Sports memorabilia: 2017 in review

Lovers of sports memorabilia are among the most passionate collectors around.

This year some tremendous pieces crossed the block, from classic baseball memorabilia to more unusual items.

We look forward to more spectacular results in 2018.

Top sports memorabilia sale of 2017

Babe Ruth contract

The Yankees signed Babe Ruth 1919

As well as revolutionising baseball, Babe Ruth was a hugely charismatic figure – a factor that ensures his place at the very top of the market.

In July, Lelands hosted the much hyped sale of his transfer contract from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees.

The excitement proved well founded. The contract went for $2.3m.

2017’s most important unique item sales

Babe Ruth World

Ruth wore this uniform to promote the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair

SCP Auctions’ sale of Babe Ruth’s World’s Fair promotional uniform offered yet more proof that Ruth remains baseball’s biggest star. It sold for $227,854 in January.

Baseball cards continued the upward trend we saw last year. A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle realised $660,000 at Heritage Auctions in February.

Olympic medals have long been a popular branch of collecting. This year buyers had the opportunity to purchase a 2016 gold for the first time. It went for $57,000.

Michael Jordan dominated basketball throughout the 80s and 90s and remains an elder statesman figure in the sport. His 1984 Olympic jersey sold for $274,000

A baseball cap from Jackie Robinson’s rookie season, featuring metal plates sewn into the headband, was another strong seller. As the first black player in the major leagues, Robinson was the victim of several errant balls. The cap realised a Robinson world record $590,000 in November.

The most unusual sports memorabilia sale of 2017

Notre Dame Rudy

Rudy (number 45) exceeded everyone's expectations in 1975 

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll probably remember Rudy Ruettiger’s legendary walk-on appearance for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a 1975 game against George Tech.

Team coach Dan Devine gave the diminutive player a shot and Ruettiger gave a solid (if brief) performance, despite being much smaller than any other player on the field.

His jersey from that day realised $241,500 at Hunt Auctions in February.

It was a breakout year for…

Arnold Palmer shoes

Palmer's 1958 Masters shoes realised $66,000 this year 

Late golfing legend Arnold Palmer was the surprise hit of 2017.  Palmer died last year, following a long and celebrated career.

Pieces from his landmark moments, including the shoes he wore to win the 1958 Masters and the putter he won the 1964 Masters with, sold for huge sums at auction.

It was a year to forget for…

Arkansas sports memorabilia sealer John Rogers, who was sent down for 12 years in December for selling $23m of fakes to his customers.

One you may have missed

Pele Mexico 70

Pele has signed this Panini sticker album on the cover 

We’re big fans of Panini stickers here at Paul Fraser Collectibles, so it was a real treat to see this Mexico 70 book signed by Brazilian football hero Pele.

It made £10,450 ($13,000) at Catawiki in March.

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