Market for game-worn memorabilia could grow dramatically

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The long-pending lawsuit against the Giants over allegedly fraudulent game-worn memorabilia exposes a pair of truths about this industry: (1) it could be extremely lucrative; and (2) items must be harvested and sold in a way that ensures authenticity.

Agent Neil Schwartz is spreading the word about the potential benefits of selling game-worn jerseys, helmets, cleats, and other equipment, both at the NFL and college level. He estimates that, currently, the market for game-work memorabilia accounts for $100 million of a broader memorabilia industry (trading cards, autographs, etc.) that generates $1.5 billion per year. Schwartz believes that the market for game-worn memorabilia eventually could be worth $1 billion per year on its own.

The key, according to Schwartz, is the authenticity of the items.

“If people are truly buying a piece of history so that they can feel connected to that moment in time, the NFL and its players need to make sure that memorabilia is genuine,” Schwartz said.

The best way to ensure authentication is to identify reputable companies that specialize in ensuring that, for example, a jersey worn by Von Miller in Super Bowl 50 really was worn by Von Miller in Super Bowl 50. Apart from the money that players could make by selling game-worn memorabilia in the immediate aftermath of a memorable game or performance, fans will know with full confidence that they are purchasing an item that legitimately and actually was used during a specific game by a specific player.

The NFL and NFL Players Association likely would have to work out some of the details, given that the teams technically own the jerseys. Still, game-worn jerseys have no additional value unless they are (duh) worn by a specific player during a game.

As applied to college football, retaining and later selling game-worn memorabilia could help ensure that players who aren’t being paid find a way to obtain compensation for their services, albeit on a belated basis. Put simply, college players can take steps to properly preserve game-worn gear and then sell it after their eligibility has concluded.

Schwartz believes that agents could become involved in facilitating game-worn memorabilia sales, with a cut of the proceeds potentially replacing the agent’s fee on, for example, the player’s first NFL contract. Or (more likely) the schools and the NCAA could create a system that gathers, retains, and markets the game-worn gear after the player’s eligibility expires.

Consider the potential value of, for example, jerseys and other gear worn each and every week by the player who eventually wins the Heisman Trophy, or by the player who becomes the No. 1 pick in the draft. If there were a way for fans to bid on those items close in time to, for example, a dominant performance in a major bowl game, the value of the item could skyrocket.

Last year, one jersey worn by LSU running back Leonard Fournette drew a high bid of $101,000 at an auction benefiting South Carolina hurricane victims. How much would each of Fournette’s 2016 jerseys and other equipment be worth if he sold at auction if promptly after his eligibility expires?

Currently, items often are sold under the table by still-eligible players, who end up getting far less than the items would be worth through a process of competitive bidding. An organized system for gathering and selling game-worn gear at the appropriate time would maximize the return, and minimize the chances of a player’s eligibility being undermined by trading gear for something of value, like tattoos.

If done properly, players will be able to buy their own tattoos along with plenty of other stuff, fans will have access to one-of-a-kind items, and a largely-untapped market could mushroom.

15 responses to “Market for game-worn memorabilia could grow dramatically

  1. That black market is already cornered by shady NFL employees who continue to steal gear and hawk it on their own. Good job commish. #INTEGRITY

  2. The NFL should set up an authentication program similar to what MLB does for game-used items. That would knock out a lot of that.

  3. I prefer to buy jerseys from companies that speak little English, don’t always sow things on correctly but charge 75% less than the average cost.

  4. There are always several issues to the story for college players. On the one hand it’s messed up they can’t profit from their own jersey. On the other hand, I could easily see the unscrupulous schools (SEC, Miami, U$C, Oregon, etc) using this to create unfair benefits and taking complete advantage of a new rule. They could tell recruits that some rich alum will give you $100,000 or more for your jersey. It would be the wild west.

  5. Even merchandise bought from teams is a scam. I once bought a “game ball” from a team. The game was played before the new NFL shield was created but, sure enough, the “Official Game Ball” had the new Shield.

  6. Gotta love the greed league.. People you gotta quit lining their pockets…

  7. Eli Manning has made a practice of selling fake game day jerseys and footballs

    In the NY Times Article “Eli Manning’s Footballs Months in the making” they describe how he’d never allow his game balls to be donated to charity

    The Skala Brothers spend months inflating and deflating the footballs and scuffing them up and breaking them in – they keep them with them at all times – and they’d never give them away so I don’t see that happening with footballs

    That’s why Eli was caught selling false memorabilia to charities – that’s how valuable his personally prepared footballs are

  8. Take the money! He’s deserving of being the highest defensive player. As a Patriots fan, I’d love to have him. He nearly killed 12 in the Afccg. In reality he’s going to kill Denver going forward with cap space. He’s the SB mvp, he’s worth it. He’s a game changer.

  9. America has 100 million people out of the workforce. That number is growing. I see a declining market for game worn memorabilia.

  10. “I can barely afford the replicas.”

    Buy them online from China or South Korea like everyone else does.


    That’s what drives up the prices on the real ones

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