Michelle Payne celebrates after winning the Melbourne Cup on Prince of Penzance at Flemington last year.
Michelle Payne celebrates after winning the Melbourne Cup on Prince of Penzance at Flemington last year. JULIAN SMITH

Memories making money for sports fans

IF YOU want a sure-fire tip for the Melbourne Cup, don't chance your money on the horses running around this year.

Buy sports memorabilia instead.

For example, the racing silks worn by jockey Jim Pike when Phar Lap won the 1930 Melbourne Cup are estimated to be worth in the region of $300,000.

If that's out of your reach the race book from that first day in November in 1930 fetched $14,880 at a recent auction.

The actual cup won by Foxzami in 1949 sold for $99,200 in May.

Most of us would need to take out a mortgage to pay that sort of money.

But there are more economical ways of claiming a slice of racing history and making money along the way.

Sport historian Tom Thompson suggests keeping watch on auction houses' websites or eBay.

Or you could grab your own with autographs and items from the day.

"If you had last year's Melbourne Cup race book and had it signed by jockey Michelle Payne, it would be worth money in the future because she was the first woman to ride a Cup winner,” Mr Thompson said.

"In 10 years it could be worth $1000.

"The Phar Lap race book is almost 90 years old.”

Jockey Jim Pike's silks from when Phar Lap won the 1930 Melbourne Cup.

Another way to tap into racing's history is to buy mass-produced framed photos of Cup winners, signed by jockeys or trainers.

Mr Thompson warned that some memorabilia was fake.

"Are they really originally signed? The good thing about buying from auction houses is they often have a money-back guarantee, and their specialists are used to establishing exactly the provenance of ownership,” he said.

"eBay is a very different matter.”

He suggested would-be collectors study auction prices to get an idea of what your money can buy.

"Invariably if you acquire something with a historic interest pre-1950, it will hold its own over the next 20 years,” he said.

"Avoid limited editions you may have seen on TV - too many variables and often not a pretty sight, with garish photos and big frames.”

Dr David Poole, from retailer Sports Online, compared the memorabilia market with antiques.

"Rare and sought-after items are the best investment,” he said.

"But they don't come up very often.”

Dr David Poole, from retailer Sports Online. Picasa

He said the baggy green caps worn by our Test cricketers were always in demand.

A Donald Bradman baggy green would be one of the most treasured and collectible pieces of Australian sports memorabilia.

But at a price.

Bradman's 1948 Test cap has twice sold for more than $400,000.

Another of the Don's caps sold recently for $335,000.

A cricket bat used by the great Don Bradman.

One of Richie Benaud's Test caps went for $42,700 in February.

Dr Poole has a Test cap worn by the South Australian wicketkeeper Barry Jarman for sale for $6595.

And he has a Greg Chappell-worn one-day international helmet for $1495.

Spinner Stuart MacGill also has shoes, shirts and caps for sale with Sports Online.

Mr Thompson advised investing in something that had been worn or used by a favourite player.

"Find a player's piece, something game-used. Enjoy it,” he said.

Authentic items signed by former US basketballer Michael Jordan are a good investment.

"His memorabilia never loses its value,” Dr Poole said.

"He has been with the same memorabilia company since 1994 and that contract has helped him become sport's first billionaire.

Michael Jordan memorabilia has held its value over the years.

"In the past 12 months Jordan has been paid $1000 for each time he signs an article.

"This has gone up from $500.

"By the time a Jordan piece arrives in Australia, expect to pay about $3000.”

This was in total contrast to Bradman, who didn't want his signature to be traded commercially.

"He answered hundreds of letters and signed anything fans wanted,” Dr Poole said.

"He thought that the more items he signed, the less value his signature would have.”

Many collectors don't rate mass-produced, large-run items such as autographed photos, jerseys and miniature cricket bats.

Dr Poole disagreed, saying people bought memorabilia to remember an event, such as the Cronulla Sharks' win in the NRL grand final, their first premiership after trying for 50 years.

"For Sharks or Western Bulldogs fans, paying $2000 for an autographed jersey is valuable, because their premiership victories mean a lot to them,” he said.

"Memorabilia means different things to different people.

"They attribute some meaning to it. It's a memento of a great experience to them.

"It could be a program from a football game or a ticket to a cricket Test.

"They remember that day. It meant a lot to them. So the ticket or program is memorabilia to them, but nobody else.”

Sport historian Tom Thompson.

Both Mr Thompson and Dr Poole said of the football codes, AFL memorabilia was the most valuable.

"With AFL it's the Brownlow, then a premiership medal, then a signed jersey, then personal materials,” Mr Thompson said.

"With rugby it's the honour caps, and anything connected to our 1908 team (which won the Olympic gold).

"With league, the most fickle of the codes, it's anything early from the foundation clubs, St George and South Sydney.”

Dr Poole said despite AFL having more items on the market than other codes, they were still in limited numbers.

So, as the experts say, focus on your favourite team or player.

Check the auction houses and eBay for current prices. And maybe have a little flutter on the Cup to get your bankroll started.

For more information on sports memorabilia, you can contact Dr David Poole through www.sportsonline.com.au, and Tom Thompson by emailing ettimprint@hotmail.com.

What is sports memorabilia?

EXPERTS say there are three categories of sports memorabilia.

The first is something directly linked to a player or sports event. It could be a Test cricket ball or a ball from a grand final. Autographed, of course. There's players' clothing, like a jersey or a blazer, or a baggy green worn by a Test cricketer.

Tom Thompson says these personal artefacts are the most potent examples of sports memorabilia, "something that directly engages us through an exact association with a major sportsperson or the sport itself”.

The second is your memento from an event. It could be a ticket or a program from an event. Or a photo you took. It's important to you, but mostly it doesn't have any commercial value. It could be a trophy your father won at golf, a swim cap from a triathlon or a medal from a fun run.

David Poole said people attributed meaning to these pieces.

"It's a memento of a great experience to them,” he said.

"It could be a program from a football game or a ticket to a cricket Test.

"They remember that day. It meant a lot to them. So the ticket or program is memorabilia to them, but nobody else.”

The third is manufactured memorabilia, like framed autographed photos, miniature cricket bats or jerseys. Many of these are mass produced in large numbers.

"The least interesting are large signed editions. However, an edition of 100 or less usually holds its value,” Mr Thompson said.