We compiled the all-time auction price records for sports memorabilia as of March 13th, 2023. Be sure to check back as we update the list as new records are set!
Only three players in the history of the NBA have achieved back to back finals MVPs. Bill Russell (for whom the trophy is now named), Michael Jordan, and Lebron James.
Few players have been so lauded by fans prior to their entry into the league. While it is true that every few years the sports press likes to hype up transcendently talented high-school athletes for the sake of clicks and engagement; turns out, this was not one of those times. Describing James as, “The Chosen One”, ended up not being even slightly hyperbolic in this case.
After winning his first NBA title in 5 games with the Heat in 2011-12, we arrived at what many agree to be Lebron’s greatest season. There is endless evidence that points to this season exhibiting a Lebron James at the peak of his powers: going 27/8/7, shooting 56.5% from the field, MVP (Finals and Regular season), 2nd only to Marc Gasol in defensive player of the year voting, 27 game winning streak, the list goes on.
After fighting his way through 6 games against the San Antonio Spurs, Lebron took it upon himself to bring his team the championship. In an all time great finals performance LBJ scored 37 points wearing this jersey, a physical piece of evidence symbolizing Lebron’s indisputable greatness.
When it comes to sports, it isn’t often that the genesis of a game is so well documented. The popular American sports of today have their history rooted in some other popular game: Baseball to Cricket, (American) Football to….Football, Hockey to Lacrosse. All to varying degrees of course, but Naismith’s inspiration was a medieval children’s game known as ‘Duck on a Rock’, wherein kids would throw rocks at a larger rock, guarded by other children, in order to knock it down. One could see why this game didn’t really have the legs for massive adoption; sadly the youth of today has been deprived of the joy that can only be attained by clocking your class mates with a nice rock. Dr. Naismith surely deserves points for creativity here though.
When assigned the age old task of keeping kids entertained while cooped up inside over the winter, Naismith’s solution came down in a the form of a new game, Basketball. His thirteen rules, originally thumb-tacked to a bulletin board in a New England gym, are the genesis of the international phenomenon that is Basket Ball; you read that right, Naismith originally spelled it as two words.
Though the sport has changed drastically since its birth—namely with the advent of more and more physical contact which was explicitly outlawed in the original rules—its founding document is not too far off of what we call basketball today. Although we are curious how Naismith would feel about moving the three point line or where he lands on the MJ vs. Lebron debate.
In a baseball world that was rife with match-fixing scandals, the league needed a shot in the arm to get fans excited about the game again. Modern baseball fans can surely understand waning popularity and mistrust in league officials to run a fair and just game. At the time this problem was partially solved by the rise of a young player named George Herman “Babe” Ruth; “The Sultan of Swat”, “The King of Crash”, “The Colossus of Clout”, “THE GREAT BAMBINO”. You get it, you’ve seen Sandlot.
After starting his career in the majors as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in 1914, he won three World Series with the club until his sale to New York in 1920. Upon his trade he transitioned into a power-hitting right-fielder, marking the beginning of what we now call the “live-ball era”. So named due to its contrast to the “dead-ball era” of the decade prior, in which fans witnessed low scoring games and a tragic dearth of dingers.
Ruth almost single-handedly brought baseball back to its height. Quality jersey’s from this era of baseball are rare as it is, but ones worn by Babe himself are even scarcer; some say less than 5 in this kind of quality are known. This jersey is not only one of the great pieces of sports memorabilia, but of historical memorabilia at large.
Tiger Woods is an icon in the world of golf, leaving an indelible mark on the sport with his legendary skill, resilience, and magnetic charisma. His career is only comparable to the handful of athletes who grace fans with nigh supernatural abilities in their respective games.
At the turn of the millennium, the golf world witnessed a remarkable feat, now known as the "Tiger Slam." Between 2000 and 2001, Tiger Woods captured four consecutive Major Championship titles, demonstrating his prowess and securing his place in golf history. The clubs he used during this incredible run are among the great pieces in all of collecting, representing not only the pinnacle of Woods' career but also an unforgettable moment in golf.
The Tiger Slam irons and wedges, including 2-PW Titleist Forged irons and two custom Vokey wedges, are a rare and invaluable piece of sports memorabilia. The wear mark on the face of the 8 iron is a testament to the dedication that went into achieving the Tiger Slam. These clubs come with substantial provenance documentation, backed by affidavits and declarations from Titleist executives who witnessed the exchange of these clubs and even a passed polygraph test. Art collectors eat your heart out; try asking for affidavits and polygraphs when you’re buying a Monet.
Golf enthusiasts and collectors alike can appreciate the significance and rarity of these clubs, as they symbolize the heights of sporting achievement. Their worth extends beyond their monetary value, serving as a testament to the enduring legacy of Tiger Woods and his unmatched impact on the world of golf.
Once more, Babe Ruth steals the spotlight on our list, this time with a road jersey dating from 1928-30. It's no wonder that the Bambino's legacy on this list mirrors his unforgettable impact on the field during his prime.
With only a handful of Babe Ruth jerseys in existence, this particular piece is a gem from the golden era of his storied career. The grey flannel body features the original "Yankees" team name across the front in blue applied lettering, the Spalding manufacturer's label, and the original linen drawstrings. The evident wear on the jersey, including the vestiges of a numeral "3" on the back, all playing a part in the authenticity of the jersey, and therefore its value.
While some may argue about the precise dating of this jersey, its importance is undeniable. From the 1928 World Series to Babe's 500th Home Run, this jersey represents an era of historic moments and a wealth of home runs; while we cannot say for sure if he had this one on when he smacked the 500th, we also cannot say for sure that he was not wearing it. As one of the most significant sports artifacts ever sold at public auction, it's only fitting that Babe Ruth makes a double appearance on our list. After all, there was, and always will be, only one Babe Ruth.
On April 23, 2008, during Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round against the Denver Nuggets, Kobe scored a crucial 3-pointer, securing a 14-point lead for the Lakers. The photos capturing his celebratory scream have become some of the most iconic images of the legendary athlete. This moment of pure passion inspired artists the world over, leading to the jersey being featured on countless murals and magazine covers. In California alone, over 15 murals showcase Kobe in this jersey, often accompanied by wings, American flags, and snakes (Black Mamba snakes to be specific).
LeBron James wore a t-shirt featuring this jersey during Game 4 of the 2020 NBA Finals, the series where Lebron would go on to win a ring with Kobe’s former franchise. This jersey has permeated the global popular zeitgeist, becoming synonymous with "The Mamba Mentality."
The jersey was worn by Kobe at the height of his career during his only MVP season, for an impressive 25 games over eight months. It was worn during five preseason games, 14 regular-season games, and six playoff games, with Kobe scoring 645 points in this jersey. This level of long-term, heavy wear is rare in sports memorabilia, as many modern items are worn for just one game. This jersey was the only gold one Kobe wore in the 2008 NBA Playoffs, leading to the 2008 NBA Finals, and marked his first advancement to the NBA Finals since Shaquille O'Neal's departure from the Lakers.
Kobe's global reach transcended basketball, touching the lives of various athletes and influencing entire teams. His unrelenting drive and commitment to excellence has left a mark on sports history, the Mamba mentality continues to inspire generations of fans and athletes.
This iconic belt, emblematic of Muhammad Ali's astonishing triumph over George Foreman in the unforgettable "Rumble in the Jungle," is likely the most powerful piece of boxing memorabilia in existence. This piece represents Ali's unwavering determination and strength as he reclaimed his title after being stripped of it in 1967 due to his refusal to participate in the Vietnam War draft.
The "Rumble in the Jungle" took place on October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The fight was a monumental event, with Ali utilizing his now famous "rope-a-dope" strategy to tire Foreman before delivering a powerful knockout punch in the eighth round. This victory marked the beginning of Ali's reign as the WBC Heavyweight Champion, which lasted until his loss to Leon Spinks four years later.
This WBC Heavyweight Championship belt is one of only two known to exist, with the other residing in a private collection. It features a gold-colored metal central plate with enamel detailing of swirling national flags, which has mostly chipped away over the decades.
The belt's historical significance is immense, as it not only represents Ali's exceptional athletic achievement but also his relentless pursuit of justice, and his unwavering stance on race, religion, and peace. This invaluable artifact of the American experience is a testament to the impact of one of the most consequential lives in not only sports history, but American history as well.
Pierre de Coubertin, a French aristocrat, delivered a speech in 1892 putting forth his vision for the revival of the ancient Olympic games. Coubertin argued that new ideas, technologies, and systems were driving human progress and innovation to unprecedented heights. And that transforming athletics from a strictly military pursuit to one of individual excellence would benefit both athlete and society as a whole.
Two years after giving the speech, Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee, and the modern Olympic Games debuted in Athens in 1896. In his manifesto, Coubertin highlighted the power of international competition in bringing people together, overcoming differences, and fostering democracy. The Olympics have persisted through two world wars and countless other far-reaching conflicts—so it would seem that Pierre was onto something.
The sale of the original 1892 manuscript over 100 years since its delivery, crystallizes Coubertin’s vision. Representing the enduring belief that sporting is one of the few ways we have to embrace our shared humanity.
In the world of soccer, few names carry the same reverence as Diego Maradona, and it is no surprise that a jersey worn by the Argentine during the 1986 World Cup Quarterfinals would be the first soccer-related item to appear on this list. Maradona's impact on the game and sports more broadly is undeniable, with his extraordinary skill, creativity, and passion for the game inspiring generations of fans and players alike.
During the 1986 World Cup, Maradona's performance in the match between Argentina and England transcended the game itself, becoming a symbol of national pride and a moment of catharsis following the bitter conflict between the two countries in the Falkland Islands War just a few years prior. Maradona scored two of the most memorable goals in soccer history during that match: "The Hand of God" and the "Goal of the Century." The latter was even voted as the greatest goal of all time in a 2002 FIFA poll.
The journey of Maradona's historic jersey into the hands of its consignor, England midfielder Steve Hodge, is a testament to the mutual respect between both players. Following the match, Hodge, who had inadvertently set up Maradona's "Hand of God" goal, took the opportunity to ask for a shirt swap. Initially thinking it was a lost cause due to Maradona being mobbed by teammates directly after the game, Hodge unexpectedly encountered Maradona again outside his locker room. Since they did not have a tongue in common, Hodges simply gave his own shirt a tug to signal interest in the swap, leading to the legendary exchange.
The "Last Dance" season of Michael Jordan in the 1998 NBA Finals remains an unforgettable moment in sports history, as it captivated viewers worldwide when the Bulls faced a hostile Utah crowd on June 3rd, 1998. The atmosphere was so fraught that Jordan did not allow his own children to attend the game. Michael was calm as ever though, grooving out on the bus before the storied game.
The 1998 NBA Finals marked Jordan's final season with the Chicago Bulls, which is fondly remembered as "The Last Dance." This period in Jordan's career is celebrated as the pinnacle of his athletic performance and the culmination of his team's legendary achievements. The 1998 NBA Finals also showcased Jordan's unassailable competitive spirit, as he led the Bulls to their sixth NBA Championship and earned his sixth Finals MVP award.
Jordan's iconic red away jersey from Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals is a highly sought-after artifact, a symbol of his 6 championships with the storied franchise. Collectors and enthusiasts alike recognize the immense significance and rarity of this piece, making it a prized possession for anyone fortunate enough to acquire it.
The sale of this jersey not only reflects the enduring impact of Michael Jordan's achievements but also highlights the reverence that fans worldwide continue to hold for the greatest of all time.
In August of 2021 Hunt Auctions sold this jersey in a private sale for a price of more than $4.2 million. Our list is comprised only of public auction records, so it was not included here; if it had it would have occupied the 9th spot. The private market for sports memorabilia is robust and facilitates many transactions at the high end of the market. We thought it better for our list to only be made up of prices that are publicly backed.
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