Interview with Simeon Lipman, sports appraiser and avid ticket collector.
Conducted by Collectable’s Senior Editor, David Seideman.
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In my last column, I interviewed Russ Havens, a longtime ticket collector and maven with the number one ticket website, TicketStubCollection.com.
Because the market is heating up so rapidly, I also reached out to a professional source who is a veteran ticket collector and expert. Simeon Lipman has been dealing in sports and pop culture memorabilia for more than two decades. He has curated events for Christie’s auction house, written extensively, and appears regularly on PBS’s top-rated Antiques Roadshow. He is a regular guest on the podcast Collectable Daily and its YouTube TV channel.
David: Tickets are sizzling. Mickey Mantle’s 1951 debut ticket recently fetched $141,000. Wayne Gretzky’s debut ticket commanded $102,000 (for a PSA 3 MK. The previous sale in April for a PSA 7 was $12,000). Michael Jordan’s NBA debut changed hands for $264,000. An autographed gem mint Tom Brady first-career touchdown ticket sold for $144,000. It was his Foxboro debut and not even his first game.
Why have vintage and modern tickets skyrocketed recently?
Simeon: It’s partly a result of card fatigue. There has always been this interest in the earliest things of people. Eventually, a collector has all the rookie cards. Before the advent of the grading, there wasn’t much interest. A lot of collectors didn’t understand tickets.
Once you give them a number grade, they become a commodity. And it’s authenticated. It suddenly changes the dynamics. People have had tickets forever. Now you are seeing the crossover of people who collect graded cards. These things are way rarer. This is a different type of ephemera actually created for the event.
David: Speaking of rarity, full, unused tickets sell for several times more than stubs because of their rarity.
Simeon: I happen to love stubs more than full tickets. To me the stub, jammed in your pocket from that game in 1951 is kind of soaked in the history. But I can see why the full tickets have taken off because of the grading.
David: So you believe the boom is for real and just the start?
Simeon: I do believe we’re in a boom. It’s a matter of supply and demand. People are discovering this new collectible and the new way it is presented. The difference between tickets and vintage cards is that there is a truly a finite supply of tickets especially when we are dealing with debuts. With most debuts fans didn’t know the person that well. People didn’t hold on to the ticket because of that.
Even with more contemporary instances like LeBron James— nobody was more anticipated. Yet his debut ticket is difficult to find. (PSA has graded 36 full and three stubs. A full sells for about $20,000 on eBay). It was not something that came to collectors’ minds.
David: I see World Series tickets most often on eBay, in auctions, and at shows by far. At a show I saw a dealer having trouble selling a 1955 game 7 Yankees ticket stub for $495, the clincher for the Brooklyn Dodgers only championship. He had it for more than a year.
Simeon: People kept World Series tickets. That’s why they are not as rare. They are common to really common, even Larsen’s perfect game ticket. (242 stubs and 18 full graded by PSA.)
Particularly compared Chamberlain’s 100 point game (PSA has graded 13). You would think people would hang on to that type of thing at that game. It kind of got swept away and thrown out. That happened to lots of tickets.
It really shocked me to see Maris’1961 61st home run ticket stub on eBay. I said, “this was my ticket!” The price, $2100, was cheap and it was up there for a long time. It was an October game with a small attendance (23,154). I regret not buying it.
David: I like the oddball regular season tickets.Two years ago, I paid $400 in an auction for a ticket from the 1976 Dodgers game in which outfielder Rick Monday saved an American from being burned on the grass by two fans. A month later, another auction house sold the ticket from the adjoining seat for $1,200. I’ll hang on to mine.
Simeon: That’s a great ticket. One of the coolest of late is Wrestlemaina 3 at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987. That’s an unbelievable ticket because there are so many people of a generation who embraced the fight in which Hulk Hogan beat Andre the Giant. The ticket has skyrocketed to five figures.
Darren Rovell (a prominent industry reporter) is a huge ticket guy. He believes in the Rock’s (Dwayne Johnson) 1996 debut wrestling ticket. This guy’s trajectory is one we haven’t seen in a long while. He wants to go into politics. That could be a $100,000 ticket. You want to focus, maybe even more on contemporary figures.
I really want to find Keith Hernandez’s last game ticket. Most people don’t remember he finished with the Cleveland Indians. Who would have ever kept this stub? It would probably go for $10 to $15. You can delve so deep into tickets!
The ticket from the 1996 Mike Tyson vs. Bruce Sheldon bout is rare. It wasn’t a huge fight. But if you do enough research you’ll find that Tupac Shakur (considered one of the most influential rappers of all time) attended the fight and was killed after he left. When they encapsulate the slabs they say that on the label. (In 2017, Goldin Auctions sold a Tupac ticket for $24,000.) Mine cost me less than $100.
I got the ticket from the opening of Shea Stadium via a trade. (It’s worth about $500-$750 in good condition).
Another one is the 1977 New York City Blackout ticket at Shea Stadium on July 13, 1977 when the game was stopped in the sixth inning. This is sort of controversial. People looted electronics stores and got turntables and other things they couldn’t afford. This led to the start of Hip hop.
David: These never occurred to me. Are there other lesser known sports tickets with growth potential?
Simeon: Yes. There are others. When Alan Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan. (On March 12, 1997, NBA rookie Allen Iverson froze Michael Jordan in his tracks with one of the most memorable crossovers of all time.) He left Jordan in the dust. If you didn’t know that moment, look for it. You have to do the research. There are things out there.
One of the coolest tickets out there belongs to Darren Rovell: the first game Michael Jordan wore Air Jordan sneakers. (MJ had played in 10 regular-season games for Chicago before this milestone on November 17, 1984). In the grand scheme of things that changed everything. That ticket would never be publicized. You wouldn’t have looked for it.
This is an emerging market. There are wonderful concert tickets of iconic moments of the Beatles, and Rolling Stones. That’s going to be next.
I personally have been collecting Broadway debut tickets. There was an opening night Marlon Brando was on the stage in 1944 when he was 19 in his professional debut in I Remember Mama. Lo and behold I found one. I also have a ticket from Dustin Hoffman’s first importance on a Broadway stage in 1961.
David: I have spoken to two ticket experts/purists who don’t believe tickets should be autographed. On the podcast Collectable Daily, you mentioned an Antiques Roadshow incident in which the owner of a Wilt Chamberlain 100 point game (value: $85,000) was at an autograph show, intending Chamberlain to sign with a ballpoint pen. Chamberlain was tired at the end of the show and used a Sharpie, thus obliterating the tiny stub.
Simeon: If a ticket was signed at the time, I’m all for it. If it’s signed way later, no. My whole thing is aesthetics. These tickets are quite small. These tickets aren’t much bigger. It depends on what you want. If you have it signed, use a ballpoint pen, not a Sharpie. Aesthetically, I would leave well enough alone.
David: Full.unused tickets command a premium several times in value because they a fraction of them have survived compared to stubs. Do you buy this concept?
Simeon: No. It’s worth it if someone is going to pay that because you are seeing these as the highest graded. I understand that a lot of people care about the condition. People are looking for PSA 10s. It leads away from the opportunity to love a ticket for what it is. This is a piece of history. A full ticket was never used and never at the game. It’s really what you personally care about.
David: I’ve watched two extremely rare last game Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle tickets languish for some time for $10,000 on eBay with Best Offer. In neither case, did Robinson or Mantle announce his retirement, so there would have been less reason to save the ticket. (There are the same number of tickets for both events, 15).
Simeon: It depends on acquiring the rookie debut or a milestone, like a 500th homer or a 300th victory. Once people scratch that one itch, they are going to want the other one. In many cases, those last games are even rarer. A lot of these guys (like Robinson and Mantle) went out with a whisper. Final game tickets are extremely undervalued, probably not for long.
David: I am wondering about the Ticketmaster tickets versus the original season ticket.
Simeon: Those lines are blurring. It’s just the nature of it. You take what you can get.
David: You mention milestones. Nothing seems much bigger than Mantle’s iconic 500th home run. It’s an iconic image. But there are two on eBay (for about $4,000) and no takers.
Simeon: That price is about right. Mantle is the gold standard. But 500 homers has lost a little bit of its luster. It’s just the nature. So many other guys, and not necessarily Hall of Famers, have reached that milestone.
David: On Memorabilia Watch (Collectable’s TV program on YouTube), you surprised me and the host, Nick Capero, by putting tickets on a par with game used jerseys.
You said that, “Tickets are things you can hold in your hand, put in your pocket. or could put it in a safety deposit box. They’re kind of commodities once they have been slabbed, for sure. Cards weren’t at Wayne Gretsky’s debut but this ticket was. You’re not going to get the jersey for that game. I mean it’s more realistic you’re to get one of those though it’s impossible to know where they are going to come from. Nobody is sitting on a pile of Gretzky tickets. I think collectors and investors can appreciate that.”
David: Care to elaborate?
Simeon: Look at the Brady debut ticket. That could be a few hundred thousand. It’s not like somebody is going to find a case of these. Especially guys who were unheralded like Brady. Even afterwards, that kind ticket stub was a fluke. Then he became Tom Brady.
The Playoff Contenders rookie card was numbered. Even though nobody knew him, nobody tossed it because it was a numbered card. With a ticket stub, who cared?
David: You’re very bullish on tickets.
Simeon: So much money is being poured into the industry it’s got to go somewhere. Obviously, the market is on fire. It will continue to grow. You’re not going to find more tickets. There is what there is. I’ve been buying tickets for a long time. They are tangible pieces of history and they were at the event, which adds a whole layer to the appeal.
For the big events, they might be in a museum in the Hall of Fame already. Or in somebody’s collection. Cards will always do well. But people are finding out there are a lot more out there than they realize. With all the grading and publicity around cards, tickets are very rare in comparison.
David: Do you have simple advice for collectors getting started with tickets?Simeon: If there is a person you like, do the research. Figure it out. Save searches. If things pop up, they will send them to you.