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Sports Tickets—An Under-Appreciated Collectibles Category

by Rob Bertrand (09/17/12).

A ticket for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ game on Sept. 24, 1957—the last game played at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers and the New York Giants would move to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, the following season.

There is not a more genuine or tangible connection between a fan and their team than a game ticket. A ticket captures a moment in time, forever preserving the memories one experienced at that particular game or event. That’s why so many people keep them as treasured souvenirs. However, having attended the game or event in person isn’t necessarily a precursor for tickets being part of an actual collection. On the contrary, tickets may be displayed in numerous ways to become instant conversation pieces, regardless of your attendance at the depicted event.

So how does one begin a ticket collection? What should be theme or focus of a ticket collection? The answers to these questions, much like any other collection, come down to personal taste and preference. The possibilities are only limited by one’s imagination and go beyond the scope of sports collecting. However, to provide you with some guidelines, tips and inspiration here are some ideas categorized by sport.

A ticket from opening day in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the Major League’s “color barrier.”

A ticket from the Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, infamous for the “Bill Bucker Error.”

A ticket from Michael Jordan’s last game, with the Washington Wizards, in 2003.

One of the most popular pursuits in this genre is assembling a complete run of Super Bowl tickets. A collection of this nature can be started quickly and is initially affordable, as in more recent years, fans and collectors have come to appreciate the ticket as a legitimate keepsake. A word of caution however, for this niche—and ticket collecting in general—replicas are common, legal to print and often hard to differentiate from the original. With this, and any other collecting, you should: 1) do your research; 2) buy from reputable sources; 3) and have tickets authenticated if in question.

The Holy Grail for sports ticket collectors: A pass to the First Super Bowl.

Replica Super Bowl tickets can be collected for your favorite teams, such as this six-ticket set for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Early tickets from Super Bowl I through Super Bowl V are the rarest and toughest to find. You will most likely have to settle for a stub, although unused examples do make their presence on the secondary market, albeit very infrequently.

One advantage to assembling a collection of this nature is that there have only been 46 of them to date, so your pursuit is finite in nature.

A ticket stub from the game when Nolan Ryan recorded his 5,000th strikeout.

The age, history and popularity of baseball provide a nearly infinite number of possibilities in which to center a ticket collection around. From milestones of your favorite player or team to World Series or All-Star Games, the limits to baseball ticket collecting know no bounds. Some niche themes that would make for a diverse collection would be ones that surround particular achievements. For example, in the entire history of baseball, there have only been 23 (officially scored) perfect games. A ticket from each game, paired with a 4×6 photo of the final scoreboard or the ensuing dog-pile on the pitcher’s mound, all framed and matted, would make for an amazing collection and display piece. Another possibility is to collect a ticket from the game where every member of the 500-home run, 3,000-hit or 300-wins clubs accomplished the milestone moment.

A ticket from the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

While a relatively new sport in popularity to the U.S., the growth of the sport has been exponential. Over the years, major leagues soccer organizations have come and gone. Assembling a ticket collection of a franchise’s inaugural game for every club would be a worthy investment. Additionally, the international popularity of the sport and its marquee tournament—the World Cup—provides opportunities for additional collections.

A ticket stub from the now-defunct Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association.

By now you are starting to see some trends and recurring themes. The fractured history of basketball however, presents a rather unique opportunity. As basketball grew in popularity and reached out across the country, from the cornfields of Indiana to the bright lights of Hollywood and everywhere in between, many cities have seen franchises come and go, with many now being defunct. Imagine being able to assemble a collection of tickets from games played by these teams of a now bygone era? A challenge, to say the least, but an endeavor such as this would be a rewarding and unique collection.

A ticket from the 2003 Heritage Classic hocket game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens.

The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy in organized sports. The historic rivalries and birth of the National Hockey League present a colorful history with an international flair. This combines to create numerous opportunities for collectors of players, teams and the sport as a whole to assemble a myriad of theme-centric ticket collections. From Stanley Cup-clinching games, to annual favorites such the All-Star, Heritage and Winter Classic games, tickets for hockey can be a fun chase that crosses numerous borders.

One of the most unique of these would be to collect a ticket from each game of the famed Summit Series. Played at the height of the Cold War in 1972 between Russia and Canada, the series became much more than an athletic tournament but a battle of ideology. With games played in both Russia and Canada, collectors will have their work cut out for them.

A clubhouse ticket from the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, framed with logos.

Ticket collecting can get expansive, depending on your specific interests; fortunately, there are companies that specialize in the printing of replica tickets. While not as valuable as an original, for obvious reasons, they still make for a very nice display piece. As for preserving, storing and displaying your ticket collection, there are numerous resources available that have specialized accoutrements for that very purpose. Additionally, third-party grading companies that have previously specialized in trading cards now authenticate, grade and provide tamper-proof holders for tickets that display very well.

Whatever ticket theme you choose to collect, set an attainable goal and budget and then enjoy the chase!

Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 20 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been the content manager for the Card Corner Club website before the company’s merger with CardboardConnection in 2011, where he is now a staff writer and multimedia content producer. Rob is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live and nationally broadcast radio show, Cardboard Connection Radio. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.


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