Want to Collect Rings? Here’s How to Get into the Game at Any Level

By Michael Rod

Do you feel that collecting championship rings is beyond your budget? Not true – the financial hurdle might be lower than you think. There are numerous ways to collect rings that won’t crush your savings.

Here are some options and strategies to get you started in ring collecting.

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Replicas
Most replicas are manufactured in China and are priced at $50-$150. The quality varies greatly; some aren’t too impressive, while others are beautiful and accurate reproductions of authentic rings. These rings are ideal for displaying but not recommended for wearing. If you decide to wear them, be warned – the yellow gold-plating will come off, the metal may oxidize and pit and/or the replica glued-in diamonds can fall out.

It’s puzzling why sports leagues and ring manufacturers such as Jostens and Balfour allow replica rings to flood eBay, but the reality is they are readily available.

Pictured: Authentic rings on the left, inexpensive replicas on the right.

Pictured: Authentic rings on the left, inexpensive replicas on the right.

A step up are replicas made of 10K gold. These rings are usually better quality.

However, an important concern is do you really know what you are buying? Is the seller going to stand behind the purchase? Can you be certain the ring is solid gold and not made with a gold layer on top of low-cost metal? If you go this route, rings can be found for around $2,000.

College and minor league rings
The quality of college and minor league rings will be higher than a replicas. Typically, they’re made by Jostens or Balfour, which means you’re getting a product from the same companies that produce many of the ultra high-end championship rings.

Because of the high cost of gold, newer college rings are no longer made of solid gold. College rings awarded prior to the last few years are made of 10K gold and will cost more than newer non-gold versions.

Pictured is a selection of low-cost college and minor league rings.

Pictured is a selection of low-cost college and minor league rings.

Most minor league rings are made of solid gold, but not all. Stay away from rings without the manufacturer’s markings and make sure to have a jeweler test it to verify a “10K” stamped ring is really made of 10K gold.

Minor league teams usually contain a small diamond or diamonds, while college rings always have cubic zirconias (imitation diamonds).

A 10K college or minor league ring can set you back $700-$1,750. National championship collegiate rings in football and basketball are the most desirable and will start around $2,000 and sometimes reach $4,000.

Newer college rings, made of non-gold materials will cost around $1,000-$1,500, and the National Championship versions will sell for around $3,000.

Salesman samples
Jostens and Balfour employ independent sales associates who primarily sell rings to high school and college students. These associates obtain salesman sample rings to show off and impress their clients and prospects. These rings are not supposed to be resold but do occasionally find their way into the hobby.

Be warned: Many of the “salesman sample” rings available are high quality fakes. One unscrupulous dealer has partnered with a small U.S. ring manufacturer and makes high quality fakes. This dealer puts counterfeit engravings inside the ring to make detection of this sham very difficult.

Compounding the challenge in buying salesman samples is that some auction houses and dealers describe questionable offerings as “samples” or “salesman samples.”

As collectors have gotten burned from these shenanigans, the demand for salesman sample rings has fallen and so have prices.

Lately, some auction houses such as Leland’s have led the charge to rid the hobby of bad rings and have adopted a policy of no longer selling any salesman sample rings.
I would advise staying away from salesman samples, as 50 percent of what I see in the marketplace is counterfeit or highly questionable.

Salesman samples, when made of solid gold and imitation diamonds, used to sell for around $5,000. In today’s market these rings sell for about $2,500.

A player’s Super Bowl XXXIX ring made of 14k gold and real diamonds is shown on the left, with the front office version made of non-gold and imitation diamonds on the right.

A player’s Super Bowl XXXIX ring made of 14k gold and real diamonds is shown on the left, with the front office version made of non-gold and imitation diamonds on the right.

Professional rings – entry level
Collecting rings from the four major professional sports can be achieved without taking out a second mortgage. Here’s what you need to know.

Teams that have lost the World Series or Super Bowl also receive rings. These rings, while not as large or diamond-studded as the winning versions, are highly collectible and generally sell for approximately 50 percent less than the winning versions.

Another option to obtain a ring at a lower price is to buy front office rings. A recent trend has been awarding front office employees “B” or sometimes “C” level rings. The “B” and “C” rings are smaller versions of championship rings. Sometimes they have cubic zirconias instead of real diamonds and may also be made of non-gold materials. Team ownership has complete discretion when awarding “B” and “C” versions. Sometimes the size and material drop off is huge, other times there is no drop off. The Yankees bucked this trend in 2009, awarding around 200 rings to employees that were the same exact size and quality diamonds that the players received.

Every situation is different, but “B” and “C” versions can sell anywhere from $3,500-$15,000, depending upon such factors as size, rarity, team popularity and how close they resemble the player’s version.

If you are looking for the same version ring that players received, you can still save money by acquiring an executive, coach or scout ring. Typically these rings are the same size as player rings but sell for 10-50 percent less since the original owner was not on the team roster.

Players’ rings
Here’s where it gets quite expensive. Players’ rings can go for anywhere from $10,000 and up. Rings belonging to legendary players such as Julius Erving ($460,000) and Lawrence Taylor ($230,000) have hit the stratosphere.

A marginal player’s ring will go for far less money than a star’s. Most player rings sell in the $10,000-$30,000 range. Newer rings with much more bling tend to sell higher. Historic situations such as the Packers Super Bowl I victory or the Brooklyn Dodgers 1955 World Series championship can result in even higher prices.

Don’t let the high cost of top-tier rings discourage you from starting a ring collection. No matter your budget, you can acquire, collect and display some amazing rings!

Want to see every winning and runner-up Super Bowl ring? Those and other championship rings from all sports can be viewed at www.sports-rings.com.

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