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10 Famous Sports Memorabilia Sold For The Highest Prices

 At the core of all human beings is a deeply competitive drive, a force pushing us to be better and do more. Almost every facet of life thrives on performing optimally, outdoing your counterparts, and yourself, as much as possible. While people working in a cubicle feel the pressure of this drive pretty regularly, nobody feels the fire quite as much as sportspeople do. The thrill of the conflict, the rush of victory, and at the end, a trophy to signify glory. It's as enticing for those watching it as it is for those playing it out. Fans everywhere remain constantly inspired by the incredible feats of the old and new legends of the sporting world. 

Above and beyond the fitness and fury, sports are also the foundation of a highly lucrative business, with everything from signed knickknacks to the teams themselves being auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder. The New York Yankees were purchased in 1973 for $8 million and today, are valued at nearly $4 billion. Sports memorabilia draws up equally exorbitant sums of money from inspired fans to private collectors. Some may search for the rarest liquors, others for antiquities, and history (like Indiana Jones). Then there are those who want nothing more than Babe Ruth's baseball bat or the gloves worn by Muhammad Ali, even if it costs millions. And it does cost millions. After all, they are incomparable treasures from sporting history. From greatest to least, these sports memorabilia are the most expensive in the world.   

 

1. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO 

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

(Flickr)  

While a car would normally not make it to the list of sports memorabilia, this particular vehicle is an important part of GT Racing history and was driven by five major drivers, Henri Oreiller, Ernesto Prinoth, Paolo Colombo, Fabrizio Violati and Jo Schlesser. 

At the time of its manufacture, the retail price of this vehicular wonder was $18,000. In 2015, 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was sold for a whopping $38 million, breaking records for the most expensive car ever sold. 

 

2. 1892 Olympic Manifesto 

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, 1892 Olympic Manifesto

(By Pierre de Coubertin, Wikimedia Commons)  

In 1892, a document entitled the Olympic Manifesto was drafted outlining the goals for the newly revived modern Olympic Games. It was written by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin who founded the International Olympic Committee, and 4 years later the first modern Olympic games were hosted by Athens. 

The importance of this document goes without saying, and it’s estimated price during a Sotheby’s auction was a little over $1 million. After a 12-minute bidding war, the piece was sold for $8.8 million.  

 

3. Babe Ruth’s 1920 Jersey 

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, Babe Ruth’s 1920 Jersey

(By New York Daily News, Wikimedia Commons)  

Babe Ruth is perhaps one of the most well-known names in baseball, and rightly so. In his 22 season career, he set new records for batting and pitching, a few of which still remain his even today. 1920 is considered a landmark year in his career when he first joined the Yankees and proceeded to make 54 home runs in his first season. 

This major part of the Great Bambino’s baseball history was auctioned off for the massive price of $4.4 million.   

 

4. 1891 Rules of Basketball 

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, 1891 Rules of Basketball

(By James Naismith, Wikimedia Commons)  

In 1891, James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, created a two-page document enlisting the 13 Rules of Basketball, the basic tenants that form the foundation of the game. He also founded the University of Kansas basketball program.

In 2010, it was put up for auction, and University of Kansas alumni David Booth and Lawrence High paid an exorbitant $4.3 million to ensure it remained on campus.  

 

5. 1856 The Laws of Baseball 

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, 1856 The Laws of Baseball

(By David Shapinsky, Wikimedia Commons)  

As you can see, documentation is an important event in any and almost every sports history. However, not all the documents were written by the founders of the game. In 1856, historical baseball figure and member of the New York Knickerbockers, Daniel Lucas Adams, affectionately nicknamed “Doc”, wrote out a detailed set of rules for Baseball, from the position of the bases to the weight of the ball. 

In 2016, it was auctioned off and sold to an anonymous bidder for the high price of $3.26 million. 

 

6. 1909 Honus Wagner Baseball Card

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, 1909 Honus Wagner Baseball Card

(By Uncredited baseball card artist, Wikimedia Commons)  

Baseball cards are a popular collector's item, but in the earlier days of the sport, the baseball card craze was indescribable. In his 20 year career, Honus Wagner, nicknamed “the Flying Dutchman,” performed some amazing feats and was even inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, Wagner disapproved of the use of his baseball card in promoting or marketing of cigarettes (because the rules on advertising were pretty lax then). 

So the 1909 Honus Wagner card became a rare commodity. In 2016, it upgraded to the most expensive card in the world when it was sold for $3.12 million. 

 

7. Mark McGwire’s 1998 70th Home Run Ball 

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, Mark McGwire’s 1998 70th Home Run Ball

(By Rick Dikeman, Wikimedia Commons)  

Mark McGwire started off his career with record-setting home runs and continues to hold prominence in the baseball world as a coach. Much of his success has been shadowed by the infamy of his steroid use, and his perfect record took a major hit in the early 1990s. However, in 1998, he had a resurgence and scored an incredible 70 home runs in a season. 

The ball from his final home run of the season was collected, preserved, and then auctioned off in 1999. The final paid price for this piece of home-run history was $3 million. 

 

8. Paul Henderson’s 1972 Jersey 

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, Paul Henderson’s 1972 Jersey

(Flickr)  

This Canadian national played hockey for the Atlanta Flames, the Toronto Maple Leaves, and the Detroit Red Wings. However, he is most famous for his role in the triumph of Team Canada against the Soviet Union in the very first Summit series in 1972. 

Team Canada won 7 out of 8 games played, with Henderson securing their victory with a winning play in the final 34 seconds of the game. He went on to become a national hero and his game-winning jersey went on to be auctioned for $1.27 million to a collector.   

 

9. Babe Ruth’s First Home-Run Bat

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, Babe Ruth’s First Home-Run Bat

(Wikimedia Commons)  

1920 was a landmark year in baseball history as it saw the beginning of Babe Ruth’s iconic career as a member of the New York Yankees, a team he would go on to assist in winning the 1923 World Series. The first time Babe Ruth hit a home run in Yankee Stadium, every player and fan in the area felt the waves of the future roar. 

This inspirational and historic bat was preserved and sold via auction, for a costly $1.26 million, to a Chicago-based company along with numerous other prized baseball items purchased in the same auction. 

 

10. Sheffield Football Club Rules, Regulations & Laws 

Most expensive and iconic sports memorabilia ever purchased, Sheffield Football Club Rules, Regulations & Laws

(By PavloFriend, Wikimedia Commons)  

Crossing the ocean to the land of crumpets and tea, picture the small city of Sheffield, in 1800’s England. The game on everybody’s lips is football, better known as soccer, and though everyone followed the sport, the Sheffield Football Club was the first to officially document its rules, regulations, and laws. 

From 1858 to 1877, this code of conduct/instruction manual was diligently drafted and played a major role in the development of modern soccer. The world’s first competitive football (soccer) tournament was played in 1867, under the tutelage of the Sheffield Rules. In 2011, the Sheffield Rules was sold for $1.24 million.  

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