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Value for Lance Armstrong Collectibles May Cycle Up, Despite Doping Allegations

by Rob Bertrand (08/27/12).

Color photographs of Lance Armstrong signed by cycling’s embattled Ironman command top dollar, with customary pricing ranging from $250 to $500 or more, depending on the subject matter.

It cannot be denied, regardless of recent doping allegations, that Lance Armstrong is one of the most accomplished individual athletes in all of sports. His record of seven consecutive Tour de France victories is unequaled in the sport of cycling. His well-documented bout and recovery from testicular cancer gave rise to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and, with its message of “Live Strong,” hope to millions of people around the world afflicted with all forms of cancer.

Often overlooked by sports memorabilia collectors, Armstrong’s race-worn or used items command money that other athletes—past or present—could only dream of. Even his official, albeit non-race-worn jerseys, often sell for margins far exceeding those of stars from other, more mainstream sports. In 2009, Sotheby’s auction house of New York auctioned six race-used bicycles, including the Damien-Hirst-created “Butterfly” bike that realized a price of $500,000. While these once-in-a-lifetime items seen at such events are often well out of the range of most collectors, Armstrong has plenty of other memorabilia to fit the budget needs of almost any collector.

As is true with most sports, a player’s jersey is often one of the most desirable items for a collector to pursue; those of cyclists are no exception. Two of Armstrong’s most popular jerseys are those of the United States Postal Service and the yellow “Live Strong” jerseys, which are often available through various events organized by his foundation. Prices for these types of signed jerseys can range anywhere between $500 and $750 dollars. Race-worn jerseys, on the other hand, can command thousands of dollars on the rare occasion they make their way to auction.

Full-size color photographs, ranging in size from 8 by 10 inches to 16 by 20 inches and signed by cycling’s Ironman command top dollar, with customary pricing ranging from $250 to $500 or more, depending on the subject matter. Action photos from in-race and from those taken as he is crossing the finish line carry a significant premium over posed or non-race candid shots. Even the more benign magazine covers (of which Armstrong has adorned numerous), when signed, can be found selling in a dollar range comparable to that of photographs.

This Damien-Hirst-created “Butterfly” bike that Armstrong used in a race realized a price of $500,000 when it went up for auction at Sotheby’s.

The worth of the aforementioned autographed items is driven by demand, as compared to rarity, as these items are not in short supply. This demand reflects the inspirational nature of Armstrong’s survival story, which has effected numerous people, earning him countless fans. Transcending the traditional sports memorabilia collector, Armstrong’s autographed items are a coveted piece of memorabilia for people the world over.

Fortunately for collectors, the commemorative nature of cycling events means that there are plenty of items available for those wishing to add Lance Armstrong memorabilia to their collections. From hats and pins to programs and more, there is no shortage of Armstrong-related material. Armstrong is the author or co-author of several books, these items can often be found autographed at a reasonable price, and his involvement in cancer research provides for numerous in-person opportunities to obtain his signature, often free of charge or for no more than the price of a book.

Prices for signed Armstrong jerseys can range anywhere between $500 and $750 dollars. Race-worn jerseys, on the other hand, can command thousands of dollars on the rare occasion they make their way to auction.

Magazine covers (of which Armstrong has adorned numerous), when signed, can be found selling in a dollar range comparable to that of photographs.

A collection of other various Armstrong collectibles.

While a great percentage of athletes, celebrities and historical figures have been included in recent mainstream trading card sets, it’s interesting to note that Armstrong has not participated in any of these to date. His primary trading cards were published by a company called Impel, which was granted the rights to produce Team USA Olympic cards in 1992 for the summer games.

As with any popular athlete, sports figure or celebrity, Lance Armstrong’s collectibles range from the abundant (signed books) to the ultra-rare (race-used bicycles). In between these two ends are countless opportunities for collectors to find items that not only display well and carry a great story, but also have the opportunity to appreciate in value, as some people suspect this recent fiasco with the United States Anti-Doping Agency will cause Armstrong to scale back his accessibility and therefore signing opportunities.

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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