What Drives the Value of Sports Memorabilia?

It can be difficult to determine the value of any sports memorabilia, specifically an autograph, and it can fluctuate greatly over time or in response to trends. In general, the value of any memorabilia depends on:

  1. What was signed
  2. Who signed it 
  3. The condition 
  4. The availability or exclusivity
  5. Trends that affect supply and demand

This article is intended for the beginner to amateur hobby collectors or someone looking to buy an autographed item as a gift. Let’s look into each of these valuation factors.

What was signed

The autograph format or medium – what was signed – can affect signature value, especially for collectors looking for a unique conversation piece. In looking at the nature of the item, an autograph on a rare trading card, game used item or photograph would be worth more than a signed plain piece of paper. If you have an autograph on a glove, jersey, shoe or game ball, for example, you may find higher value. An item with an interesting story or with historical context, such as Babe Ruth’s original signed contract for the Yankees, would be very valuable. This is why we at Memorabilia Displays are passionate about providing versatile case options to protect and display unique sports memorabilia – everything from jersey cases to glove cases.

Who signed it

The value of the autograph can fluctuate, especially for those who are pop culture figures or have a temporary spike in popularity (for example, right after they have a big career milestone). The value of an autograph from an athlete considered a sports icon will stay steady or become more sought after and collectible over time. Some icons include Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Michael Jordan.


Caring for sports memorabilia is critical for collectors as the condition of the item is a significant factor in determining the value. Fading, smudging or other environmental factors can be detrimental to collectibles. If the autograph has faded or smudged, we’ve seen the value drop dramatically for highly sought-after items. The display cases offered at Memorabilia Displays protect the value of your item by providing UV filter, dust protection and will keep your items away anyone wanting to touch it.

Availability or Exclusivity

Supply and demand in the sports memorabilia world is driven by how rare an item or person’s autograph is and the relative demand. Athletes with low numbers of autographs in circulation either don’t attend sports retailer sanctioned or signing events or don’t sign autographs for fans before or after games. Athletes including Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre and Lebron James, are known to refuse requests for autographs in public. Some athletes command such a crowd that it is difficult to even make contact with the athlete through the swarms of fans; these athletes cannot stop and sign every fan’s ball or jersey. These rare autographs are worth displaying prominently in any collection.

Trends that affect supply and demand

Finally, trends can greatly impact sports autograph values. For example, a breakout rookie or superstar can bring higher demand, or a player gets elected to the hall of fame. Here are some of the top reasons a player’s autograph would trend upwards:

  1. If the player passes away, unfortunately
  2. Players wins an award or championship
  3. Player is elected to Hall of Fame 
  4. Player stops signing autographs for own personal reasons
  5. Player breaks any records


This is a critical component to make sure your autograph is worth that highest value, making sure your autograph is authenticated by a reputable authentication company. The two largest and most reputable companies today are PSA and Beckett. Costs can range from $10-$20 an item, not including shipping. Many sports memorabilia stores will bring in one of these companies to authenticate their items and will open it up to the public to bring their item to be authenticated for a fee. There will be a serial number and certificate you can look up on their site to confirm the authenticity. Some sports promoters will have their own authentication with no serial numbers. These are generally considered OK as long as the company is a reputable one.

If you never plan on selling your autographed memorabilia, then there isn’t a need to get it authenticated if you know the source of the autograph. But, if you think you may sell it later, having it authenticated will provide trust in the seller your item is real and make sure you get the higher value for your item.

Beckett Authentication Certificate ExampleWe would strongly suggest not buying an item that isn’t authenticated from an online marketplace. If you know the person and they can explain how they obtain the autograph, then there is less risk of a fake autograph. Unfortunately, fakes are very common in this hobby, given how highly valuable the items can be.

Online marketplaces set the pricing, not a 3rd party

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, Beckett was the source of truth in determining the value for sports cards. This was a day in age when online marketplaces weren’t around, and Beckett would set the value which card shops would go by. Fast forward to today and there are many online marketplaces available, most notably eBay, Mercari, Pristine Auction and Heritage Auctions to name a few.

A product is only worth whatever the market will pay for it. So, it if is a more common item (ie. Magic Johnson or Jose Canseco autograph), we recommend seeing what these autographs sold by doing a search and filtering to only sold items. For the very unique and hard to find items, if you can’t see what similar items have sold for, then you are going to be the market and set the price to however you value that item.


About Memorabilia Displays

Memorabilia Displays is the world's leading online sports collectible display case retailer. We work with every major supplier to bring you the biggest selection across all sports memorabilia cases all with free store wide shipping. We aim to deliver cases that fit every budget with the lowest prices to help you find what you need.

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