Sports memorabilia market: 2012 auction review

With the London Olympics held in the summer, 2012 was always destined to be a huge year for sports fans. This was reflected in the sports memorabilia market, where excitement was heightened by an influx of medals, trophies and important game-used items.

As usual, baseball memorabilia sold superbly, with excellent results for the memorabilia of vintage Major League stars and a major auction record. Boxing also saw a new world record, as collectors hailed the greatest of all time…

Top sale

Ruth wore this following his tumultuous trade from the Boston Red Sox

  • Babe Ruth's earliest game-used jersey now holds the world record for any item of sports memorabilia, after selling for $4.4m in May. The New York Yankees road jersey was worn by Ruth in the 1920 season.

New records in 2012 

Muhammad Ali Joe Frazier gloves
One of the pairs was from Ali's Fight of the Century


  • Two pairs of Muhammad Ali's gloves share the record for the most valuable piece of boxing memorabilia ever sold at auction, after selling for $385,848 each at the same auction in December.
  • The auction record for Olympic memorabilia was set in April, after Breal's Silver Cup, which was presented to the winner of the Olympic marathon race at the first modern Games in 1896, sold for $875,189 at Christie's.
  • A Ty Cobb-used baseball bat broke the previous auction record by 84.6% in July, selling for $253,000 to become the most valuable of the Georgia Peach's bats ever sold.

It was a breakout year for…

Breal's Silver Cup Olympics world record
The world record holder from the first modern Olympic games

  • Olympic memorabilia. The London 2012 Olympic Games saw the auction world in a frenzy to claim ownership of some of the top items from events both past and present. A myriad of Olympic torches, medals and memorabilia was offered, with some excellent results seen as collectors commemorated the world's most important sporting event.

A year to forget for…

  • Don Bradman's baggy green cap was expected to see bids of over $210,000 at a December auction in Australia. Already undervalued given previous auction results, the legendary cricketers cap failed to sell, as did much of his memorabilia - a signed bat made $17,827.

One you may have missed…

  • The Black Swamp Find baseball cards. This collection of previously unknown mint condition E98 series cards was discovered in an Ohio attic, changing the baseball card collecting market significantly. The collection was offered at Heritage Auctions in August.

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