The Sports Art Market’s Great Underdog Story

Collectors and sports fans investing in athletic art are scoring on their investments, a new Wall Street Journal report on the rising niche market reveals. But, there’s a catch: Much like in sports, the most successful artworks are the ones depicting star athletes who remain popular during long and successful careers, and well into retirement.

Prints from a 2006 Charles Fazzino series portraying Yankees star Derek Jeter, for instance, originally sold for $2,000, but now they fetch around $5,000 on eBay and through sports art sellers. “Some players you know will have staying power, like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera,” Brett Schissler, executive vice-president of sports art and memorabilia seller Steiner Sports, told the WSJ. “But, how about CC Sabathia? He got a World Series ring with the Yankees, but he played for other teams. We’ll have to see about him.”

Meanwhile, prints based on original paintings by Daniel Moore — whose work was at the center of a landmark lawsuit over sport artists’ rights to reproduce copyrighted insignia earlier this year — sell from anywhere between $30-$3,000. When he does sell one his paintings, most of which depict the University of Alabama’s football exploits (above), they can reach $75,000. Meanwhile, prints’ prices can be driven by signatures from the athletes they portray, or additional handmade embellishments by the artist.

In addition to the growing market for artworks depicting feats on professional and college sports fields, another sector of the growing athletics art market is the one for works depicting collectors’ preferred activities, especially golf and tennis. “A lot of my clientele are serious golfers, who belong to golf clubs and even take golf vacations,” South Carolina-based artist Linda Hartough, who specializes in painting golf courses, tells the WSJ. Her paintings sell for as much as $95,000. “They are pretty savvy about art and aren’t going to spend $60,000 for a souvenir.”

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Detail of Daniel Moore’s “Restoring the Order,” 2012; Courtesy the artist, via Facebook.)