By Kevin Glew
It’s all about the ring. For most NFL players, personal accolades are secondary to winning the Super Bowl and being rewarded with a championship ring.
“A championship ring symbolizes the epitome of excellence,” said T.J. Kaye, owner of T.J.’s Collectibles, Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla. “That’s why everybody plays the games. They want that ring.”
John Smith*, who has collected Super Bowl rings for six years, agrees.
“I think a ring signifies all that is good in athletics, and it is the imprimatur of the extraordinary success of the individual and the team,” he said.
Kaye also savors the historic value of Super Bowl rings.
“It’s holding a piece of history in your hand,” he said. “It’s the top collectible from the Super Bowl.”
For some players and staff members, however, the ring’s monetary value will eventually become more important than its historic or sentimental value. Worth thousands of dollars, Super Bowl rings are being sold more frequently in recent years.
“The reasons someone will sell their rings are what I call the four D’s – death, destitution, divorce and drugs,” explained Kaye, who has handled an example of almost every Super Bowl ring in his 25 years in the business. “And now there’s an ‘E’ for economy.”
With the prices Super Bowl rings are commanding, you can understand why it would be tempting to sell. Kaye once sold a Super Bowl ring for close to $50,000. In July 2008, a former Pittsburgh Steelers employee’s 1975 and 1976 Super Bowl rings fetched more than $32,000 each on eBay. And this past September, the New Orleans Saints announced that they had raised nearly $1.4 million for their Gulf Coast Renewal Fund by raffling a Super Bowl ring.
Kaye says it’s often a team employee or a player that didn’t have a significant role with the team that will sell their ring.
“It really depends on the situation of the player,” noted Kaye. “For example, if he was a roster player or a bench player and he didn’t see much activity and he made the league minimum, he’s a prime candidate to sell his ring first. You’re rarely going to see a ring come from a more established veteran because they plan well. They put their money aside for retirement.”
Kaye says confidentiality is paramount when purchasing rings. Players or employees generally don’t want it known that they’re selling their ring.
“Very rarely will you see a ring sold by us that we divulge the person’s name unless it’s a done deal,” said Kaye. “We respect the privacy of the individual, whether he’s a star player or an average guy.”
Protecting this identity, however, can be challenging. The player’s name is often engraved on the side of the ring. When Kaye provides pictures to a potential buyer, he will blur out the name until the transaction is complete.
But not knowing whom the ring belongs to hasn’t stopped a select group of hobbyists from buying them.
“I look at the year and the team and who made the ring. Name brand is important, as well as the amount of gold and diamonds,” said Smith, who also likes to know if it’s a player’s ring or a staff member’s ring.
Paul Roman*, who started amassing Super Bowl rings seven years ago, likes the fact that the rings are rare.
“A lot of people don’t even know that there is a way to get a Super Bowl ring, but more and more people are finding out about them,” he said.
Condition and composition are two factors that impact the value of a ring.
“The newer rings have more bling, so they’re generally going to go for more money,” said Kaye.
The veteran dealer adds that teams often have different levels of rings produced for their employees. The players’ rings generally have the most diamonds and tend to be the most valuable.
If a high-profile player decides to sell his ring, it’s bound to command a premium. Rarity can also enhance a ring’s value, but Super Bowl rings are manufactured in limited quantities, so it’s difficult to judge what’s scarce and what’s not, says Kaye.
Supply and demand also influence the price.
“When the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007, there was a big demand for their rings,” explained Kaye. “But as more Giants rings surfaced, it went back to supply and demand, and now that more became available, the price has leveled out.”
Collectors should also do their research before buying a ring.
“You have to buy it from someone legitimate and you have to be careful with what’s out there,” said Kaye, who also authenticates rings for PSA. “It’s always nice to have a history of the ring. Within the last seven years, I’ve seen a large increase in fakes and forgeries in the marketplace.”
“You have to make sure that you go to the right people because there are so many fake rings out there,” he said. “Authenticity is a very big issue. You have to be very careful because a lot of people have spent a lot of money getting these rings and sometimes they’re not authentic. With the technology out there, people can reproduce a ring and make it look like the actual ring.”
Kaye has also seen an increase in the number of “knock-off replicas.” He doesn’t have a problem with people selling replicas, as long as they are marketed as such. These generally sell for a fraction of the price of real rings. In November, replica Super Bowl rings were selling in the $250 to $500 range on eBay.
Collectors can also purchase salesman’s sample rings.
“A salesman’s sample is a ring that has been designed to show the team. It’s almost like a prototype that the manufacturer uses to get approval from the team to move forward,” explained Kaye. “The salesman’s sample is an affordable alternative to the actual Super Bowl ring.”
Kaye has seen a gradual increase in demand for Super Bowl rings, but with the poor economy, prices have dipped.
“It’s a really good time to buy a championship ring because prices are excellent,” he said. “Two or three years ago, we were getting a lot more money for rings.”
“This is a good time to buy versus three or four years ago,” he said. “As the economy continues to improve, rings will increase in value.”
Kaye believes that Super Bowl rings represent a solid investment.
“One nice thing about championship rings is pretty much once you put your money into them, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get it out,” he said.
“Super Bowl rings are very hard to come by,” he said. “I think they will be a good investment down the road.”
T.J.’s Collectibles, Inc. lands record-holder’s Super Bowl ring Championship rings of Super Bowl record-holders rarely surface for sale, so when they do, they have to be considered Holy Grails in the hobby.
And with confidentiality so paramount in the sports rings business, it’s even rarer when a dealer is willing to share the name of the record-holder whose ring is for sale.
In an exclusive interview with Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly in November, T.J. Kaye, owner of T.J.’s Collectibles, Inc. revealed that he has acquired former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Dwight Smith’s Super Bowl XXXVII ring.
“In that Super Bowl, Dwight Smith became the first player to intercept two passes and return them both for touchdowns. It’s a record that still stands today,” noted Kaye. “I’ve only seen one other ring from a Super Bowl record-holder.”
Kaye says that Smith’s record will be difficult to break.
“I don’t foresee many players intercepting two passes and returning them both for touchdowns in the Super Bowl,” he said. “To break the record, you would have to get three interceptions and return them for touchdowns, and I don’t think that most people can even do that in a season, let alone one game.”
Kaye has sold two previous rings from Super Bowl XXXVII – one was a player’s ring and the other belonged to a staff member.
“We’re going to be asking $35,000 for the Dwight Smith ring. It’s 14-karat, all real diamonds. It’s made by Tiffany,” noted Kaye. “We’ve seen similar rings from Tampa Bay sell in the high 20s, low 30s, so our starting price is $35,000.”
* Collector agreed to be interviewed for this article on the condition that their real name not be used. This is not their real name. SCM
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any additional information or comments. T.J.’s Collectibles, Inc. (http://www.tjscollectiblesinc.com) provided pictures for this article.