Investing in Sports Collectibles: The Athletes to Acquire


The stock market has gone crazy recently with wild swings that have caused me to rethink how I invest. With the future not looking so bright, most investors agree that it makes sense to diversify your portfolio and find stable commodities to acquire. While investing in autographed sports memorabilia doesn’t come without risk, I believe it is a great way to at least stash some capital in a relatively safe category, especially if you follow the five rules I highlighted recently on how to purchase the right sports memorabilia at the right time.

Even the most savvy stock brokers have been left scratching their heads trying to figure out the markets today.

Now certainly I am not advocating you liquidate your 401(k) and dump everything you have into Kobe Bryant autographed shoes. However, if you are a sports fan it does make a lot of sense to allocate small portion of your nest egg to collectibles that you will enjoy seeing on a daily basis, that also have the potential to appreciate. And while any investment has a lot to do with buying and selling at the right times, as a sports fan myself, I would rather buy and sell items I love like autographed sports memorabilia over commodities like soy beans and pork bellies. If you would rather look at a signed Michael Jordan framed jersey in your office more than stock certificates, then we are on the same page.

If you disagree, then I challenge you to look at your investments as of late. Spend five minutes going over your 401(k). It is likely you have lost a substantial amount of your retirement savings over the last few weeks through markets that are highly unstable. I recently went through what was happening in my retirement savings and almost got ill.

If you are on board with putting a small portion of your retirement portfolio in sports collectibles, it’s time to talk about which players might represent a good investment and which players might not. It goes without saying that there are no sure things when investing in sports collectibles, it is an investment with risk like any other. Like any other investment however, there are some great opportunities that exist where you can use your knowledge of sports to make a sound investment.

With so many investment options available to consumers, why not invest in something you are passionate about like authentic autographed sports memorabilia?

I believe fans should look to acquire or avoid is based on timing, as if you were looking to make a purchase today. If we were buying sports memorabilia today, we would want to avoid items in high demand because the sports is in season like baseball collectibles. There is also a lot of interest in Football with the season getting ready to kick off. Basketball however is in the midst of an ugly lockout so people holding inventory on those items are likely panicking. From that panic comes opportunity for you to get great value and make a sound investment.

Before we dive into the players on my lists, I cannot express to you enough that if you do decide to invest in your passion, you absolutely need to make sure you are purchasing authentic autographed memorabilia. If you get a great deal on an item with a phony signature, you might as well have invested in Enron. Make a sound investment by purchasing an authentic item, even if it costs a little more. Make sure that any item you are acquiring comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from a reputable company where they witness the athletes signing and keep record of those sessions for customers. When it comes to authenticity, nobody does it better than Upper Deck Authenticated and I’m not just saying that because I work for the company. UDA set the standard for authentic signed sports collectibles and has helped to greatly clean up the industry.

That said, here are the top ten players I believe fans should look to acquire authentic autographed memorabilia of today:

#10 – Albert Pujols – I know I just said to be careful with baseball right now, but Albert Pujols is just one of the most amazing baseball players we have ever seen. Not only is he awesome on the field, he seems like an even better guy off the field as a great family man who spends much of his free time helping in the community. There is some uncertainty about what his future holds in St. Louis and I believe that gives way to some opportunity. Try to grab something of Albert at a decent price tied to a specific moment from Albert’s career or his rookie season. Be careful of memorabilia items that are just generic St. Louis Cardinals pieces for right now because if he does move teams, you will see values on those drop for a bit.

Until his future with the Cardinals is clear, purchase signed items of Albert tied to a special moment or with an inscription like this one.

#9 – Kevin Durant – How impressive was Kevin Durant early in his career? He is definitely a solid player that is doing all the right things so far in his career. Shop around a bit to find a quality signature of his as there are some that look a little more rushed in the market. The only problem is that are still not many good deals on his memorabilia despite the NBA lock out because he is still making news. He is playing a lot in high visibility tournaments that are getting him headline coverage on ESPN keeping him top of mind with collectors and making value purchases on him harder to find. He is someone you want to collect now, but you just have to wait for him to quiet down a bit.

While his signature leaves a little something to be desired, autographs of Durant should be considered a good investment. Unfortunately there are not many good deals to be found even during the NBA lock out because he is still making headlines.

#8 – Tiger Woods – What can you say about Tiger Woods that hasn’t already been said? It has been really disappointing to see the direction things have gone for him, especially on the course where he is struggling with every start. With his struggles however, comes great opportunity. I believe he will be back and eventually break Jack Nicklaus’ record, but even if he doesn’t, he has provided us with some amazing moments and that is what I would recommend you invest in now. Tie the purchase of Tiger Woods autographed memorabilia to it to a memorable moment. There are plenty of unique items out there for Tiger that showcase moments that sports fans will never forget.

Remember the 2005 Masters where Tiger made that chip on 16? Capturing collectibles of Tiger from those magic moments should be safe investments as fans will remember them forever.

#7 – Bobby Orr – There was a lot of hoopla and fanfare about the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup a few months back, but the good news is that things have settled down a bit there. There is no telling if they will be back to their winning ways this season, but the future looks bright for the franchise. And when you have a great franchise, you have a passionate base of collectors. There is the opportunity now to snatch up some collectibles of one of the best know Bruins of all-time in Bobby Orr at a rationale price before the season starts up again and interest returns in hockey collectibles. Since his career is over and his legacy secured, his authentic signed items represent a very safe investment.

Signed collectibles of Bobby Orr will always have a market with puck fanatics.

#6 – Landon Donovan – You are going to be hard-pressed to find an American athlete who is as respected internationally as much as Landon Donovan. He is beloved and has become a wonderful spokesman for the sport of soccer. With the popularity of soccer gaining and Landon positioned to be a global icon for the foreseeable future, his collectibles represent another great investment for fans.

Landon Donovan is one of the most well-known American athletes in the world and his legend will likely continue to grow.

#5 – Muhammad Ali – Speaking of icons, you don’t get much bigger than Muhammad Ali, who is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world today. As he gets older, it’s sad to think of how we’ll get by without a wonderful humanitarian like Muhammad Ali in the world. There is no doubt fans will always treasure signed collectibles of “The Champ” as he represents all that is good about sports.

"I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was." - Muhammad Ali

#4 – Michael Jordan – Upper Deck Authenticated does a great job of protecting the signatures of Jordan by limiting the amount of signings he does each year. Even in the midst of a NBA lockout, there are not a lot of deals to be found for Michael Jordan as supply is low and demand remains high. A signed collectible of Jordan is absolutely a must in your sports investment portfolio however because it is such a safe investment. Even though the price of his collectibles may be a little high, if you are going to be in this game, you’ll want a signed item from the man widely seen as the greatest basketball player of all-time.

The new Michael Jordan Tegata piece from Upper Deck Authenticated comes not only with a signature from MJ, but his palm print as well!

#3 – Ken Griffey Jr. – I know I said to steer clear of baseball collectibles right now, but it seems like Ken Griffey Jr. has just fallen off that map and that is a great thing for those looking to invest in his collectibles. His career statistics are absolutely amazing and the great thing is that he is one of the very few baseball players who you don’t hear brought up in the whole steroid scandal situation. He will most certainly be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer so grab his signed items know at a low price and pat yourself on the back when he is enshrined in Cooperstown.

"The Kid" is all grown up now. Get his signed collectibles now before Ken Griffey Jr. is inducted in the Baseball Hall-of-Fame.

#2 – Kobe Bryant – Upper Deck Authenticated enjoyed a great relationship with Kobe Bryant for several fantastic seasons where he won multiple NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Take a look at what Kobe had to say about the partnership with Upper Deck:

Although he has faced his ups and downs, he has come back and reassumed his position as one of the best players in the game. His popularity can be seen around the world. With the NBA lockout there is the opportunity to get a good deal on some of his signed items, UNLESS he goes and plays abroad where interest may soar. His latest headlines Kobe has been making however are not exactly positive which is okay, as I think that story is a bit ridiculous and will be forgotten before too long. Use this as an opportunity to get a good deal from a collector who was scared off by the story.

#1 – LeBron James – LeBron has caught all sorts of heat (pun intended) for leaving Cleveland for the warm shores of South Beach. And there has been a lot of negativity around him for not winning it all last season even though he helped lead the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals. There is no doubt that LeBron James is going to win the NBA Championship and he will likely do it more than once. This is definitely the low point of his career and provides fans with a tremendous opportunity to get his collectibles at a great price, and then laugh all the way to the bank in a few years as he retires as one of the game’s greatest players with titles in tow. Just be careful with some of the Cleveland collectibles unless they are from a key moment or his rookie season as it may take a little longer for those pieces to recover.

King James will get his titles in time. Capture his collectibles now at a good price.

There is no time like now to get started with your new investment strategy. Come up with your own list of who you want to invest in and get buyoff from your significant other on it. You’re not buying “stuff,” you’re investing. To help you get started, I’ve been able to get clearance to offer up a few items from players on my list at a special discount to our fans. Check out these deals Upper Deck Authenticated is offering direct to consumer by clicking here. Take some time to explore other websites, auctions and shops as well to find a deal on a piece that has potential to appreciate.

Make sure to visit the UD Blog tomorrow where I share my top ten list of athletes to avoid. Which players do you think will be on that list?




No Gretzky in the top 10? Blasphemy!


I was going back and forth between Gretzky and Orr Chris. There is some great memorabilia of the “Great One” out there, but there’s still huge demand for it so it is hard to get it at a good price now. That said, if you have Gretzky memorabilia already in hand, you are in a good place as that is a very safe investment in my humble opinion.


i cant beleave that james is before Ali that is bull..



If this was about which autographs were the most valuable, Ali would be before James for sure. As would Jordan and as would Gretzky, but this story is primarily about which players you can invest in today that will pay dividends later. I believe with where LeBron James is now, he represents the best value in the market for those who are looking to invest in sports collectibles.


Great advice. And, Sports memorabilia displays on my wall much nicer than my 401(k) or stock portfolio.


I like how everyone on their list are guys that UDA signs to a contract. Their biggest investment being LBJ. I think this article is more of a marketing scheme for Upper Deck rather than to help out customers. Just my take on it though.


I can appreciate your thinking there Jayce, but that is not true. While we have worked with all these athletes before, we do not currently have deals without about half of them. I would certainly encourage someone looking to invest in these athletes to search out for their UDA items if they were looking to purchase as we do a lot to make sure collectors are getting the real thing, but they certainly don’t have to. There are other companies that do a good job with authenticity as well, I just think UDA is the best. And typically you’ll see that reflected in values on many of these items.


I once owned a LeBron James custom designed mouthguard with limited wear. It was showcased in a headshot photo in SI a few years ago.
LeBron was known for sporting the green and gold mouthguard that displayed KING JAMES on the front Gloria on the left and #23 on the right, the mouthguard was St Vincent gold and green.

In 2009 I auctioned the mouthguard on consignment with Lelands.
At that time the KING JAMES mouth guard and a LeBron autographed jersey (not game worn) were the only two LBJ items available on the auction with both items starting with a minimum bid of $1,000.

The KING JAMES mouthguard received 1 bid for $1000 while the autographed jersey received 13 bids with a winning bid of $12,000.

Does this make sense? I wish I had held on to the collectible.
Did I blow it or is the mouthguard just too yucky for collectors?


How about Evan Longoria? He one of the best players in baseball.



It is such a unique item that it’s hard to get it in front of the right people who would bid on it. Traditionally there is not a huge market for those types of items as collectibles. It may be too yucky, but mostly it is just not something fans are used to collecting. A jersey is much more presentable and an item with more mainstream value. A mouth guard falls into the category of an obscure collectible. Still very cool, just different.


Evan certainly is a great player, but he plays in a small market and because of that there is not a huge demand for his collectibles (with the exception of items from his rookie season). Until he’s consistently winning MVP’s and winning World Series titles (like Pujols has), he will remain a nice player with some mid-range value on his collectibles.


You can never go wrong with the vintage players of baseball…legends such as Ruth, Gehrig, Mathewson, Ott, Foxx and so many more. Their memorabilia, autographs in particular, continue to rise in value.


I totally agree with you Imperial Sports Auctions. The only problem is that the ticket price on these is high. The values are so consistent, you will seldom get a good deal on one of those items unless you wait until the off season after the Yankees in particular have had a terrible year. That doesn’t happen very often. Generally, when it does however there are opportunities to get items of those athletes at a better cost.


Hey Chris, I’ve got a handful of Derek Jeter autographs (bat, ball and card) and am trying to figure out if there’s a best time to sell those (or if it’s a good idea to do so). I know he’ll be a HOF guy and has had a great career, but don’t know much about when is a good idea to sell memorabilia pre vs. post HOF. Any advice would be much appreciated!



Jeter is having a really great year and the Yankees are in first place. If you are looking to resell it, the time would be when he or the Yankees do something great in the playoffs or if they win the World Series. You will see a much bigger interest in his collectibles in terms of resale value when he is still playing and when fans are celebrating. There certainly is an uptick in interest when a player is inducted in the Hall-of-Fame, but it is not as big as you will see when they are on top of their game and winning.

If you are a Jeter fan, you find yourself in a real dilemma here. You may not ever want to let these go. But if you are looking to make a profit off your investment, the time would be when the Yankees or Jeter do something great in the post season.


I have multiple lebron autographs from his Cleveland days a jersey two photos one autographed with Carmelo Anthony. Are these worth holding on to or go with heat stuff?

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