Today in history... Tiger Woods was born

On this day, in 1975, Tiger Woods was born in Cypress, California to Earl and Kultida Woods.

By the age of three, he was an established golf child prodigy, putting against comedian Bob Hope on television and shooting a 48-over-9 holes at the Navy Golf Club in Cypress, California.

By age five, he had appeared in the Golf Digest and, at the age of eight in 1984, he won the Junior Golf World Championships - a success he would repeat six times.

Woods: winner of 14 professional major
golf championships and 71 PGA Tours

Fast forward to 2009, and 34-year-old Woods' accomplishments include winning 14 professional major golf championships, and 71 PGA Tours.

Today, he has more career and PGA tour wins than any other active golfer, and is the youngest and fastest player to win 50 tournaments on tour.

Incredibly, he has only been a golf pro for 13 years.

In 2002, he surpassed Formula One's Michael Schumacher as the world's highest earning sportsman, and is estimated to have earned around $100m on the golf course.

In addition, sponsorship deals with Tag Heuer ($5m), Electronic Arts ($8m), Gatorade ($10m), Gillette ($15m) and Nike ($30m) won him the title of "the $1bn sportsman."

At Paul Fraser Collectibles, we wrote: "The golf maestro is an advertiser's dream: young, clean living, and phenomenally successful."

That was only in October. It was perhaps inevitable that something had to give...

"I have let my family down." - Tiger Woods

The following month, on November 25, a tabloid gossip magazine, the National Enquirer, ran a story claiming that Woods had had an extra marital affair with Rachel Uchitel, a nightclub manager.

A day-and-a-half later, Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant outside his home at 2.30am. Soon, the National Enquirer story became global news.

A tabloid feeding frenzy ensued, sparking 'confessions' by over a dozen alleged mistresses, two cryptic official apologies by Woods, a reported end to his marriage and an indefinite hiatus from golf.

Accenture Plc has reportedly dropped Woods from its advertising, and Tag Heuer is "re-examining its ties" with the golfer.

However, Nike and Electronic Arts are apparently sticking by him. And the most vocal support has come from a playing card manufacturer, The Upper Deck Co, which recently signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Woods.

According to a statement by Upper Deck, it is "the first major worldwide collectibles company to produce Tiger Woods trading cards and autographed memorabilia."

"Upper Deck will maintain its exclusive agreement with Tiger in both our sports cards and memorabilia categories, and we look forward to his eventual return to the PGA Tour." - statement by The Upper Deck Co.

Upper Deck are sticking by him. But what kind of impact has the Tiger Woods' scandal had on his memorabilia, overall?

The answer is, apparently, not much.

Mike Heffner is president of Lelands, the New York-based auction house, which once sold Babe Ruth's first homerun ball hit in the Yankee Stadium.

Lelands' previous Tiger Woods collectibles sales have included his tournament-worn shirt, for $20,000.

But, even as the daily tabloid coverage continues, Heffner says he has no plans to raise or lower the prices on his Woods collectibles.

"I don't think it's going to effect [Woods' memorabilia] that greatly. Other athletes have been through these trials and tribulations, and they're remembered for what they did in their field." - Mike Heffner, Lelands auctioneers, New York

"He didn't get caught cheating on the golf course, he got caught cheating at home," said Heffner.

The bottom line with Tiger Woods memorabilia is the scarcity factor - he rarely signs autographs, for instance - and that factor will remain, regardless of what happens in his personal life.

Woods' memorabilia can only become
more scarce - and more valuable

A signed Tiger Golf ball can sell for $1,000 or more. And such items will continue to appreciate the longer Woods' golfing haitus, and his break from the limelight, lasts.

"I'd say he'll be more elusive when it comes to signing, which, in turn, will make the value even greater," said Hefner.

Heffner recommends that collectors wait for the scandal to settle down before buying Woods memorabilia, to avoid inflated prices.

However, at Paul Fraser Collectibles, our prices have stayed the same throughout the scandal. This signed Tiger Woods baseball cap can be considered a bargain - we've seen them on offer at a 20% premium elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Hollywood Collectibles has issued a press release proudly endorsing Woods' memorabilia: "He is an outstanding professional golf player who is considered the best," it reads.

So, it appears that there are plenty of sports fans who couldn't care less what the tabloids say about Tiger Woods.

And, in terms of the value of his memorabilia and autographs, it might be worth remembering an old saying: today's newspaper is tomorrow's chip wrapping.



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