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$10 million for a second-hand sweater: How the sports memorabilia market went to the moon

There are few limits in the world of sports memorabilia — almost everything can be collectable — which is probably what makes hardcore collectors a little strange.

There are few limits in the world of sports memorabilia — almost everything can be collectable — which is probably what makes hardcore collectors a little strange. What sort of person thinks that Andre Agassi’s wig, for instance, is a worthwhile investment? The American tennis player’s spectacular 1980s toupee mullet sold for thousands of dollars to Robert Earl, the Planet Hollywood restaurant tycoon. A Red Sox baseball fan similarly bought the beard trimmings of MVP David Oritz, and another spent $10,000 for the masticated and spat-out bubblegum of Arizona Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez.

These nauseating purchases, one would have thought, would not belong in a sound investment portfolio and yet the sports memorabilia market is now worth $26 billion and predicted to rocket towards $200 billion in ten years’ time. Once the preserve of diehard fans swapping baseball cards and rare jerseys, traders are now ferociously bidding on American football stash and premier league relics like it was bluechip stock.

Part of the excitement, says Tennessee-based sports memorabilia investor Alex Beene, was due to a Covid-era feeding frenzy. “It was like the modern gold rush,” he tells the Gentleman’s Journal. “The pandemic left a lot of people with too much time and money on their hands. You’d see cards, balls, and jerseys on eBay, Heritage Auctions, and other sites going for three-to-four times as much as the FMV. It was absolutely insane.”

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