7 of the Most Expensive Sports Memorabilia That Conquered the Auction Circuit

It only takes a small fortune to hold sports history in your hands. Discover some of the famous sports items that sold for top dollar.

Published July 24, 2023
Michael Jordan 23 of the Chicago Bulls jumps slam dunk - Getty Editorial

If you enjoy your Netflix and chill in the literal sense, you might've stumbled across the latest reality hit, King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch. Beyond the collectors' antics and fascinating stories is a major name in the auction industry.

And you can thank Goldin for selling some of the most expensive sports memorabilia in the past few years. If you're Powerball lucky then some piece of our competitive past will rank among these incredible collectibles.

7 of the Most Expensive Sports Memorabilia Ever Sold

A soft hush fell over the crowd when the gavel came down on these super expensive sports auctions. From iconic baseball cards to one-of-a-kind game jerseys, these are seven of the most expensive sports memorabilia ever sold.

Most Expensive Sports Memorabilia Record Sales Price
1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Trading Card $12.6 million
Michael Jordan's 1998 NBA Game 1 Jersey $10.091 million
Diego Maradona 1986 World Cup Jersey $9.28 million
Pierre du Coubertin's Olympic Games Manifesto $8,806,500
1909-1910 Honus Wagner T206 Trading Card $7.25 million
Muhammad Ali's 1974 WBC Heavweight Championship Belt $6.180 million
Babe Ruth's 1928-1930 Jersey $5.64 million

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Card: $12.6 million

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card - Getty Editorial

Mickey Mantle might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of legendary baseball players, but it definitely does when you ponder baseball cards. A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 is the holy grail of baseball cards, with one selling for $12.6 million through Heritage Auctions.

The exact number of surviving #311s isn't known, but since it tops the list as the most expensive sports memorabilia sold to date, it's safe to say that any cards that pop up in the future will be worth a ton of money.

Michael Jordan's 1998 NBA Game 1 Jersey: $10.091 million

Sotheby's To Auction Michael Jordan "Last Dance" Jersey & Iconic Sports Memorabilia

Michael Jordan is maybe the biggest name in the 80s-90s era of sports. A basketball legend, he went on to solidify Chicago Bulls' success in the 1998 NBA finals. Known as 'The Last Dance' season because of the team's imminent franchise breakup, Game 1 against the Utah Jazz in the '98 NBA finals marked a shocking defeat.

But why the Bulls' season wasn't written into the history books as the year they almost won six championships was because Jordan came back with a vengeance after Game 1, helping them win the whole thing. Out of any of his major career moments, this was the pinnacle. So of course the Game 1 jersey he wore at that fateful game would sell for an impressive $10.091 million at a Sotheby's auction, making it the most expensive sports jersey to date.

Diego Maradona 1986 World Cup Jersey: $9.28 million

Diego Maradona's football shirt worn during the 1986 World Cup quarter-final match against England

Football, or soccer in the states, is a global phenomenon that's only grew in popularity with social media and the internet. If only social media had been around in 1986 when Diego Maradona brought the world to their knees with two impossible goals against England's steady defense. If only we'd have had 4K playback on his "Hand of God" goal.

After the win, Maradona swapped jerseys with England midfielder Steve Hodge, and the legendary shirt's come to auction a few times in the intervening years. In 2022, it passed through a Sotheby's auction and sold for $9.28 million.

Pierre de Coubertin's Olympic Games Manifesto: $8,806,500

The original Olympic Games manifesto - Getty Editorial

While you'd marvel at the sports equipment, jerseys, or collectible cards that pop up at high-value auctions, something as innocuous as a handful of scribbled pages might not catch your interest. Yet, Pierre de Coubertin's manuscript from 1892 really turned heads.

This manuscript actually outlined Coubertin's vision for a modern-day Olympic games, which he unveiled in a rousing speech before the Sorbonne. Without Coubertin's compelling argument, we wouldn't be rooting for our home team every four years. In 2019, Sotheby's sold the original manuscript for a whopping $8,806,500.

1909-1911 Honus Wagner T206 Baseball Card: $7.25 million

rare baseball card of Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates | Getty Editorial Use

Although Mickey Mantle #311s are the most expensive baseball trading card, Honus Wagner T206 cards circa 1909-1911 are the rarest. A Baseball Hall of Famer that you probably have never heard of, Wagner was an outstanding shortstop in the early days of America's favorite pastime.

Currently, only about 50 of these full-color trading cards are known to exist, with King of Collectibles' own Goldin Auctions reporting that one copy sold in a private auction for $7.25 million.

Muhammad Ali 1974 WBC Heavyweight Championship Belt: $6.180 million

1970's Muhammad Ali WBC Heavyweight Championship Belt

Float like a butterfly sting like a bee, and if you're one wealthy auction goer, win Muhammad Ali's Heavyweight Championship Belt. A Muslim-convert, black man, who opposed the Vietnam War draft, Ali stood in opposition to what much of white America preached. This steadfast and confident nature in his self-identity led to him being stripped of his title and chance to continue dominating the sport.

But in 1974, Ali met George Foreman for a "Rumble in the Jungle" over the Heavyweight Championship. Needless to say, Ali masterfully strategized throughout the match, wearing Foreman down until he could deliver the final blow. Ali had won, lost, and won the heavyweight title (again). In 2022, the green and gold championship belt came to auction and sold for $6.180 million.

Babe Ruth 1928-1930 Jersey: $5.64 million

Babe Ruth and Roger Hornsby - Getty Editorial

Babe Ruth is synonymous with baseball, and probably the most recognizable name in the sport's history. A famed Yankees player, Babe Ruth was a conundrum wrapped in a powerful ball player. And while his autographs and baseball bats aren't something to snub your nose at, jerseys are where the big bucks are made. Worn Ruth jerseys do incredibly well at auction, and the most expensive one sold so far from the 1928-1930 season went for $5.64 million in a Hunt Auctions sale.

Honorable Mention: Serena Williams' 2003 Netpro International Series Autographed Card

2003 Netpro International Serena Williams

Thanks to a long history of misogyny in sports, and a lack of funding (leading to a lack of exposure), women's sports memorabilia haven't reached the acclaim that men's memorabilia has. You can absolutely see this reflected in the most expensive women's sports trading card only selling for $120,000 at auction.

Goldin Auctions sold this 2003 Netrpo International Series Serena Williams autographed rookie card in 2022. Williams is the Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, and Mickey Mantle of her sport, and yet her memorabilia doesn't hold a candle to their merch prices.

These price discrepancies show that, despite progress being made towards inclusivity in sports and the culture surrounding them, there's still a long way to go.

Hold History in Your Hands…For a Small Fortune

There's so much to love about competitive sports -- the insane physical feats, the dedication and drive, and the unwavering loyalty people will have to their chosen teams. It's no wonder that Goldin Auctions and other auction houses would rotate through as many pieces of sports memorabilia as possible. It only takes a small fortune to hold these moments of sports history in your hands.

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7 of the Most Expensive Sports Memorabilia That Conquered the Auction Circuit