Shortly after Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a shocking comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, the white #12 jersey he wore in the game disappeared from the locker room.
“It was right here. I know exactly where I put it,” Brady said, according USA Today. “It is going to be on eBay soon, I guess.”
How much could such a jersey sell for at auction? It’s hard to say—if the jersey was indeed stolen, it couldn’t be sold legally.
But let’s say the jersey did go up for sale legally. It would easily be one of the most valuable pieces of modern sports memorabilia on the market—and likely the most valuable NFL jersey ever.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see such a jersey hit $400,000 or more,” said Rich Mueller, editor of Sports Collectors Daily, via email. “It would just depend on who is bidding. It would obviously be one of the most important Super Bowl jerseys ever sold and they rarely come on the market.”
To put that in context, take note that one Brady jersey—worn in a regular season game, not a Super Bowl—sold at auction for $46,000 in 2012. Another dirty Brady jersey, worn during a 2014 regular season game, went up for auction this past weekend and was purchased for $56,000.
That means, because of the significance of the game and the player, the missing jersey would probably be worth 10 or more times the auction prices of Brady’s regular season jerseys. The jersey Brady wore on Super Bowl Sunday was truly historic: Brady won his fifth Super Bowl and fourth Super Bowl MVP award on Sunday—both NFL records.
Generally speaking, Major League Baseball memorabilia sells for far higher prices than the counterparts in the NFL. A jersey worn by the Cleveland Browns’ Jim Brown — long considered the greatest football player of the 1960s — will typically sell at auction for one-fifth the price of a jersey worn by one of his peers in pro baseball like Mickey Mantle or Sandy Koufax.
Reportedly, the most someone ever paid for a football jersey was $118,230 for Johnny Unitas’s #19, sold at auction in 2015. By contrast, collectors have paid over $200,000 for Koufax jerseys, and someone dropped $4.4 million on one Babe Ruth jersey.
Tom Brady’s missing jersey wouldn’t be valued anywhere near that. But because of all the significance attached to the Super Bowl jersey, it would probably sell for far more than what the Unitas item fetched. In other words, Brady’s potentially pilfered jersey would be the NFL’s highest-priced shirt if and when it was ever sold.