Collecting Sports Presentation and Commemorative Watches

A Babe Ruth watch, 1940s era, mint in box with a baseball $500-$800-plus. Without the box, $200-$300.

Sports collectibles is a hugely popular item for collectors of today and yesterday, and there is no sign that their popularity is waning. Competitive sports probably date back to the day when a caveman tried to outdo the hunting abilities of his neighbor. He may have kept a few souvenirs from those hunts, like a saber-tooth tiger fang or an antler, but unlike the like the skin or the meat—which was consumed—those were his trophies; the first sports collectible, if you will. Hanging around his neck, it gave him bragging rights for as long as his neighbor couldn’t out do him.

Sports collectibles obviously fall into several different categories and sub-categories, both new and old. Since I know watches, this is where I will concentrate with this article and stay with two categories: commemorative issue; and presentation (and I’ll stick with vintage items).

Commemorative issue watches are commercially produced watches with a star athlete’s name and, quite often, his (or hers) picture emblazoned on the dial. They are usually cheaply made, low-end watches housed in base-metal cases. Packaged in colorful, stylish and eye catching advertising, the boxes that these watches came in are quite scarce, compared to the watches themselves, and in some instances are worth more than the watches themselves.

Golf ledged Sam Snead's 1930's gold-filled Gruen would bring $500-plus.

The engraved back of the Snead watch.

Presentation watches are much better quality watches, quite often housed in gold, silver or at least gold-filled, produced by companies such as Waltham, Hamilton or Girrard Peregaux. These will be engraved with the player’s name in presentation fashion, usually with a date, place or an event. Sometimes there will be several, all the same, presented to the whole team. However, the usual sports presentation watch was given to an individual commemorating his induction to the Hall of Fame or for a championship victory. These watches are unique and will usually be one of a kind. The fame of the player will obviously dictate the ultimate value, and intrinsic value of the watch itself will be of secondary consideration.

An Elgin white gold-filled watch, presented to members of the University of Miami team after winning the 1952 Gator Bowl. Miami beat Clemson, 14-0. Its value is in the $75-$150-plus range.

1960s Willie Mays watch, in mint condition and in the original box: $300-$500-plus; without the box, $75-$150,

1960s Football All Pro watch ($75-$125).

Barbara Ann Scott's 1950's Timex, in mint condition and in the original box. Its value is strictly a matter of speculation. What would someone pay for a watch commemorating a little known (by today's standards) ice skater?

A short trip down eBay’s sports collectibles categories will boggle the mind with myriad choices in every field of the sports world. But vintage watches are scarce in any of the categories of sports, and they do not come cheap. Presentation watches are very hard to find and almost always unique. Couple that fact with a famous name, and the price could go through the roof.

David Mycko is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in antique and vintage watches.


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