Tips of the Trade
Winter Olympic Memorabilia
Olympic competitors patches are surprisingly affordable.
This autographed photo of the 1980 U.S. hockey team celebrating is worth around $700.
Uncut U.S. Olympic hockey team trading cards.
The Winter Olympics are once again upon us, and with it, a veritable avalanche of memorabilia for the astute collector. Amidst the commemorative coins, pins and advertisement-laden mugs and earmuffs are hidden possible future treasures. But before we get into that, a primer on Winter Olympics memorabilia.
Sports collectible expert Simeon Lipman shares some background and tips on memorabilia from the Winter Olympics
Europe has historically been the center of Winter Olympic collecting. The Games' international flavor, coupled with the fact that the majority of the events are followed more closely on the European sports circuit, has led to a very active market overseas. That all changed, however, at the 1980 Olympic Games at Lake Placid. It was during that unforgettable Olympics that the very young U.S. Hockey team achieved the impossible—winning the gold medal by beating the seemingly invincible U.S.S.R. Almost immediately, memorabilia associated with the team became collectible, and now, two decades later, it's red hot.
If you were fortunate to see the "Miracle on Ice", and even more fortunate to hold onto your ticket stub, you would be holding a collectible valued at $500, at least. A full ticket to the game (one that was never used), would easily bring a cool $2,500. Autographs of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team are also popular. A game-used hockey stick signed by the team in 1980 will today bring as much as $2,000, while a photograph of the team celebrating, autographed by all 21 members at the 15th anniversary of the event, is worth $700. Olympic torches are also a "hot" collectible, a 1980 torch recently having sold for around $7,000, and one used for the current Salt Lake City Games for $2,000. Sew-on patches from the Games are also desirable—and still quite affordable, with actual competitor's patches from the 1980 Games selling for around $100.
Now that the Games are back on U.S. soil, both those lucky enough to attend and folks from around the country who will watch on TV, can try their luck at discovering future collectibles. First and foremost, look for things that are disposable: for example, tickets, programs, posters, flyers and the like. These are the types of ephemera that, had someone been astute enough to pick up in 1980, would be worth a small fortune today.
Also, autographs of athletes are always a good bet, particularly on items associated with the Games. Olympic pins are their own entity, and depending on the type, size and rarity, can be worth anything from pocket change to hundreds of dollars. But beware of items dubbed "collectible" or "commemorative"—most will never be worth more than what you pay for them.
As is the case with all collectibles, the thrill is in the hunt. So remember, collect what you enjoy and it's sure to be a rewarding experience.
More ANTIQUES ROADSHOW articles from the Sports Memorabilia category:
The Original Dream Team (Tucson, 2007)
The Mystery of the Baseball Cufflink (Omaha, 2005)
Collecting Japanese Memorabilia
Baseball Collectibles: Hitting a Home Run
Dennis Gaffney is a freelance writer in Albany, New York. He has been a regular contributor to ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online since 1998.