Photo: Shutterstock

The enduring popularity of the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow probably rests on the thrill of its “reveals.” A typical reveal has one of the show’s expert appraisers informing a guest that their old painting or ancient desk bought for $5 at a garage sale is actually a rare piece worth $50,000.

Reveals can involve almost any interesting item, but those that seem to trigger the most joy — perhaps because they evoke pleasant childhood memories — involve rare baseball cards, autographed photos of past football greats and other sports memorabilia items. The value of these collectibles varies considerably, but some collections can be worth several million dollars depending on their rarity, desirability, condition, provenance and authenticity, as well as the historical importance of the player, team or event connected with the items.

If advisors learn that their clients collect sports memorabilia, providing those clients assistance in assessing item values and protecting their collections can be a valuable service. Toward that end, advisors may find the following information helpful and worth sharing with clients.

Determining What’s Valuable And What’s Not

As baseball is America’s national pastime, it’s probably not surprising that baseball memorabilia typically have the highest values. Used gloves, bats, uniforms, signed balls, trophies and jewelry — and, of course, select baseball cards — are probably the most valuable items, particularly when they are one-of-a-kind pieces that represent a particular historical moment or, in the case of baseball cards, are of top players, rare and in spectacular condition.

Whether a piece was used in a particular game or is signed can make a significant difference in its value. Vintage memorabilia associated with Hall of Fame players is always sought after, and the older and more historically significant the items are, the higher their value. But memorabilia doesn’t have to be vintage to be rare; autographed items, including game-worn jerseys and balls used in historically significant games also are sought after by collectors.

Items connected to a favorite player who has died also tend to become expensive.

What To Look Out For And What Not To Collect

Not every item of sports memorabilia is worth collecting, and items in client collections may have more sentimental value than financial value. The FBI estimates that anywhere from 70% to 90% of autographed sports memorabilia in the marketplace is fake. To help ensure that clients own or are buying authentic items, they should stick to those that have been authenticated by one of the leading third-party authenticators, such as Professional Sports Authenticator and its PSA/DNA service or James Spence Authentication.

Clients should keep an inventory of all their sports memorabilia, including details such as name, manufacturer, condition, year made, dealer and value to facilitate appraisal for insurance purposes.

Protecting Sports Memorabilia

To make sure your clients’ sports memorabilia stay in good condition, advise them to minimize handling to protect against oils from hands and to keep items away from children who might be tempted to play with them. Sports jerseys should be kept in dust-free jersey display cases and other items in their own acrylic cases, all with UV shields to protect against fading. Leather items should be looked at periodically by an expert to make sure they keep their shape.

Basements, where memorabilia often are stored and displayed, can be damp and prone to water damage. They should be monitored for temperature and humidity, as well as have fire detection devices and water leak prevention measures in place.

To protect collectibles from damage, theft or loss, clients should purchase a valuable articles insurance policy from a company that provides “all-risk” coverage, as well as covers new acquisitions automatically. Policies should provide worldwide coverage so that items are protected at home, in transit, and while in storage. Advisor referrals to expert property and casualty insurance agents can be especially helpful.

Fran O’Brien is division president, North America Personal Risk Services, Chubb. She can be reached at AskFran@Chubb.com.