They are symbols of achieving the highest and most difficult accolade in American professional football. And after battling through the regular season and defeating your opponents in the playoffs, you take victory in the most-watched televised sporting event in the world. You become a Super Bowl champion.
And in doing so, you eventually receive a beautiful, ornate championship ring. The ring is coated in gold and diamonds and team iconography. They are custom-built and custom-sized.
And if you couldn’t throw a pass to save your life, or if your 40-yard running speed was last clocked with a sundial, you could still own a Super Bowl ring.
You would have to outbid other collectors, but yes… you could do it.
In fact, this upcoming auction features the opportunity to acquire a Super Bowl ring from the very first Super Bowl ever played.
On February 20th, Heritage Auctions will offer for bid the 1967 Championship ring awarded to offensive lineman Jerry Kramer following the Green Bay Packers’ win in the 1967 Super Bowl, otherwise known as the initial game between the National Football League champion Green Bay Packers and the rival American Football League champion Kansas City Chiefs (Green Bay won 35-10). The championship ring is the centerpiece of Jerry Kramer’s personal career collection, and is one of several pieces of championship jewelry the lineman has earned over his career – jewelry that will also be part of Heritage Auction’s February 20th show. The online bidding site LiveAuctioneers.com will allow bidders worldwide to participate in this auction through absentee and Internet live bidding, including through mobile devices.
Super Bowl rings can sell for upwards of six figures, and are the most highly prized of all championship jewelry. Here are 6 Super Bowl rings whose auction prices made headlines:
William “Refrigerator” Perry – 2015 – $203,150
Every Super Bowl player wants to “put a ring on it,” but not all fingers were created equal. Sometimes it costs the NFL just a bit more to spring for a World Championship ring. In 1985, the jewelers appointed by the NFL had to supersize the Super Bowl XX ring awarded to mighty Chicago Bears tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry.
Reportedly, there wasn’t even a jeweler’s device capable of producing an accurate measurement of the Fridge’s ring finger, but the estimate was an unbelievable size 25. It was the largest Super Bowl Championship ring ever made.
Perry parted with his ring at some point, and it changed ownership multiple times after that. Most recently it was in the spotlight at Heritage’s July 30, 2015 auction. An individual who bid online through LiveAuctioneers.com claimed the gridiron super-prize for $203,150 (inclusive of buyer’s premium).
“It ended up being one of the top ten most expensive items sold last year through LiveAuctioneers,” said the Internet auction company’s VP Product & Marketing Phil Michaelson. “Our systems can predict the optimal selling price for auction items, so we knew the ring was going to go through the roof.”
Steve Wright – 2011 – $73,409
Super Bowl Championship rings typically command five and six figures at auction.
In 2011, Grey Flannel Auctions of Westhampton, N.Y., sold Steve Wright’s 1966 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Championship ring for $73,409. Wright, an offensive tackle, played for five teams in his ten-year NFL career; he earned this ring with the Packers in the first Super Bowl.
“That ring was destined for success. The provenance was impeccable,” said Grey Flannel’s president, Richard E. Russek. “To our knowledge, it was the first ring from Super Bowl I that had ever been offered at auction, but on top of that, it came directly from Steve Wright, who signed a letter of authenticity that went to the new owner of the ring.”
Jamal Lewis – 2012 – $49,770
As a rookie, Jamal Lewis helped the Baltimore Ravens defeat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV; however, this ring is from Baltimore’s second Super Bowl championship in 2012, and was given to Lewis in recognition of the running back’s long and memorable tenure with the team. Goldin Auctions of West Berlin, N.J., sold the ring in 2015 for $49,770.
“Super Bowl rings are among the most sought-after collectibles in the [sports collectibles] industry,” said Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions. “Although museums occasionally buy Super Bowl rings, for the most part it’s private collectors and NFL fans. …The industry is thriving as more and more historical artifacts are unearthed and as professional athletes make their collections available for auction.”
Phil Michaelson noted: “Demand for collectibles is soaring. Thanks to mobile bidding, people who have an interest in certain items can bid remotely. They’re no longer tethered to their desks.”
Joe Gilliam – 2011 – $38,423
“Jefferson Street Joe” Gilliam was the first African-American quarterback to start an NFL game after the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, and played for several seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This championship ring was from Gilliam’s last season with the Steelers, when they won Super Bowl X over the Dallas Cowboys.
Lelands in Bohemia, N.Y., has sold more Super Bowl rings than anyone else in the sports auction business. “That’s because we’ve been around longer than anyone else,” said Lelands’ owner Joshua Evans.
“In 2011, we sold the ring presented to Joe Gilliam for the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers’ World Championship,” Evans continued. “It had everything going for it – two chunky diamonds sandwiching the Vince Lombardi trophy, the ultimate symbol of the Super Bowl – and it represented the perfect match-up with the blue-collar ‘Steel Curtain’ beating ‘America’s Team,’ the Dallas Cowboys. …The ring transcended sports memorabilia. Joe Gilliam was the second black quarterback ever to play in the NFL, which made it historically important.” The Super Bowl X ring sold for $38,423, but Evans believes if it were auctioned today, it would double that price. Nice investment!
There is a trend toward rings from the “storybook teams” and actual players’ rings versus front-office and coaches’ rings, even though the former are far more expensive. Also, collectors like “rings with content,” Evans said.
Lawrence Taylor – 2015 – $230,401
The world auction record for a Super Bowl Championship ring is held by SCP Auctions of Laguna Niguel, California. In 2015 they sold New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor’s Super Bowl XXV ring for a staggering $230,401.
Why the extraordinary price? “Its mass appeal rested simply on the massive shoulders of the man who owned it, Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor,” said SCP spokesman Terry Melia.
Lawrence Taylor played twelve seasons with the New York Giants, where the Hall of Fame linebacker helped lead Big Blue to two Super Bowl championships.
Jim Langer – 2015 – $37,375
Only a select few 1972 Championship rings awarded to players or owners after Super Bowl VII have ever reached the marketplace. This is one of the few from that category – the ring awarded to quick-blocking center Jim Langer after the Miami Dolphins capped a perfect season by defeating the Washington Redskins 14-7.
Hunt Auctions of Exton, Pa., sold the ring in 2015 for $37,375. “It is not a stretch to place this example, which belonged to a key team member and Hall of Fame inductee, among the elite pieces of Championship jewelry in private hands,” said David Hunt, owner of Hunt Auctions.
When collecting Super Bowl rings, the most prized are those rings whose provenance can be traced back to specific players or coaches. Other Super Bowl championship rings were issued to team personnel and staff; those rings are more affordable to the average sports memorabilia collector.
For more information on the upcoming Heritage Auctions February 20th “Platinum Night Sports” auction, visit this link at LiveAuctioneers.com.