|By Brett Weiss
Shortly after the Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA Championship, Mark Cuban, the high-profile billionaire who owns the team, told NBA.com that he might give the players something other than championship rings to commemorate their lofty accomplishment.
“Rings are old school,” Cuban said. “Rings are done. It’s time to take it to the next level and do something different.”
Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and company strongly disagreed with Cuban’s opinion, especially when Cuban mentioned the possibility of bracelets replacing rings. “Are you kidding me?” Mavs’ shooting guard Jason Terry said. “Bracelets are something you buy your wife.”
Cuban relented to his players’ wishes, and the Mavericks will indeed get their championship rings sometime early in 2012.
Flashy, exclusive, and oftentimes diamond-encrusted, commemorative rings have been given to championship athletes for more than a century. Most championship athletes cherish their rings (and, more importantly, what they represent—that the owner is a winner), keeping them in a display case or securing them in a safety deposit box, wearing them only on special occasions.
However, some athletes, whether from lack of sentiment or the simple need for money, sell their rings.
In an auction ending in late November, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, who changed basketball forever with his graceful finger rolls and signature dunks, sold his 1974 ABA Championship ring for $460,471, which is a record price for a sports ring. The auction, which was hosted by SPC Auctions and netted $3.5 million (a record for a basketball memorabilia auction), also included Erving’s 1983 76ers NBA Championship ring, which sold for $244,240.
Around the time of the auction, Dr. J told The Associated Press that he’s never been a “hoarder or collector” and that a certain percentage of the profits will go to his favorite charity, The Salvation Army. Erving denied reports that he sold the items to pay off a business-related lawsuit, and he stated that he’s keeping his Hall of Fame ring, which probably would’ve commanded six figures as well (Erving was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993).
It’s rare for a championship ring from a famous player to be auctioned off, but it’s pretty easy to find team staff member rings and lesser-known player rings for sale. A quick eBay search turned up the following Buy it Now prices for staff member rings:
• 1994 San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl Champions Championship 10K Gold Diamond Ring: $37,500.
• 2000 New York Yankees World Series Championship Ring: $37,500.
• 2004 Detroit Pistons NBA Championship Ring: $25,500.
• 2006 St. Louis Cardinals World Series Championship Ring: $19,999.99.
• 1982 Washington Redskins Super Bowl Championship Ring: $7,250.
• 66-67 Chicago Blackhawks Championship Ring: $4,299.
Unlike many collectibles, newer championship rings are usually more valuable than older ones (other than special rings, such as those owned by star players) since modern rings are typically bigger and contain more gold, diamonds, and other rare materials. Predictably, college and minor league rings generally command less money than those from professional leagues. Another rule of thumb is that the more popular the sport, the more valuable the ring.
For those wanting the championship ring experience without paying the championship prices, a number of online dealers sell replica rings. These baubles range in price anywhere from a few dollars apiece for costume jewelry to tens of thousands of dollars per ring for virtually identical duplicates.
~Brett Weiss is the author of the Classic Home Video Games book series (McFarland Publishers).