INSIDE: Sports Memorabilia Collecting
May 6, 2015
By James Massey
I recently interviewed long-time collector and Los Angeles Sports Museum founder Gary Cypres, regarding Sports Memorabilia collecting, and the website he co-founded with his son Jeremy, PriceRealized.com. Which helps collectors research sports memorabilia values.
The interview offers a rare glimpse into the world of professional sports memorabilia collecting, and provides useful tips, strategies, and insights that could be used for all levels (and types) of collectors.
What's your opinion on sports memorabilia as an investment or hobby?
It can be both a hobby and an investment, but a potential collector should never begin collecting sports memorabilia strictly as an investment if they have no interest in sports memorabilia. In addition, given the recent appreciation in prices new collectors in the market must be very cautious and prudent about their bidding and purchasing.
What sells, and what doesn't sell?
If you review auction prices and sales over a long period of time the records indicate almost all items sell but the relevant question is which items realized the highest prices and which items saw the highest price appreciation over time. Upon reviewing auction records it becomes apparent that memorabilia from iconic, hall of fame players along with memorabilia from iconic events, plays, and games realize the highest prices and sees the greatest price appreciation between sales.
Popularity is subjective, but a search of past sales shows that Mantle memorabilia commands much higher prices than Mays or Snider memorabilia. (At the time of this interview) The highest recorded public auction sale of a piece of Mantle memorabilia occurred in 2013 when his 1963 Yankee home jersey sold for $454,100. The highest auction result for piece of Mays memorabilia occurred in 2003 when his 1954 batting champion silver bat award sold for $120,095. The highest auction result for a Snider piece of memorabilia occurred in 2008 when his 1958 Dodger jersey sold for $65,725.
The recent sales of Koufax jersey provide a great example of the appreciation in prices which the market is currently experiencing for the memorabilia of tier 1, hall of fame players. Just 5 years ago in 2010 a Koufax jersey sold for a then record price of $80,393, and in February a jersey sold for $573,600.
Thomas Tull’s purchase represented a breakthrough in a price resistance barrier which had previously existed in the market. Prior to this sale price (prices) had been on the rise for several years but in the sales aftermath, prices appreciated at a very fast rate.
How has the sale of million dollar items, beyond Honus Wagner cards, changed the dynamics of the industry?
The sale of items in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars (outside of the wagner card) has really had a dual effect in the market. These high sales have brought new, fresh memorabilia to the market and these fresh pieces of memorabilia have seen extremely high prices, which is bringing out more memorabilia.
How is PriceRealized.com differentiated from other sites?
We are the only comprehensive auction price database that exists.
Was there a particular item that helped launch your passion for collecting?
Like many other kids who grew up in the Bronx in the 1950’s I collected baseball cards which my mother subsequently threw out. Later in life when I was in my mid 40’s I began collecting English golf and tennis memorabilia after a trip to England with my wife. I eventually transitioned to collecting baseball memorabilia again.
Do you have a favorite item in your collection?
The items are like my children, you have to love them all.
What's one of your favorite sports memorabilia investment stories?
The Black Swamp Find. It was a collection of about 700 cards found in an Ohio mans grandfathers attic. The cards were appraised at $3 million and the first portion of the find was auctioned off by Heritage Auctions in 2012. Portions of the find are still being auctioned off to this day, with the most recent sale occurring in February 2015. (Here's one of those sales and more info about the cards.)
Are there any books or resources focused on collecting sports memorabilia that you would recommend for hobbyist and/or investors who want to increase their knowledge?
The best book for a collector is probably Stephen Wong’s Smithsonian Baseball: Inside The World’s Finest Private Collection. Additional books are; Baseball As America and The Perfect Game: America Looks At Baseball.
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