What are the most expensive items of sport memorabilia?

The jersey worn by Michael Jordan during the 1998 NBA finals attracted a record price of $10.091m at auction. But how does it compare to other items of sport memorabilia?

The Chicago Bulls legend wore the jersey in Game 1 of the series, which resulted in him winning his sixth and final NBA title.

The price tag generated will now have owners of other Jordan jerseys quickly giving auction house Sotheby's a call.

Earlier this year the world of football memorabilia went a little bit crazy when a private buyer parted with more than £7million for a shirt worn by Diego Maradona.

At the time it was the most money ever paid out for a piece of football memorabilia, but how much has previously been shelled out for unique pieces of sporting history, and do you have anything valuable hiding in your loft? Planet Sport finds out.

Mickey Mantle baseball card ($12.6m)

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card rules the roost at a staggering $12.6m. Yes, for a small bit of card of a man holding a bat.

Sold in August 2022, the 'finest example' of Mickey Mantle's 'rookie' baseball card smashed the previous record for a card or any other item of sports memorabilia.

Cards are a big deal in the US, as you'll find out below. But this is a great example of having a good rummage around a house when someone passes away, as one of the previous owners of this card had found it in a box in his father's basement.

Michael Jordan jersey ($10.091m)

The huge eight-figure sum, for the jersey which featured in the Netflix series the "The Last Dance", was more than double initial estimates.

Jordan's jersey reportedly had 20 bids, before the hammer came down on the record amount for an item of game-worn sport's clothing.

Sotheby's head of streetwear and modern collectables, Brahm Wachter said: "Finals jerseys from Jordan are remarkably scant and the [1998] finals are arguably the most coveted of them all."

Diego Maradona 1986 Hand of God shirt ($9.3m)

Diego Maradona

It is also fair to say that the claim of Christie's 'football specialist' David Convery that Pele's 1970 jersey was "undoubtedly the most important shirt in world football" was significantly wide of the mark.

England midfielder Steve Hodge had kept this shirt for 36 years and had once even taken it onto the Sky Sports show Soccer AM in a plastic bag.
When he decided to put it up for auction the reserve was set at £4million and was instantly met, eventually building to just over £7million.
We don't know what Diego Maradona did with Hodge's England shirt, but it's probably not worth quite as much…

Original Olympic Games manifesto ($8.8m)

The manifesto outlining Pierre de Coubertin's vision for the modern day revival of the ancient Olympics fetched just over $8.8 million at Sotheby's in December 2019.

The 14-page manifesto is written in French and is the only known copy in existence.

It doesn't mention breakdancing, which will be appearing at the Paris Olympics in 2024, or skateboarding which was recently introduced. Tug of War might be on it though, as it was an Olympic sport until 1920.

Honus Wagner baseball card ($7.25m)

If you are not a fan of baseball then you won't have heard of Honus Wagner. He was a Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop who played 21 Major League season from 1897 to 1917, and was considered one of the best players of all time.

The thing you do need to know is his baseball card costs a lot of money and that figure just keeps rising.

In August 2021, the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card was sold for £6.6m, a year later it went for $7.25m.

It is described as the "Mona Lisa" of sports cards, but he doesn't have the smile down in our opinion.

Babe Ruth 1928-1930 jersey ($5.64m)

Amercian baseball legend Babe Ruth features twice in this list, showing the true power of one of the great icons in world sport.

His 1928-1930 jersey went for a whopping $5.64m at a New York auction in 2019.
Ruth played for 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, winning seven World Series and breaking several records before he retired in 1935.
"The legacy and significance of Babe Ruth to the game of baseball and American popular culture is unmatched by any other figure in the history of this country," the president of Hunt Auctions, David Hunt, said in a statement.
"While the record-setting prices attained today are certainly astonishing, I am not surprised at all given the incredible materials and the mythical status the Babe holds in the history of this country."

LeBron James rookie card ($5.2m)

Sold privately for $5.2m in April 2021, at the time this was another record-breaking sale for a card, before the Mantle and Wagner ones changed hands again. 

There are lots of rare LeBron James cards waiting in the wings to earn some lucky person a lot of money apparently.

"The majority don't want to sell," said Jesse Craig of brokers PWCC. "There are a select few that want to capitalize on the rise of the market, but it has to be kind of the perfect storm for someone to release a card of this magnitude."

Babe Ruth 1920 jersey ($4.42m)

The jersey from the 1920 season is believed to be the oldest surviving piece of Ruth memorbilia in existence.

It went for $4.42m in 2012, and sparked collecters searching high and low for bits of Ruth's equipment.

1891 rules of basketball ($4.3m)

The rules basketball, drawn up by the sport's founder James Naismith, went under the hammer in 2010, and were bought by two Kansas University fans.
Just two grubby pages of signed typescript with the 13 original rules for the then-new game, which had expected to achieve a price of around $2m.

Kobe Bryant jersey ($3.7m)

The signed LA Lakers jersey worn by Bryant during his rookie year went under the hammer in May 2021.
Self-made multi-billionaire Bob Duggan won the bidding race to own the shirt of Bryant, who tragically died, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash in 2020.

Laws of baseball ($3.2m)

Another pile of paper this time from USA's 'national pastime' fetched another whopping amount of money in April 2016.
The 23 pages of yellowed documents were scribbled down by Daniel Lucius "Doc" Adams, who was then the president of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club.

Mark McGwire baseball ($3m)

Back in the 1998 Major League season, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire hit his seventh home run in a single season, and the ball instantly became a collectors item.
At $3million that's not bad going for a cork and rubber ball wrapped in yarn and leather.

Read more: How does Diego Maradona 'Hand of God' shirt compare to other pricey pieces of football memorabilia?

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