Memorabilia
Sports collectibles can be susceptible to a number of risks:
- Handling and touching: Using bare hands to hold or handle items like posters, ticket stubs, or sports cards can damage them. The oils and pressure from fingertips can leave marks, smudge signatures, and fade colors.
- Exposure to light: Continued exposure to direct sunlight can lead to fading or discoloration.
- Moisture and humidity: High humidity levels can cause moisture to accumulate on the items, causing cracking, wrinkling, and other damage.
- Temperature fluctuations: Temperature changes can make items expand or shrink, and can cause colors to fade.
- Inadequate storage: Incorrect storage methods can also ruin items. For example, folding jerseys can cause deep creases on the fabric. Keeping them on hangers for long periods of time can stretch the fabric.
- Mishandling during transportation: When moving or shipping sports memorabilia, improper packaging and handling can lead to damage, especially for fragile, breakable items.
- Water damage: Flooding, leaks, and even accidental spills can cause warping, wrinkling, fading, smearing, and other damage.
In addition to the damage listed above, valuable items are susceptible to theft and burglary.
How Insurance Agents Can Represent Collectors
Knowledgeable insurance professionals help protect valuable sports memorabilia collections with tailored insurance solutions for collectors. Brokers and underwriters who specialize in collectibles understand the unique risks often associated with sports memorabilia — sometimes even better than the collectors themselves!
By assessing a collector’s specific needs and the value of their individual items or collections, specialty brokers can partner with retail agents and their clients and guide them to the most appropriate coverage options at the best available terms and rates. Since they work day-in and day-out with this line of business, specialty brokers can adeptly navigate client concerns, including fears about:
- Accidental damage: Coverage should reimburse the collectors in the case they accidentally damage their items. This can happen through wear and tear, stains, and breakage.
- Burglary: In some cases, thieves can break in and steal a collection. A collectibles policy should reimburse the collectors for their stolen items. MiniCo’s collectibles policy, in particular, offers coverage for burglary and mysterious disappearance.
- Transportation and shipping: Collectibles coverage provides financial protection against damage or loss that may occur when an item is in transit.
- Water Damage: Whether from a leaking roof, faulty plumbing, or a jostled water bottle, water can cause severe damage to collectible items. A specialized collectibles policy offers coverage for items damaged by water.
Serious collectors need the peace of mind that specialty coverage can provide. MiniCo is the expert in collectibles insurance, and we insure a wide variety of specialty collections, including sports memorabilia, fine art, and much, much more. MiniCo partners with AM Best A-rated carriers to provide coverage for the full collectible value of insured items with no appraisal required for most categories. Our exclusive program is available nationwide and includes low- and no-deductible options.
Even if you don’t specialize in collectibles risks, you may already be working with clients who are serious collectors of sports memorabilia or other items. Over 61% of Americans consider themselves collectors, and all of them need insurance to protect the appreciated value of their treasures. Why not ask them?
MiniCo makes it easy to get a quote for a collectibles risk with our streamlined agent portal. Most accounts can be quoted, bound, and issued on the same day – all online! No appointment is required to get a quote, and there are no production minimums. Click here to get a quote today!