RISC World

Buying & Selling Sporting Memorabilia

Using Online Auctions to kit yourself out in your favourite sporting memorabilia

Sporting memorabilia has recently become big business. What was previously the territory of the thermos-toting anorak brigade has become very profitable and even the revered auctions house Christie's now holds dedicated sports memorabilia auctions. While your unlikely to find Pele's 1970 world cup shirt or Bobby Moore's 1966 medal for sale at an online auction, you are guaranteed to find some none the less interesting and rare items of memorabilia relating to your favourite sport.

Be it football, cricket, boxing or rugby the big auction sites hold a treasure trove for the dedicated fan.

A quick search on eBay at the time of writing reveals; a Chelsea shirt signed by John Terry, a signed photograph of Michael Vaughan, a boxing glove signed by Mohammad Ali  and a crash helmet signed by Michael Schumacher. An enviable collection indeed. In fact all of the "big 4" UK auction sites have a category dedicated to sports memorabilia. eBay's is the easiest to find and, of course, the largest while the likes of eBid, eBay, QXL, and Amazon all have sports memorabilia sub-categories proving just how popular buying autographed memorabilia has become.

Of course it doesn't have to be signed to be of interest however.

Wherever you find a life-long dedication to a sport or a team you'll find a keen sense of nostalgia too and if you want to track down the program from the first game you attended or a replica of the shirt worn during your last FA cup run then an internet auction site is the perfect place to do so. is one of the few sites dedicated to guaranteed authentic memorabilia. And if it isn't, you'll get your money back!

So you've got your yearly bonus or savings burning a whole in your virtual pocket and you want to spend it on a rare and valued treasure celebrating and commemorating your beloved team. You've managed to convince your spouse that it will appreciate in value over time and that it's an "investment". Logging on to your favoured Internet auction site leads to discover just the item you're looking for.... Before you get the plastic out or start measuring up for a display case think carefully about the item you are about to purchase.

Beware of fakes
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there is a large amount of money to be made via auction sites by anyone in possession of a pile of replica shirts and a magic marker. With this in mind, potential buyers should beware when buying such items from online auctions. That's not to say it should be avoided altogether though as there are a number of steps that can be taken to determine an item's authenticity.

Check the feedback!
The golden rule of Internet actions still holds true so make sure you check the feedback of any seller of sports merchandise. If there are 400 plus positive feedback entries from past customers then you can rest a little easier. Many sellers have online shops as well that explain a little more about the source of their goods so click "View sellers other items" and take a look.

Ask lots of questions
If a seller seems reluctant to answer questions about an item then find another one. Make sure you ask lots of questions about the item concerning when and where the signing took place. Ask them if they got the item signed personally or if it came to them second hand. Any fan worth their salt should know the movements of their team so if the seller tells you an item was signed at a certain hotel the night before a certain game consult your fixtures list to check the dates. Also be doubly sure to check that the autograph is not merely printed on the picture/ball/shirt. There are many such items available for purchase, particularly photos, and it's not always made clear that this is the case.

Certificates of authenticity
Many items of sporting memorabilia found on auction sites come with a certificate of authenticity (COA) guaranteeing the item. Taking a quick look at eBay's policy on autographed merchandise reveals that "Not all certificates provide meaningful protection" so buyers are advised to look carefully at any information regarding a COA and try to determine the following.

  • If the certificate was issued after the item was signed, does the issuer have any particular expertise that qualifies him/her to give an opinion about the autograph?
  • What is the relationship between the seller and the issuer of the certificate?
  • Does the certificate give the buyer any rights? If a qualified expert later declares that the item is a forgery, can the buyer get a refund? Is there any time limit?

Many certificates are in fact issued by the seller themselves and are in fact worthless. Make sure you email the seller asking these questions before you lump in with a huge maximum bid. While there are a number of scammers and con men active on auction sites they can be avoided or identified if you follow these guidelines ensuring that your treasured item of memorabilia is indeed a real treasure.

A certificate of authenticity from the seller offers little in the way of guarantee that the item is authentic. Be sure of any guarantees before spending huge amounts of money.


Selling sports memorabilia online

Why would anyone want to sell a treasured item of sporting memorabilia? Gambling debts? A bad divorce lawyer? A crack habit? We're not sure. Maybe you've decided that visiting sporting venues, obtaining some signatures and flogging them online is preferable to the 9 to 5 grind. Whatever the reasons there are a few pointers and guidelines that would be sellers should take note of when selling unique pieces of sports nostalgia online.

Make sure you include...
There's plenty of advice in this magazine about how to list your item effectively so make sure you read up before listing. In your item description be sure that you include the following information, this is actually recommended by eBay in their policy on autographed items but it remains good advice regardless of the auction site you are using.

Include a clear scanned or photographed image of the autograph in close up, as well as a picture of the item as a whole. Also include all information about how the autograph was obtained including date and location. You should also include an explanation of any certificate of authenticity that you have for the item and stating that you will refund the buyer if they are not fully satisfied is always a good idea. Should you choose to sell on eBay then be aware that any listing not following these guidelines can be removed...

Photographic proof
Many people have realised that there is a profit to be made from selling sporting memorabilia online and dedicate a great deal of time to collecting purely for the purpose of selling. Should you decide to do this then photographic proof of authenticity is certain to install confidence in potential buyers. Take a snap of yourself and the sporting celebrity in question and include it with your listing, it will encourage a sale and you'll get a nice souvenir to boot.

Getting a COA
You might think it a good idea to get a professional COA for your item but in reality the cost of paying a reputable third party to do so will make a big dent in any profit you stand to make from the sale. If you are really serious about getting into the online memorabilia game then you might want to think about joining the Universal Autograph Collectors Club. While they will not issue COA's they can add you to their list of registered dealers, find out more at

Final whistle
As we have demonstrated here, online auctions are a great place to find rare, unusual and even valuable pieces of sporting memorabilia. Although the market is rife with fakes and forgeries with a little common sense and the right know how it's possible to unearth some real gems that will make you the envy of the pre-match pub or clubhouse.

David Bradforth