Vintage Sports Pennants Provide Historical and Collectible Value

Vintage pennants, unlike the ones sold today, are very collectible and are valuable. This Detroit Tigers pennant, commemorating their World Series victory of 1945, recently sold on eBay for over $260.

While still produced and available at stadiums around the country, the team pennant as we know them today are more of fan shop novelties than a true collectible. Fortunately for collectors, the opposite is true of vintage pennants, the older the better.

These colorful triangle-shaped pieces of felt once served as a primary piece of team memorabilia long before T-shirts, jerseys and other apparel became fashionable. It’s hard to picture the famous crowds of the 1930s at the Polo Grounds or Yankee Stadiums decked out in team regalia and brim straw hats. However, many of these fans would proudly wave their teams colors in the form of a pennant.

In baseball, the pennant isn’t merely a fan souvenir. It was a symbol of a goal tied to a winning season and achieving the best overall record in each league. Both the National League and American League pennants were something teams won. The chase for the pennant started Opening Day and concluded at season’s end with each league’s respective team facing off in the World Series. Today, we refer to league victors as League Series Champions, but at one time, the word “pennant” was synonymous with the words victor, winner and champion.

A pair of pennants from 1910s for the National League’s New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.

A pennant from the 1915 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

A 1917 pennant featuring Charles Comiskey, the owner of the Chicago White Sox.

As with all things collectible, it was easy for pennants original owners to forget at the time that these pieces of felt might actually “be worth something” one day. As a result, those that have survived do carry collectible value. Usually annually produced, team pennants can vary significantly in price, depending on condition and rarity. Consider $50 to $100 a good starting range for your more common pennants from the 1940s and 1950s. However, even during this time period, exceptions can be found that sell for hundreds of dollars. A pennant commemorating the Detroit Tigers’ 1945 World Series victory recently sold on eBay for over $260.

Pennants produced for a single event, like the World Series or All-Star Game, typically carry a premium as a result of having a much smaller production run.

One of the truly niche categories within the pennant collecting niche itself is pennants that commemorate teams from the now, thankfully defunct, Negro Leagues. With a fan base as passionate about baseball as any “white” team, the Negro Leagues were a very successful and well-attended part of the game. Examples in good condition can demand several hundred dollars.

This 1947 All-Star Game pennant, which was played at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, recently sold for over $345. You can clearly see the line-up of rosters including two heavy hitters for the American League in the form of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

This 1913 example from the Indianapolis ABC’s of the Negro League recently sold for over $765. That’s one expensive piece of felt!

Other Sports
Not limited strictly to baseball, pennants exist for almost every professional sport, college athletic program, racing circuit and more. In fact, some of the smaller niche’s within the pennant collecting genre command even larger sums due to increased rarity. Racing pennants related to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to one of the oldest American automobile races, are highly desirable.

While baseball may be referred to and nicknamed “America’s Pastime,” football has evolved to become Americans sport of choice from a viewing perspective. As a result, pennants related to the NFL and the league’s precursors are highly collectible.

Storied franchises, rich in tradition and history, like the Green Bay Packers, have rabid fan bases that are extremely loyal to their teams. Consequently, pennants related to these teams, particularly from their early years, can be quite valuable.

This pennant commemorating a 1915 racing event at Des Moines, Iowa, Motor Speedway is a rare piece of auto racing memorabilia and sold at auction for $1,750.

Anything to do with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to one of the oldest American automobile races, is highly desirable. This pennant saw the gavel drop at $1,325.

This pennant commemorates the 1973 Miami Dolphins, who went undefeated in route to their Championship with a record of 17-0, a league record that remains to this day.

This unique photo pennant that displays an image of Green Bay Packers franchise quarterback Bart Starr recently sold for $700.

This pennant commemorating two Texas A&M football seasons carries a hefty premium at auction, realizing a price of $767.

Not to be outdone, previously mentioned collegiate athletic pennants can carry lofty price tags as well. In a state like Texas, where football is king, it’s not uncommon to see a piece from a major football school like the University of Texas or Texas A&M carry a hefty premium at auction.

Fortunately for collectors today, acrylic cases are available for pennants to be properly stored and displayed. They are typically made with a UV coating to prevent the felt and lettering from color fading.

Storage and Preservation
One of the typical condition issues that pennants fall prey to is that they often are marked with pinholes as a result of being thumb-tacked or stapled to walls for display purposes. Curling of the small tip and missing tassels (if originally produced with) are other common issues seen with pennants. Fortunately for collectors today, acrylic cases are available for pennants to be properly stored and displayed. They are typically made with a UV coating to prevent the felt and lettering from color fading. Relatively inexpensive, they can be found wherever other sports archival items are carried.

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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