People keep things that are important to them. May it be a simple vacation postcard, t-shirt or faux jewellery selection, this thing can bring nostalgia and trigger memories, and it’s called memorabilia. It may not be the most beautiful of its kind, but it’s meaningful. Memorabilia is an artifact with meaning.

Although it can easily be confused with collectibles, memorabilia is distinct because it serves a purpose. There is sentimental value in it. Memorabilia reminds you of a past event and commemorates it. It inspires emotion. An example is a souvenir, a French word that means remembrance or memory. People buy souvenirs to bring home something that can remind them of their travels and experiences. Meanwhile, collectibles are mostly purchased or collected for fun, as a hobby or interest. These can include toys or action figures, vintage music instruments, coins, currency, stamps and brand name products [1].

What is the purpose of memorabilia?

The value of memorabilia is not on the objects themselves but in the memories, in the tales and experiences associated with it. Here are several reasons why people collect and keep memorabilia [2, 3].

  • Familial and emotional meaning

Preserving treasured materials will allow emotional connections to what happened in the past. Old photos, greeting cards from friends and families, seashells from family day outing, t-shirt from your favourite concert, they are all a reminder of previous events that can bring back happy memories.

When it comes to personal or family memorabilia, it’s not only a great way of starting a conversation with the family or with your guests. A keepsake can hold a family’s story together and enable this story to be passed on from generation to generation. The right memorabilia can also remind you that you’re not alone and what’s important in life.

  • To connect with childhood

There are people who are interested in collections from their youth. These may include the person’s favourite comic books, toys, cards and everything they love as a kid. This kind of memorabilia is nostalgic and reminds them of how it feels and looks like when they were young.

  • Knowledge and learning.

Memorabilia can also be used to learn and gain knowledge. A memento can be a book or a page from it, magazines or newspapers. They are kept for the sake of learning. Who wouldn’t want a newspaper page about a rare astronomical event in a certain year?

  • Historical memorabilia.

Autographed letters, historical documents and other artifacts. How about Albert Einstein’s or your country heroes’ notebook full of notes and notable events? Historical memorabilia connects people to past historical events, villains, heroes and heroines. This further includes military and wartime memorabilia.

  • Pleasure

People also collect memorabilia for the sake of enjoyment. They do it as a hobby. They have fun being on the lookout for new memorabilia from a certain place. They find it more enjoyable to buy antiques, unusual items than buying new ones.

  • Investment.

When the memorabilia you collect become rare or it’s vintage, it can be profitable. When you sell it in an amount more than its original value, it’s an investment that can provide financial security.

What are the different types of memorabilia?

Memorabilia is not just the gift your kiddie best friend or your mom gave you when you were little. It’s not just the picture you took with your family during a trip. There are different types of memorabilia that are being collected. If you are starting to make a collection, then it’s important for you to learn about these types.

  • Sport memorabilia

Sports memorabilia refers to sports collectibles. It’s a collection of objects for the remembrance of certain sporting events or figures. With the many types of sports that we have today, there are also many sports memorabilia to collect. The fans or enthusiasts of these sports are the usual ones to collect and keep sports memorabilia. Well, isn’t it a good experience to have a tennis ball signed by your favourite tennis player in the Australian Open? How about a Winx Dual signed and framed lithograph?

The collection of sports memorabilia started in the 20th century with baseball. After a game, people would collect baseballs from baseball games and asked Babe Ruth for autographs. There were cards with pictures of players being signed and then later used to promote businesses. From cards, the collections broadened into different items like jersey and many others [4]. Game-used jerseys became a hot item, especially that of Michael Jordan.

The diverse kind of sports memorabilia and their examples are as follows [5]:

  1. Sports awards: medals, cups, plates, plaques, trophies and ribbons
  2. Sporting cards: playing cards with sporting themes and other contemporary sports cards for professional baseball, football and basketball players
  3. Sporting art and literature: etchings, prints, books, catalogues, periodicals, sculptures, photographs and related artistic sporting artifacts, including porcelain and silver stirrup cups
  4. Sports stamps: sporting postage stamps from different countries of the world
  5. Sporting equipment and technology: bats, clubs, reels, rods, sporting firearms, hunting knives and specialized sportswear such as sports uniforms.

Why do fans love collecting this kind of memorabilia? Firstly, they want to immortalize whatever items or mementos they got from popular athletes. It’s a good proof to let other people in the future know that they met them in the past. Secondly, they do it to show support to their favourite athletes or identify with them [6].

However, with the rise of fake autographs and items, one should be careful when getting sports memorabilia. If you’re going to get one, make sure to have a photo taken with the athlete while he/she is signing your item. With a photograph, no one can question the authenticity of your memorabilia [7]. Signed sports memorabilia has greater value than those without. The known athlete’s signature increases the worth of the item.

  • TV/film memorabilia

With the profound effect of TV and films on any culture, this type of memorabilia has a huge market. It has become a big business. Anything connected to it, no matter how small or loose, can be a collectible. From Star Wars figures and plastic characters to James Bond model clothes and Mickey Mouse wristwatches, they are all highly prized. Any object that is directly connected to a famous personality or a show has great value [4].

TV and film memorabilia can also be auctioned, and it can be any of the following:

  1. Signed photographs and autograph books
  2. Books and magazines
  3. Movie posters
  4. Movie scripts
  5. Film stills and animation artwork
  6. One-off pieces and personal effects
  7. Film props
  8. Promotional materials
  9. Film/theatre programmes, flyers and tickets

Among the world’s most expensive memorabilia sold in an auction include James Bond’s slick Aston Martin, the car that Sean Connery drove in Goldfinger and Thunderball. It was sold to Harry Yeaggy in 2010 for $4.6m. Another very expensive item is Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch. This iconic garment in film history was also sold for $4.6m at a Beverly Hills auction in 2011 [8].

  • Music memorabilia

Similar to sports and TV/film memorabilia, music memorabilia includes personal things or career-based objects used by a band or a singer. These items are not only auctioned; they are also bought by museums and displayed [4].

Music memorabilia helps people become closer or connected to the world of their favourite musicians. When people get memorabilia from their favourite musician, they have this feeling of being surrounded by more than just the music they love. For them, it’s like history that you can see, hear, touch and own. It’s making intangible become tangible. When music icons (even athlete or TV/movie personalities) pass away, the value of memorabilia associated with them increases.

The types of music memorabilia are as follows [9]:

  1. Apparel: t-shirts and jackets
  2. Records: rare and out-of-print long plays which can also be autographed
  3. Music novelty items: badges, mousepads and toys
  4. Instruments: guitars, tambourines or drum kits
  5. Concert items: poster programs, photos, ticket stubs and other promotional materials
  6. Autographs: this can be signed on different items like the memorabilia collector’s t-shirt
  7. Music manuscript

Music memorabilia started to attract attention in the 1960s and 1970s when the demand for souvenirs was created by the mass audience for rock and roll. By 1980, many rock and roll suddenly emerged, and the market for music collectibles became a huge market [10].

  • Military or wartime memorabilia

Military or wartime memorabilia, which is also known as militaria, includes military articles, such as uniforms, firearms, medals, weapons and equipment. Many military items are those used to protect military personnel, such as helmets, hats, military jackets and coats. Even postcards mailed to and from loved ones and memoirs and history books written during and after conflicts to give future generations knowledge of the past are also collected. These items are usually gathered for their historical significance [11].

What makes militaria interesting? It’s a great way of preserving veteran’s memory and honouring their service. Military or wartime memorabilia also provides information about the military and a nation’s history to those interested in it.

How do you keep and organise memorabilia?

Memorabilia can gather dust. To make them stay even longer, they should be cleaned and organised well. They should not always be left sitting in a box for a long time. However, organising this kind of materials is very much different from simply clearing up a desk or drawer. You are dealing with keepsakes that have so much sentimental value attached to them, and some of them may be too old that they would be easily torn apart when touched or cleaned.

  • Decide what to keep and which to let go of.

Not everything in the memorabilia box can be saved and stored. There may be duplicates or pieces that you don’t remember, things that don’t have emotional meaning anymore. Or items that evoke guilt and other negative feelings. These pieces may be considered for letting go as they may have less possibility of being used. Other items may also mean less to you but more to others so they can be passed on to loved ones.

Meanwhile, there are objects that can instantly make your face lit with joy. Or those that tell a story about the family. Things that mean the most to an owner are surely worth keeping.

  • Think about your storage.

The amount of space available in the house will dictate how much memorabilia to keep. Are stackable storage tubs possible? Are there available boxes to be used? Or should the pictures be in photo boxes? The key is to keep only what can be reasonably stored.

  • Digitize it.

This is especially true for bulkier objects. If it’s the kids’ artworks, scan them. Not everything should be stored in a box. Memorabilia can also be archived digitally. Convert them into digital forms that can be processed by a computer. Different applications are now available for this purpose.

Making memorabilia digital is also a solution for very limited space in the house. Instead of having boxes or photo books, you keep electronic copies that can remain even after the original item becomes so worn out.

  • Capture the story.

The story is the most valued part of memorabilia. To capture the story and make it alive in any memento, labelling the pictures and items you keep is important. How did you get or receive that keepsake? Who gave that? In this way, it will be more meaningful to the following generations because they know the story behind the objects.

The labels that go with memorabilia are also important when you decided to auction the items. The stories matter to the audience. They might buy an object because of the accounts associated with it.

  • Display it.

Instead of storing all of the memorabilia, some of the items can be displayed. Frame some pieces of homemade artwork or pictures from the past. It can be a way of honouring the memorabilia.

If there’s something useful in the box like an autographed mug, it can be repurposed or incorporated into daily lives. Using it can remind you of the feeling when that object was given to you and recreate that moment in your heart.

To organise and preserve your memories, here are some tips that can be useful when managing these mementos [12, 13, 14].

Where can you buy memorabilia?
  • Antique shops

These antique shops purchase items for sale from different individuals or large estate auctions.

  • Collectible stores

These are small stores that buy and sell different types of memorabilia. Online collective stores are also now available.

Most prized memorabilia can be found in auctions, especially to those done to raise fund. Typically, there’s no haggling in this memorabilia market. There’s only increasing bid on items.

Why memorabilia is a high-valued item in auctions?

An auction allows people to bid on good and services and sell to the highest bidder. This is a good activity to raise fund for charities. Therefore, having memorabilia in an auction is an innovative way to raise money. The guests will surely love the opportunity to get precious items worn, signed or previously owned by their favourite athletes, celebrities, musicians and other personalities. They will be willing to pay more than they should for memorabilia.

What causes this behaviour among bidders? Why is memorabilia highly valued in auctions? Here are some reasons.

  • The item cannot be found in any store.
  • The item is a limited edition.
  • The item is unique.
  • The item is previously owned by a known personality or someone they look up to.
  • The item is very popular [15].
  • The item has historical significance.
  • The item can be a further investment for the buyer.
How memorabilia is valued?

The main reason why memorabilia is collected is the sentimental value that goes with it. When your collection becomes a business, memorabilia becomes valued according to the following [4, 16, 17]:

  • Connection of the item to a popular person or event

When an item was owned or worn by a big name in an industry or the film is a super hit, the associated memorabilia is likely to have a high value. If a sports, music or TV/film memorabilia has made a public appearance like the red leather jacket worn by Michael Jackson in the ‘Thriller’, its monetary value also largely increases.

  • Rarity

A limited or special edition item is sure to attract the attention of bidders. Naturally, they would like to own items that not many other people have. An example of this a life-sized statue of Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Given that only a few of this is in circulation, it was auctioned off for €3,500 in 2016.

  • Historical significance

If an object has an important story to tell and that story is an event that made a mark in history, the object will be highly appraised.

  • Condition.

When the condition of memorabilia is better, it gets higher value. A piece of clothing or costume with uncompromised value, without stains or tears, has more worth than the one with rips. However, when the object is worn down from the use of a known personality, such as a guitar by a musician, the price may even go up.

  • Age

Similar to antiques, some pieces of old music or sports memorabilia may become more valuable than something you can currently buy.

  • Authenticity

It’s important that memorabilia is genuine, that is there is an established connection between the item and the known person who signed or owned it. It’s very much crucial when dealing with autographs, costumes and props. This is the reason why having a picture taken when you asked for an autograph from someone famous is also significant to command value on that item when you sell it.

  • Demand and supply

When the current demand for the item exceeds its supply, it’s rare. And it can dictate a higher price in the market. On the contrary, if you have the original copy of a known musician’s album and there are many other copies available, it’s not likely to worth a lot.

Some of the reasons why there will be less supply of memorabilia include when the known personality who signed the item dies, unfortunately, or when a famous band stops signing autographs. As a consequence, the value of memorabilia associated with these personalities will increase. An example is the tresses of hair from Elvis Presley, which was sold at $115,000 in 2002 [18].

  • Uniqueness

A very unique piece, something that can’t be found anywhere else, is sure to have a very high value. It’s something interesting and unusual. An example of this is the original script from the popular TV show Game of Thrones. The script was even signed by six members of the cast so it was sold at a high price of €1,800.

References: [1] “Understanding Antiques, Collectibles, and Memorabilia.” High Plains Auctioneers, 2 Oct. 2015, www.hpa4u.com/understanding-antiques-collectibles-and-memorabilia. [2] Lantz, Patricia. “Why Do People Collect Things? 9 Common Reasons.” Love to Know, antiques.lovetoknow.com/collectibles/why-do-people-collect-things-9-common-reasons. [3] Eisenberg, Ronni. “Why Do We Love To Collect Things?” Ronni Eisenberg, 10 Feb. 2020, blog.ronnieisenberg.com/2020/02/10/why-do-we-love-to-collect-things/#.YGW3Pi0RphB. [4] “Choosing Your Own Memorabilia Type.” Wiproo, 19 Jan. 2019, wiproo.com/choosing-your-own-memorabilia-type. [5] “Sporting Memorabilia.” Encyclopedia.Com, www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sporting-memorabilia. [6] “An Insight Into the Meaning of Sports Memorabilia.” Slideshare, www.slideshare.net/Smithbhj/an-insight-into-the-meaning-of-sports-memorabilia. [7] Peck, Barbara. “4 Things To Buy That Could Soon Be Collectibles.” Investopedia, 14 Mar. 2021, www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/121315/3-things-buy-could-soon-be-collectibles.asp. [8] Nevins, Jake. “The World’s Most Expensive Film Props and Costumes – in Pictures.” The Guardian, 27 Nov. 2017, www.theguardian.com/film/gallery/2017/nov/27/the-worlds-most-expensive-film-props-and-costumes-in-pictures. [9] “Music Memorabilia Information.” Discover a Hobby, www.discoverahobby.com/music-memorabilia. [10] Grossman, Martin. “Music Memorabilia: History You Can Hear, Touch, See and Own.” Rocker Tee, 18 May 2020, rockerteeshirts.com/blogs/rockers-blog/music-memorabilia-history-you-can-hear-touch-see-and-own. [11] “Military and Wartime Antiques and Memorabilia.” Collectors Weekly, www.collectorsweekly.com/military-and-wartime/overview. [12] Voyles, Elizabeth. “5 Tips for Organizing Photos and Memorabilia to Preserve Your Memories.” Keepy, 12 Sept. 2017, keepy.me/blog/5-tips-for-organizing-family-photos-and-memorabilia. [13] Willis, Andi. “25 Tips for Managing Your Memorabilia.” Good Life Photo Solutions, goodlifephotosolutions.com/25-tips-for-memorabilia. [14] Kessler, Julie. “What to Do With That Box of Memorabilia Sitting in Your Closet.” Picture This Organized, 16 Feb. 2018, www.picturethisorganized.com/memorabilia. [15] “Most Expensive Memorabilia Ever Sold.” Total Prestige Magazine, www.totalprestigemagazine.com/most-expensive-memorabilia-ever-sold. [16] Bieshaar, Barbara. “How to Determine the Value of Your Movie Memorabilia.” Catawiki, 15 July 2020, www.catawiki.com/stories/4879-how-to-determine-the-value-of-your-movie-memorabilia. [17] “How to Value Pop & Rock Memorabilia.” Value My Stuff, www.valuemystuff.com/eu/blog/how-to-value-pop-and-rock-memorabilia. [18] “Top 10 Most Expensive Auction Items.” Time, content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1917097_1917096_1917086,00.html.