vintage baseball cards

23 Sports Collectibles That Scored Big at Auction

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vintage baseball cards

Heavy Hitters

Yes, you can be really mad at your mother if she threw out your baseball cards. A rare card sold for a record $3.12 million at auction in 2016. Who knows what might have been in your collection? Here are some auction results that may have you looking at your keepsakes in a whole new light.

Related: The Most Expensive Collectibles Ever Sold at Auction

Baseball card of Honus Wagner
Baseball card of Honus Wagner by Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY (CC BY)

Honus Wagner Baseball Card

Sold for: $3.12 million in 2016

The famed "Jumbo" T206 Honus Wagner baseball card from 1909-1911 set a record when it sold for $3.12 million (yes, million) back in October 2016. Sold by Goldin Auctions, it was made by the American Tobacco Co. in a limited release. Bet the famed shortstop could never have imagined such a legacy.

Related: 25 Rare Collectibles Worth More Than Your House

Babe Ruth Jersey
SCP Auctions

Babe Ruth Jersey

Sold for: $4.4 million in 2012

A game-worn "road" New York Yankees jersey worn by Babe Ruth, known as both "the Bambino" and "The Sultan of Swat" for his hitting prowess, was sold for $4.4 million back in 2012, setting a record for any item of sports memorabilia at auction — a feat notched by SCP Auctions.

Related: 12 of the Most Expensive Clothing Items Ever Auctioned

Babe Ruth
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Babe Ruth World Series Ring

Sold for: $2.1 million in 2017

Of course, Ruth memorabilia is legendary — and often sells for impressive prices. Back in 2017, as reported by Forbes, Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen put his Babe Ruth 1927 World Series ring up for auction, scoring $2.1 million. Reportedly not sold for financial reasons, it could not have hurt to add that money to his pocket.

Norman Rockwell Baseball ‘Print’

Norman Rockwell Baseball 'Print'

Sold for: $1.7 million in 2017

Also reported by Forbes, 2017 saw the $1.7 million score of a newly discovered version of Norman Rockwell's "Tough Call." The print hung for years in the Texas home of the Sprinkle family — proudly by the granddaughter of one of the depicted umpires — until it was found to be Rockwell's actual study for the often-reproduced work and was even signed and inscribed, making it a real treasure.

Related: 18 of the Most Valuable Autographs Sold at Auction

Mark McGwire
Jed Jacobsohn/Staff/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images North America

Mark McGwire's 70th Home Run Ball

Sold for: $3 million in 1999

As reported by CNN back in 1999, Mark McGwire's 70th home run baseball — a piece of baseball history marking the St. Louis Cardinals slugger's 1998 feat — sold at auction, by Guernsey's, for just over $3 million ($2.7 million plus a $305,000 commission).

James Naismith’s 1891 ‘Rules Of Basketball’

James Naismith's 1891 'Rules of Basketball'

Sold for: $4.3 million in 2010

In 2010, Kansas University graduate David Booth wanted the original rules of basketball to be at home on the campus — so he paid $4.3 million through an auction at Sotheby's in New York to ensure it would find a new home there. Turns out Naismith founded the college's basketball program.

Michael Jordan’s Sneakers

Michael Jordan's Sneakers

Sold for: $190,373 in 2017

In 2017, ABC News reported that a pair of Michael Jordan's shoes sold at auction for what was the highest price on record for a pair of game-used sneakers — $190,373. Said to have been used in the gold-medal game against Spain in the 1984 Olympics, the shoes of the former Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards NBA star were sold by SCP Auctions.

Related: The Most Expensive Sneakers Ever Sold at Auction

The Kareem Abdul-jabbar Collection

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Collection

Sold for: $1 million in 2018

Goldin Auctions' 2018 October Legends Auction rang up $4.6 million in sales — led by $1 million culled from the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Collection. Among the NBA treasures from the legend born Lew Alcindor was his 1970-1971 Milwaukee Bucks championship ring that brought in $153,437, as reported by Sports Collectors Digest.

Paul Henderson 1972
Melchior DiGiacomo/Contributor/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images North America

Paul Henderson 1972 Jersey

Sold for: $1.275 million in 2010

You might be saying, "Paul who?" — but as reported by the CBC, this Canadian national hero's jersey — worn in a historic hockey series against Russia at the height of the Cold War — fetched nearly $1.3 million, making it quite the score.  

Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card

Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card

Sold for: $465,000 in 2016

Okay, now you gotta know who "The Great One" is, right? Well, in 2016, Sports Illustrated reported that hockey legend Gretzky's rookie card from 1979 sold for $465,000 at a Goldin Auctions event held as part of the National Sports Collection Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was a record-setting fee for a hockey trading card.

Muhammad Ali 1965 Floyd Patterson
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Tim Brown's 1987 Heisman Trophy
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Tim Brown's 1987 Heisman Trophy

Sold for: $435,763 in 2018

Sometimes a piece of memorabilia offers a glimpse into the early days of an athlete. As featured by 247Sports, the 1987 Heisman Trophy captured by former Notre Dame and NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown, wide receiver, brought in $435,763 for Goldin Auctions at the end of 2018. The personal letter of authenticity from the wide receiver must have helped set the record price.

1956 Giants Championship
Robert Riger/Contributor/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images North America

Vince Lombardi's 1956 Giants Championship Ring

Sold for: $50,131 in 2017

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach who won six NFL championships (1956-1967) — and the first two Super Bowls — earned his first championship with the 1956 New York Giants, as offensive coordinator. The ring commemorating that feat sold for $50,131 in 2017, according to GiantsWire.

1933 Wimbledon Tournament
Central Press/Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1933 Wimbledon Tournament Poster

Sold for: $40,250 in 2012

The British leg of tennis' Grand Slam has its share of fans — as a glance in the stands often yields sightings of royalty and celebrity alike. One fan was prompted to pay, reported, the equivalent of $40,250 — through Christie's in 2012 — for the unabashedly artistic 1933 tourney poster designed by noted British printmaker Sybil Andrews.

Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

'Battle of the Sexes' Racquet

Sold for: $125,000 in 2017

Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs — oh, what a battle that was. The racquet used by King in the 1973 match was sold at auction for $125,000 — believed to be the highest price ever paid for a single piece of women's sports memorabilia, as reported by Sports Collectors Daily. The memorabilia from the televised pop-culture event was featured in Bonham's "Voices of the 20th Century" auction in New York in 2017.

A Jesse Owens Gold Medal

Jesse Owens Gold Medal

Sold for: $1.4 million in 2013

Jesse Owens, the standout American sprinter, famously earned four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The one he gave to entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson came up for sale in 2013, with SCP Auctions accepting 30 bids from across the globe. ESPN reported that California investor Ron Burkle, a co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, made the top offer and acquired the medal for $1,466,574.

Michael Phelps
Daniel Berehulak/Stringer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images Europe

Michael Phelps Swim Cap

Sold for: $19,120 in 2011

It's the story behind an item, often, that gives it value. An otherwise worthless swim cap, a piece of rubber, found itself in the auction spotlight in 2011. The cap that phenom Michael Phelps — the most decorated athlete in Olympic history — wore while winning his eighth gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing sold for $19,120, according to ESPN.

Related: 30 Collectibles That Are Now Worthless

1896 Olympic Marathon Trophy

1896 Olympic Marathon Trophy

Sold for: $865,000 in 2012

The first modern Olympics (1896) were highlighted by the marathon, which directly echoed the history of the Athens Games. Spyros Louis of Greece won the silver cup — the only event to have a trophy instead of medals. His grandson, ESPN reported, would sell the cup at a Christie's auction in London in 2012. A Greek foundation paid the equivalent of $865,000 dollars at the time, and it would go on to be exhibited at several locations before finding a home at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Greece.

Walter Travis 1899 Golf Trophy
Green Jacket Auctions

Walter Travis 1899 Golf Trophy

Sold for: $18,574.80 in 2018

Golf memorabilia may not often be in the spotlight — but a certain trophy certainly caught our eye, perhaps for its aesthetics as anything else. Green Jacket Auctions sold Walter Travis' 1899 Nassau Country Club Cranberry Glass and Sterling Silver Trophy for about $18,575in December 2018. (Travis was an Australian-born American amateur golfer who was also a noted golf journalist, innovator, teacher, and golf course architect).

Sir Donald Bradman 1948 Cricket Cap

Sir Donald Bradman 1948 Cricket Cap

Sold for: $283,000 in 2003

Guinness World Records reported that the most valuable piece of cricket history is Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman's 1948 cap, which the legendary player wore on a tour of England. In June 2003, Tim Serisier, a "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" winner, bought the cap in a pre-auction deal with Ludgrove's auctioneers from Bradman's godson for the equivalent of $283,000.

1871 Fa Cup

1871 FA Cup

Sold for: $773,136 in 2005

Guinness World Records also reported that the most valuable piece of football history — that's soccer for Americans — is an original FA Cup, one of the four made for the inaugural year of the famed competition. It sold for the equivalent of $773,136 through Christie's in the U.K. in May 2005.

1952 Hudson Hornet
Worldwide Auctioneers

1952 Hudson Hornet

Sold for: $1.265 million in 2018

Old Cars Weekly reported that a 1952 Hudson Hornet, which was "raced to success" in NASCAR by Herb Thomas, sold for $1.3 million in August 2018 at Worldwide Auctioneers' sale of the Hostetler Hudson Museum Collection.

Secretariat 1973 Derby
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Secretariat Owner's Derby Program

Sold for: $11,687 in 2018

This past autumn, memorabilia of Penny Chenery, owner of Secretariat, was in the spotlight. In a record-setting sale of her 1973 ticket stub and personal Kentucky Derby program — when Secretariat began its historic capture of horse racing's Triple Crown — was sold by Lelands for $11,687. The sale, according to Sports Collectors Daily, was said to be the most ever for a modern horse-racing program.

Related: 25 Unusual and Rare Items That Sold at Auction for Serious Money