Sport Ticket Collecting: How To Get Started

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When it comes to memorabilia, there’s plenty that you can collect.

One underrated collectable – and probably my favorite to collect – are old match tickets.

Rather than collectable cards, a match ticket is a small part of the sport’s history.

In this article, I’ll give a rundown on how to start collecting sports tickets.

How To Start a Sport Ticket Collection

If you’re thinking of starting to collect sports tickets, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Know What to Look For

A Player’s Debut Match

When you’re looking at a collecting sport tickets – a player’s debut match is the go-to collectable item. In a way that’s similar to the way a rookie card is usually a player’s most valuable trading card.

A player might play hundreds or even thousands of matches, but they’ll only ever debut once. It’s like the ultra rookie card.

And the thing about debut matches is that they’re often inconspicuous depending on the sport. For example, when LeBron James made his debut, he was the number one draft pick and was already a big deal – so that match meant something and people may have kept their tickets as a memento.

However, when Lionel Messi made his professional debut, it was a friendly match in Portugal and he came off the bench. Hell, Messi wasn’t even named in the official team programme! This means it’s a lot harder to find tickets from Messi’s debut match.

Big Matches (Finals and Iconic Performances)

Alongside a players’ debut match, key matches are also incredibly important collectables.

For example, it might be an Olympian’s first gold medal, or a Final. It might even be a ticket from an iconic game – think Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” for example, or Kobe Bryant’s 81-point match.

These tickets help tell the story of a player’s and a sport’s history and are often sought after in the hobby.

Others

It’s not just a player’s debut match and iconic performances that gain attention when collecting tickets, people also collect the following:

  • A series of “firsts”. For example, it could be LeBron James’ first match against all 30 NBA sides, or a soccer player’s first goal for a club
  • A debut for a new team, national team, or a new competition. For example, Cristiano Ronaldo’s first match at Manchester United is a big deal – even though it isn’t his debut match. The same goes for a Erling Haaland’s first Champions League match, or national team match.
  • Signed tickets. It’s unlikely to find a signed debut ticket, but an autographed match ticket is often collectable
  • Record breaking games. It could be a match where a player breaks a single-season record, or a record over their careers – I’ve seen Pele’s 1000 goal match tickets on sale before and they’ve had a lot of interest
  • A player’s final match. Similar to their debut, a final match ticket can be a real collector’s item. However, a players’ final match is usually a way bigger deal than their first – so it’s likely that more people will keep tickets

Think About Scarcity

I kind of touched on it earlier, but tickets are a lot harder to find than cards.

Think about it, there could be hundreds of thousands of cards printed for a player – especially if it’s from the junk wax era.

And, those cards are bought to be collected. That means that they’re kept in good condition from the get go.

Tickets on the other hand – there’s a finite amount of tickets produced, most of which are scrunched up and put in pockets as soon as they’re scanned and thrown in the trash a few hours after the match.

Also, cards can be bought online or from physical retailers all around the world. Tickets are only purchased in the city that the event is taking place.

So, as you can imagine, tickets are far more scarce than cards and other collectables.

Consider The Ticket’s Condition

Like cards, the condition of a ticket is important.

PSA and other grading companies grade tickets – to learn more about that process, read our article on grading for beginners.

What you do need to know, is that the quality of the ticket is important. So look for the following:

  • The quality of the ink on the ticket. Is it faded?
  • The ticket itself. Is the ticket folded, ripped, or anything else that’ll impact the eye-appeal?

However, like we spoke about before, because tickets are so scarce, it does mean that you always need a high grade. I have a PSA 4 version of Lionel Messi’s debut match (shown above) and that’s one of the highest grades out there.

Where to Buy Sports Tickets

As you can imagine, buying collectable sports tickets isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. However, there’s a few places that you can start looking.

Similar to cards, eBay is still king when it comes to buying sports tickets. The platform is the biggest person to person marketplace in the world and is my first stop when looking at tickets.

Options Other Than eBay

While eBay is still the first port of call for most ticket buyers, there’s still a bunch of other great options to check out.

Ultimately, you’ll have the most luck finding tickets in international marketplaces.

For example, todocoleccion is a hyper popular Spanish site that acts a little like eBay/Craigslist. I’ve managed to find some great Spanish tickets on the site. Similarly, there’s the Swedish site, Tradera which is handy for Nordic items – including things from the 1958 World Cup

If you’re looking at international sites, you might want to consider the following:

  • Search a phrase like “[Country] eBay equivalent” in a search engine. For example “French eBay equivalent” or “Portuguese eBay equivalent”. That should help you out.
  •  Google Translate will be your best friend. Make sure you search in the native language. Odds are the English word “ticket” won’t help you much at all. Then, when contacting sellers, make sure you translate.
  • Know the lay of the land. Odds are the sites you use will have their own rules and procedures. Make sure you follow them! And make sure you read the rules – odds are these sites will have less buyer support compared to eBay.

There’s also a range of different Facebook groups and whatnot that allow the buying and selling of tickets. Make sure you read the group rules and whatnot – Don’t be that guy who joins a group and spams it looking for a bargain.

The hunt through different buying platforms is all a part of the fun – but if you only want to stick to one site, I’d suggest eBay.

Storing Your Tickets

After you do the leg work to find tickets, you need to think about ways to store them.

Some do the old ‘shoebox under the bed’ thing, whereas others will put more expensive tickets in vaults.

There’s also some cool display options too. I personally love the wall-mounted cabinets that you can buy.

My Five Tips For Building a Ticket Collection

If you’re lookin to start your own ticket collection, here are a few tips that might get you started.

  1. Make a list of the players that you want to collect. Do you want to collect just match debuts? Big matches? The options when it comes to collecting tickets are almost endless, so it’s best to limit your options at the start.
  2. Do your homework. There’s so many websites out there (depending on your sport) that you can use to do your research. Don’t rely on the eBay listing to tell you it’s a player’s debut match. Also, when you do your own homework you’ll likely find a better deal. For example, there will be a lot less interest in an eBay listing titled “Cleveland Cavs vs Sacramento Kings 2003” than there will be if it’s titled “LeBron James debut NBA Regular Season Match”.
  3. Save Your Searches: One cool thing about eBay (and other websites) is that you can save searches and it’ll send you an email notification whenever a new listing matches that search. So, it’s worth running eBay searches for all tickets you’re looking for and setting notifications. That way, in the future, if a seller does list the ticket you’re looking for, you’ll immediately be notified.
  4. Check the prices and know your ‘walk away price’: It can be hard to find the right prices for tickets – sometimes you can get an absolute bargain, and others it’s a bit more expensive. The thing is, some of these tickets are so scarce that it’ll be hard to find a comparison price. Still, it’s best to check anyway and see what you can find that has sold in the past. From there, you might set yourself a ‘walk away price’, so a price that you definitely won’t go over. A ‘walk away price’ is important because it can be very easy to get suckered into a del when you fear you might miss out.
  5. Have a budget: Like I said before, tickets can have variants in prices. Make sure you have a set buying budget, and more importantly…. make sure you follow it!

Final Thoughts

Collecting sports tickets can be a really fun variation of the hobby. Once you start collecting moments of a player’s career, you’ll begin to find that the options are seemingly endless.

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