Jackie Robinson’s number ‘42’ was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997. Once Yankee’s pitcher Mariano Rivera ends his career this season, the number ‘42’ will never again be worn, making ‘42’ and Jackie Robinson branded items in the world of baseball memorabilia much more rare and valuable than in years past. Sales of Robinson’s replica jerseys and other merchandise have jumped 1000 percent since the baseball season began almost two months ago compared to the same period last year. The release of the Jackie Robinson biopic ‘42’ in mid-April might have something to do with the uptick.
But it’s not as if Jackie Robinson memorabilia has ever depreciated. Brett Schlessler of New York’s Steiner Sports told Black Enterprise that the value of Jackie Robinson merchandise is at an all time high, and is only likely to go up and fast. He says six or seven years ago Steiner sold a high- quality signed baseball for $10,000. That same baseball today, Schlessler says, he wouldn’t sell for less than $20,000.
It’s not like Jackie Robinson autographed pieces are something retailers can keep in stock. Robinson didn’t sign a lot of things; but Steiner sports conducts two or three auctions a year, that usually contain a few Jackie Robinson items. Starting May 1, 2013 closing June 2, 2013 they’ll be auctioning off a few rare Jackie Robinson pieces they’ve acquired.
First, they have Jackie Robinson’s glove used in the 1955 World Series and 1956 World Series, the last glove he used during his playing days. Schlessler expects the glove to go for somewhere between $700,000 to one million dollars.
Steiner Sports will also be auctioning off, a game used bat, a couple of signed baseballs ($20,000- $50,000), and a team-autographed baseball from the 1955 World Series signed by the entire team including Jackie Robinson.
“He’s transcended sports,” Schlessler says. “He’s an American icon, so his collection of goods is quite valuable. Serious collectors want to have him. We find a lot of people want his stuff who really aren’t your traditional sports collectors. They want to have a piece of somebody who rewrote history.”
Mark McDougall of Knarf and Kram Sports Memoriabilia in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina agrees.
“A unique crowd of people come in and buy Jackie Robinson —the hard core collectors that don’t come in my store every day.”
McDougall says he’s sold few big ticket Jackie Robinson items since he opened his business two years ago. He’s never gotten his hands on anything autographed or game used, but he did get a hold of a 1954 Color Bowman baseball card, which had a $800 book value but McDougall sold it on eBay for $400. A Jackie Robinson original card goes from $100-$1000 depending on condition.
“They’re rare and hard to come by. Since they’re so old it’s not very easy to get your hands on them.”
McDougall says he regularly sells replica 8×10 photos with Robinson in his Dodgers uniform that are matted and framed for $17.99, or 16×22 matted and framed photos for $129.99. He also sells Topps Box Cards and #42 patches.
“The 8 by tens have definitely gone up in price,” McDougall says.
Brett Schlessler of Steiner Sports agrees that, if you’re a fan, Jackie Robinson merchandise is a good investment.
“It would be almost possible for an item to go down in value,” Schlesser says. “Because of what he meant to society and the uniqueness of his signature. You always want to collect somebody that you value and appreciate. Jackie fits into that bucket. He is not only one of the best players ever, but he’s groundbreaking for breaking the color barrier and he has a whole other element of why he’s somebody to have a piece of. The respect of what he had to go through and what he’s meant to America, it really changed the sport and the world, it’s an important factor and I think that alone is a reason to have him as a part of your collection.”