For sports collectibles enthusiasts, the 2008 Summer Olympics—so far—can be summed up in two words: Michael Phelps. The swimmer, who now has more gold medals than any other Olympic athlete in history, appears well on his way to capturing the eight many predicted he would earn at the Beijing Games. And demand for Phelps memorabilia is rising as a result.
Fans everywhere want a piece of this popular Olympian, said eBay pop-culture expert Karen Bard.
From July 26 through August 8, the number of Phelps listings on the auction site increased by 87 percent. The items offered on eBay range from Phelps’ official Team USA Speedo swimming cap (currently $250, with bidders driving up the price daily) to an autographed painting of Phelps, which is selling for $20,000.
Given the strong interest in the swimmer, it might be wise to snap up merchandise now before the Olympics are over. One eBay seller, for example, is garnering bids of more than $150 for signed copies of the Phelps-adorned Sports Illustrated issue that hit newsstands just weeks before the games began.
Proudly representing his native China in the Olympics, Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is also emerging as a hot property. eBay sellers are already attempting to sell Ming’s “authentic” Olympic jersey for more than $800.
Really devoted Ming fans can bid on the 7-foot, 6-inch bed the basketball player is sleeping on in the Olympic Village. The China Beijing Equity Exchange will auction the bed and other items this fall.
Of course, interest in Olympics memorabilia extends far beyond the fan favorites. Olympics collectors scan auction sites, expos and even games-based shops for everything from collectors’ pins and stamps to torches and medals. eBay reported a 70-percent increase in the all Olympics-related merchandise listed on the site over the past 90 days.
Overall, the site has sold 22,891 Olympic-related items and now has 63,767 Olympics-related items listed.
Pins can be found for anywhere from $7 to $60 (for the limited-edition pin designed for NBC by artist Charles Fazzino) from such authorized dealers as the U.S. Olympic Shop, Classic Pins and NBC’s online store.
Torches, medals, tickets and badges are harder to come by, although Canadian dealer Ingrid O’Neil specializes in such rare commodities. O’Neil has an auction open until September 6, which includes such finds as an official torch from the 1936 Berlin Games (valued at $6,000); a silver medal awarded for baseball in the 2000 Sydney Games (worth an estimated $6,250) and an official daily program from the fourth modern Olympics, held in London in 1908 (valued at $2,500). O’Neil will accept bids by phone, fax, mail and e-mail.
When it comes to Olympics merchandise, collectors need to be careful to look for licensed or official items. All Beijing Olympic pins and Vancouver Olympic pins sold by Classic Pins, for example, come with a special hologram on the back of each card.
Buying on site might seem like a safe bet, but the Los Angeles Times recently reported that despite government crackdowns, there’s still fake memorabilia for sale in Shanghai.
For more insight on how to shop for authentic sports memorabilia, ask one of the WorthPoint Worthologists, or post a question in our community forums.