In the world of sports collecting, the rise in the price of sport’s star players has been nothing short of astronomical. From baseball to basketball, soccer to cricket, collectors around the globe are obsessed with owning whatever fragments they can find of history’s best players.
This relentless pursuit has been largely driven by US collectors, with one prime example being the legendary cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, whose value has soared over the past few years, despite being a figure largely unknown to many American sports fans. Bradman, the unrivalled cricket maestro, epitomises the allure of sports collecting. While American collectors may not be familiar with the nuances of cricket, they recognise Bradman’s name as synonymous with excellence.
The scarcity of his memorabilia combined with his status as one of the greatest athletes of all time has propelled his market value to unprecedented heights. Collectors are willing to invest heavily in Bradman’s autographs, trading cards, bats, “baggy greens”, framed signed team sheets, and other cherished artefacts, driven by the belief that his value will continue to soar.
Just as in any other sport, the so called “rookie” market also plays a pivotal role in driving prices up. Collectors eagerly chase the earliest cards and memorabilia associated with rising stars, hoping to strike future gold. These rookies are viewed as investment opportunities, with collectors betting on their potential and future accomplishments. The scarcity and demand for these items can lead to fierce bidding wars, sending prices skyrocketing.
Bradman’s “rookie” card credentials are murky at best, as he was featured in several card series released for the 1928 – 1929 cricket season. Cigarette makers Odgens and Wills both featured Bradman for the first time that season, as did Australian confectioner Hoadley’s. Arguments will always rage as to which card was manufactured and released first, however the Hoadley’s card is surely the rarest, due to the lower numbers produced in the smaller Australian market.
Whatever you personally believe, one fact is irrefutable – a Wills 1928-29 “Cricket Season” Bradman in very good to excellent condition – not a particularly rare card – would have fetched a healthy $50-75 two years ago. Today? Anything less than $500 would be a disappointment.
Further fuelling this phenomenon is the fact that, in the realm of sports collecting, one concept that resonates deeply with American enthusiasts is that of the “GOAT” – the Greatest of All Time. The quest to identify and possess items associated with the GOAT players has become a cornerstone of collecting culture. From Michael Jordan in basketball to Babe Ruth in baseball, American collectors are passionate about acquiring memorabilia from the greatest icons of their respective sports. The fascination with the GOAT extends beyond mere admiration for exceptional talent; it represents a desire to capture a piece of history and greatness, encapsulated in tangible artefacts. Items linked to the GOAT players hold immense value, as they symbolise the pinnacle of achievement and excellence, and collectors are driven by the belief that these items will only appreciate in value over time, making them both cherished possessions and lucrative investments.
The rise of the GOAT concept has permeated various sports, sparking debates and discussions about who truly deserves the title. This ongoing dialogue fuels the market for memorabilia associated with these iconic figures. Is the greatest cricketer Bradman, or was it W.G. Grace, or perhaps the little master himself, Sachin Tendulkar? Either way, collectors eagerly seek out autographs, jerseys, trading cards, and other prized possessions connected to the GOAT players, viewed as holy grails within the sports collecting community.
Grading Services surge
In an industry where authenticity and condition are paramount, grading services have become an essential part of sports collecting. These services meticulously examine and evaluate items, assigning them a grade that reflects their condition and authenticity.
This process, commonly referred to as “slabbing”, ensures transparency and trust among collectors. A high-grade item holds greater value and commands a premium price. Grading services have significantly influenced the market, as collectors seek out graded items for their investment portfolios.
Where to next?
Bradman’s meteoric rise in value, despite being relatively unknown in the United States, highlights the irresistible pull of greatness. The quest to own a slice of so many of pro sports GOATs, whether you delve into the rookie market, where collectors gamble on future legends, or rely on the importance of grading services – emphasising authenticity and condition – these factors have all played significant roles in driving the prices upward.
One thing’s for sure – the market for sports memorabilia remains a captivating and lucrative realm for enthusiasts around the world, and while there’s money to collect and invest, it can only further rise.