Worth a try? With the World Cup underway, we look at the value of Rugby memorabilia


As the Rugby World Cup starts to get into full swing, fans of the game are in a flurry of excitement, wanting to get to get as close to the action and the stars as possible.

For those of a collecting mindset, this naturally turns the eye to rugby memorabilia. But how much is rugby memorabilia typically worth?

You might reasonably think that there are a number of rugby collectibles worth five or six figure sums. After all, rugby is a genuinely global sport with a cumulative world television audience of 4.2bn for the 48 matches of the 2007 World Cup.

Football memorabilia can certainly reach those heights. Bobby Moore's FIFA World cup winning shirt and medal sold for £150,000 ($225,000) whilst George Best's 1968 European Cup Winner's medal scored £156,000 ($246,300).

Cricket memorabilia can hit the heights too. One of Sachin Tendulkar's match-used bats sold for $93,619, and the 'baggy green' cap worn by Donald Bradman (usually regarded as the greatest batsman in history) once sold for $282,000.

Even when the interest is more geographically limited the sports memorabilia market is strong: a Julius "Dr. J" Erving's basketball jersey brought $190,414 this year, and even an 'Aussie Rules' medal reached $213,000 last month.

So what are the most valuable pieces of Rugby memorabilia? According to a Wikicollecting, the top 10 list of its collectibles never breaks out of four figures.

1910 Welsh rugby shirt
A coveted 1910 Welsh rugby shirt

The very best that Wikicollecting can find is Tom Broadley's medal collection.

This is a collection of late 19th and early 20th century medals and badges, awarded to Yorkshire and England forward Tom Broadley, which were sold for £5,280 ($8,300) at Sotheby's in February 2003.

The seven medals and three badges included a 15 carat gold medal presented to Broadley following Yorkshire's two tries to nil victory over England in 1892.

A close second is a Wales rugby union jersey, worn in a match against England in 1910 by Ben Gronow, made £5,040 at Christie's in November 2006.

signed rugby union shirt
This rugby shirt signed by the England team is available right now

So why is the value of rugby collectibles so low, relatively speaking? It's difficult to be certain.

Perhaps the problem is that there are few countries other than New Zealand where rugby is the number one sport in the way that football is in so many places and cricket is in India and Australia.

Regardless, a more important question is whether rugby collectibles are likely to maintain or even increase their value. There seem to be good reasons to think that they will.

Firstly, the audience for the Rugby World Cup has been increasing each time it's been televised, from 300 million in 1987 to the previously mentioned 4.2bn in 2007.

Secondly, even though it's unlikely to replace football, rugby has a strong following in South America. Having Brazil, one of the so-called BRIC group which have increasing clout in the collecting world can be no bad thing for rugby values (India's rise hasn't hurt cricket memorabilia values).

Thirdly, rugby will return to its rightful place as part of the Olympics in 2016 for the first time since 1928. That should encourage a whole audience to the phenomenon that started when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball…



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