The Ultimate Sport Ticket Collecting Guide

The sports card market has begun to cool down somewhat in recent months. However, another form of collectible has risen significantly in value and buzz: the game ticket. In recognition of this rising trend, we present the ultimate sport ticket collecting guide.

The Scarcity Of Game Tickets

Generally speaking, there are fewer tickets in circulation than cards. But, of course, that pertains to vintage cards and modern ones; that may seem puzzling at first glance.

Let’s take one of the greatest World Series games as an example. In-Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the Red Sox beat the Reds in a 12-inning thriller. 35,205 people attended that game. Since it was held at Fenway, many of the thrilled Sox collectors kept their tickets. By comparison, a card with a population of over 30,000 is considered massively over-graded.

However, trading cards were intended as collectibles. Sure, lots of people threw them out (or in the case of my father’s Mickey Mantle cards, their moms discarded the treasure). But a lot of people kept them. Meanwhile, tickets were more often than not thrown in the garbage right after the game. They certainly did not often survive multiple cleanups and moves.

Tickets are becoming more attractive and scannable (look for 2021 World Series tickets on eBay)

A Functional Collectible

Tickets are designed to be functional and perishable. You use them to get in and find your seats.  Unfortunately, they are also aesthetically plain in most cases and do not include mention of landmarks or important events related to the game.

When kept, tickets were maintained haphazardly. Therefore, they usually show up in much worse conditions than the average trading card.

Therefore, the upside of a game ticket is the finite number of them in circulation. Only a few thousand individuals will attend a given event. And far fewer save them. Although we suspect that fans are more likely to keep their tickets with genuinely memorable games, like Super Bowl XIII. Nonetheless, massive overprinting is not a problem with tickets. That is unless forgery becomes a problem in this market. And knowing human nature, it probably will.

PSA and other establishments have graded some tickets. Nonetheless, we do not have any reliable pop numbers. Therefore, we can only roughly estimate scarcity.

The Visual Appeal Of Tickets

The downside is that many of the most desirable items are visually unappealing. For example, more recent Super Bowl and World Series tickets have snazzy little designs. But many great games provided spectators with nondescript stubs and few details.

Stubs Versus Full Tickets

In its classic format, a ticket is divided into two sections. The main body of the ticket and a stub. Back in the day, when you arrived at the venue, there was no scanning. Instead, someone would rip and take the main body of the ticket and leave you with a stub that would allow you to find your seat. Ideally, a collector will want an unused copy of the tickets. However, many venues don’t keep copies of unsold tickets. In addition, the most essential and desirable games are usually sold out.

Most of the older tickets are stubs, but a Wilt Chamberlain 100 point game stub is very cool (look for it on eBay)

Technological Changes

Today, many tickets are scannable or electronic and therefore more likely to survive the event in one piece. So for years now, full tickets that fans scanned upon entry into the venue have been attainable. The downside, of course, is that this advance increases the pop numbers and decreases ticket value.

In the last couple of years, tickets have often become entirely electronic. As a result, each ticket preserved somewhere in the ethernet will become more like NFT’s than classic physical tickets.

All told, the value of ultra-modern tickets will probably not be exceptionally high. There will be far more copies in circulation, and virtual ones will always be “gem-mint.”

What Tickets To Get

Any ticket can be a fantastic memento. Just like all cards have their unique appeal. But some are more special than others. Here are the best clues that a ticket will retain or gain value:

Player Debut Tickets

The ticket version of a rookie card is a player’s debut. Individuals who kept their tickets from the first appearance of future legends and Hall-Of-Famers have been pretty happy to have done so. Some players come into the professional league with massive expectations. In particular, No. 1 draft picks like Lebron James or Trevor Lawrence come to mind. So, fans at their debut are pretty likely to keep their tickets.

But some superstars surprised everyone with their impact on the sport. Take Tom Brady, for example. The quarterback was picked 199th in the 2000 draft by the then miserable Patriots. So when he debuted on March 20, 2000, against the Bucs (yeah, I know), few people thought they were witnessing history.

Big Games

This information will surprise no one: but the most popular tickets are usually for the Super Bowl. World Series, All-Star, and NBA games also rank high. Of course, the disadvantage of these tickets is that everyone knows they are a big deal. So even back in the 1950s, for example, Therefore, pop numbers are generally higher.

Pro-tip: this is probably a good time to invest in World Cup final tickets and the like. The soccer market is growing globally, and demand for big soccer games will rise more steeply than their Super Bowl equivalents.

Milestone Games

When a player breaks a record or achieves a remarkable milestone, there can be a strong market for the relevant game ticket. For example, getting Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game ticket or Pete Rose’s 3,000 hits is a major coup. Likewise, if Alex Ovechkin breaks Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, the ticket for that game will also garner a good deal of interest.

How about the ticket to Jordan’s highest-scoring game ever? (look for it on eBay)

Ultimate Sport Ticket Collecting Guide To Value

Despite the scarcity of tickets, they generally do not reach the value of top cards of equivalent significance. However, over the years, the value gap has diminished significantly. PSA has a wide variety of ticket values available on its site.

Let’s look at some notable ticket values:

  • 1908 World Series ticket stub (PSA 4) – $12,000
  • 1927 World Series ticket stub (PSA 6) – $3,000
  • 1929 Babe Ruth 500th Home Run game (PSA 7) – $2,500
  • 1951 “The Shot Heard Round the World” game full ticket (authenticated) – $7,500
  • 1959 Inaugural Daytona 500 Race (PSA 3) – $4,500
  • 1969 Super Bowl full ticket (PSA 6) – $60,000
  • 1975 World Series Game 6, Fisk walk-off homer full ticket (PSA 10) – $5,000
  • 1980 Olympics “Miracle on Ice” full (PSA 8) – $5,000
  • 1983 George Brett “Pine Tar incident” full ticket (PSA 8) – $1,500
  • 1990 World Series full ticket (PSA 10)- $700
  • 2008 Super Bowl Giants vs. Patriots full ticket (PSA 10) – $700
Game 6 of the 1976 World Series is one of the best games ever (look for tickets on eBay)

Where To Buy Tickets

The collection of tickets has always been a part of sports memorabilia. However, it has become a more significant business in the last couple of years. You can get tickets from many of the same sources you use for trading cards.

  • eBay has a section for sporting tickets.
  • A more specialized source is Com. The site includes a variety of tickets for sale, as well as articles about ticket collection. It also has a Beckett-style ticket price guide available.
  • If you are interested in soccer tickets, you may want to look at the Spanish site todocollecion.

Ultimate Sport Ticket Collecting Guide To Grading And Authenticating Tickets

The grading of tickets performs a similar function to slabbing cards.

Where To Grade Tickets

Cards remain the bread and butter of grading companies like PSA. However, tickets are making up an increasingly large share of their submissions. Correspondingly, the company takes ticket collection and authentication very seriously.

There are no credible alternatives to PSA in the ticket game. SGC tried to compete but called it quits in 2018 due to a lack of demand for its services. Indeed, collectors complained that SGC commonly made errors on submissions. In addition, while SGC provided graded tickets more quickly and at a lower price, they were ultimately outgunned.

Beckett also grades tickets, but they do not have the same focus and expertise as PSA does. There is no question that PSA has cornered the ticket grading market.

If you have a ticket from Babe Ruth’s 500th home run game, its a good idea to get it graded (look for one on eBay)

Prices For Grading Tickets

The price scheme for grading tickets is pretty straightforward.

Type of Grading Price Value Limit Time to completion
Express $50 per ticket Maximum declared value of $1,999 80 business days
Super Express $125 per ticket Maximum declared value of $4,999 20 business days
Walk-Through $300 per ticket Maximum declared value of $9,999 10 business days
Premium $900 per ticket Maximum declared value of $24,999 10 business days
Premium Plus $1,500 per ticket Declared value of $25,000 or higher 10 business days
Reholder $25 per ticket Maximum declared value of $4,999 Varies with demand

To Ultimate Sport Ticket Collecting Guide Completing A Set 

If you go into PSA, you will see some of the fantastic ticket collections in their registry. For example, one individual has collected a ticket from every single Daytona 500 race since 1959.

As you can imagine, completing sets like this is a far more complex enterprise than completing equivalent autographs or card collections. Nonetheless, the most important tickets are available with some digging and patience. However, there is now increased recognition of their value. Therefore, the cost could be substantial.

PSA has set registries for tickets.

Milestones and Event Designations

When you send in a ticket for grading, you can ask that specific facts be included on the label. Most commonly, the score. However, if you were lucky enough to attend the game where Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record, it would be a great idea to have that fact acknowledged.

PSA accepts the following forms of documentation:

  • Website links
  • Articles
  • Images

Bottomline Of The Ultimate Sport Ticket Collecting Guide 

I fully understand the charm of the collectible sports ticket. Manufactured souvenirs have an artificial air to them. But, unfortunately, so do trading tickets, for that matter. Meanwhile, there is an immediacy to a ticket that creates a visceral link to a historical moment. Moreover, they have a remarkable charm and a finite number. Therefore, they are sure to retain and likely increase their value over time.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is a former history and political science professor at UCLA. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary. Shai also worked as a diplomat and journalist on three continents.