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The Most Valuable Sports Illustrated Magazines You Should Know About

by Assessor

Sports Illustrated, recognized as one of the most iconic and influential sports magazines worldwide since its inception in 1954, has captivated readers with its coverage of legendary athletes, memorable events, and captivating sports stories. But did you know that some of these issues hold significant value for collectors and fans alike? In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 most valuable Sports Illustrated magazines, considering factors such as rarity, condition, and historical significance. Whether you’re seeking a unique gift, an investment opportunity, or a treasured piece of sports memorabilia, keep an eye out for these remarkable magazines.

Top 10 Most Valuable Sports Illustrated Magazines

1. Sports Illustrated (1954)

The initial edition of Sports Illustrated is considered the holy grail for any collector. This issue features Eddie Mathews from the Milwaukee Braves at bat, with Wes Westrum from the New York Giants behind the home plate. Not only does it include a three-page foldout of Topps baseball cards, but it also showcases a mail-in subscription card. Due to the rarity of high-grade cover printing and colors, it can be challenging to find this issue in pristine condition. Be aware of reprints that may resemble the original. In 2021, a CGC 9.8 copy of this issue was sold for $5,000 [^1^][2], while raw copies can range from $100 to $300, depending on their authenticity and condition [^2^][1].

2. Tom Brady “The Natural” (2002)

Recognized as arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady first graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2002, after leading the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. The cover exhibits Brady holding the Lombardi Trophy, accompanied by the captivating headline, “The Natural”. This issue holds immense value for Brady fans and collectors, considering his subsequent 22 cover appearances. In 2020, a CGC 9.8 copy of this issue sold for $3,600 [^2^][1], while raw copies can be found for around $100.

3. LeBron James “The Chosen One” (2002)

LeBron James, another legendary athlete, made his debut on the cover of Sports Illustrated at a young age. Featured in 2002, James was already drawing comparisons to basketball icons Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, gaining attention for his remarkable skills. The cover displays James donning his St. Vincent-St. Mary jersey, accompanied by the headline “The Chosen One”. This issue is considered one of the magazine’s most iconic covers, capturing the anticipation and expectations surrounding James before his NBA career. In 2020, a CGC 9.8 copy of this issue sold for $3,000 [^2^][1], while raw copies can fetch approximately $50.

4. Michael Jordan “A Star Is Born” (1984)

Speaking of basketball legends, Michael Jordan first graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1984 after being drafted by the Chicago Bulls as the third overall pick. The cover showcases Jordan soaring towards the basket, accompanied by the headline “A Star Is Born”. This issue is significant as it marks the beginning of Jordan’s extraordinary career, which included six NBA titles, five MVP awards, and countless accolades. In 2021, a CGC 7.0 copy of this issue was sold for $3,000 [^1^][2], while raw copies can range from $50 to $200.

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5. Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier “Fight Of The Century” (1971)

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, two of the greatest boxers in history, faced each other in 1971 for their first match in Madison Square Garden. Dubbed the “Fight Of The Century,” this battle showcased two undefeated champions with distinct styles and personalities. The cover captures the intensity of their clash with the headline “Ali vs Frazier”. Collectors value this issue as a tribute to one of boxing’s most historic and thrilling bouts, ultimately won by Frazier through unanimous decision. In 2019, a CGC 9.6 copy of this issue sold for $2,400 [^2^][1], while raw copies can be obtained for around $100.

6. Secretariat “Pure Heart” (1973)

In 1973, Secretariat took the horse racing world by storm, achieving the elusive Triple Crown by setting records at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Notably, Secretariat’s commanding victory at the Belmont Stakes, winning by a remarkable 31 lengths and setting a world record that still stands, makes this issue exceptionally rare and desirable. The cover portrays Secretariat galloping towards victory, accompanied by the headline “Pure Heart”. A CGC 9.8 copy of this issue sold for $2,000 in 2019 [^2^][1], while raw copies can be found for approximately $50 to $200.

7. Hank Aaron “715” (1974)

Hank Aaron, widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs in 1974. The cover captures Aaron’s historic 715th home run with the powerful headline “715”. This issue is significant as it commemorates Aaron’s remarkable achievement, which was met with both admiration and hostility from fans and the media. Aaron faced racism and death threats throughout his career, yet his perseverance made him a symbol of courage and excellence. In 2020, a CGC 9.8 copy of this issue sold for $1,800 [^2^][1], while raw copies can be obtained for around $100.

8. Mike Tyson “Kid Dynamite” (1986)

Mike Tyson, known as one of the most feared and controversial boxers in history, became the youngest heavyweight champion at the age of 20 in 1986. The cover showcases Tyson posing with his belt and gloves, accompanied by the headline “Kid Dynamite”. Collectors hold this issue in high regard, capturing Tyson’s fame and ferocity before his tumultuous personal and professional life unfolded. In 2020, a CGC 9.8 copy of this issue sold for $1,500 [^2^][1], while raw copies can be obtained for around $100.

9. Swimsuit Issue (Various Years)

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, an annual special edition, features models and celebrities posing in swimsuits and other attire against exotic backdrops. Originally introduced in 1964 to bridge the winter gap between sports seasons, it soon became a cultural phenomenon, boosting the magazine’s sales and popularity. The Swimsuit Issue launched the careers of numerous models, such as Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Tyra Banks, and Kate Upton, while also featuring athletes like Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, and Alex Morgan. The value of each Swimsuit Issue varies based on the year, cover model, condition, and demand. Some of the most sought-after editions include:

  • The first Swimsuit Issue (1964) featuring Babette March
  • The 25th Anniversary Swimsuit Issue (1989) featuring Kathy Ireland
  • The Millennium Swimsuit Issue (2000) featuring Rebecca Romijn
  • The 50th Anniversary Swimsuit Issue (2014) featuring Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen
  • The first Swimsuit Issue with three different covers (2016) featuring Hailey Clauson, Ashley Graham, and Ronda Rousey
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In 2019, a CGC 9.8 copy of the first Swimsuit Issue sold for $1,200 [^2^][1], while raw copies can range from $100 to $500, depending on the year and cover model.

10. Tiger Woods “Hello World” (1996)

Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golfers in history, revolutionized the sport with his talent, charisma, and diverse background. Woods first appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996, following his third consecutive U.S. Amateur title win and turning professional at the young age of 20. The cover displays Woods with his trademark Nike cap and shirt, radiating a smile beneath the headline “Hello World”. This issue holds value as it introduced Woods to the world, preceding his outstanding journey of winning 15 major championships and becoming a global icon. In 2020, a CGC 9.8 copy of this issue sold for $1,000 [^2^][1], while raw copies can be obtained for around $50.


These are just a few examples of the most valuable Sports Illustrated magazines you can find today. However, please note that personal preferences and specific interests may also influence the worth of other issues. Throughout the years, Sports Illustrated has covered a broad range of sports and topics, encompassing basketball, soccer, Olympics, World Cups, scandals, and triumphs. Regardless of the type of sports fan you are, there is likely a Sports Illustrated magazine that will resonate with you.


Here are some frequently asked questions about Sports Illustrated magazines:

Q: How can I determine if my Sports Illustrated magazine is authentic?

A: Several methods can help you verify the authenticity of your Sports Illustrated magazine:

  • Check the cover date and price, ensuring they match the original publication details.
  • Compare the barcode on the back cover or spine with the original.
  • Examine the contents and advertisements inside the magazine, ensuring they match the original issue without any errors or alterations.
  • Assess the paper quality and condition, ensuring it does not appear overly glossy, thin, or brittle.
  • Look for signs of reprinting, such as different fonts, colors, or sizes.
  • When possible, compare your magazine to a known authentic copy or a reliable online source.

Q: How can I assess the condition of my Sports Illustrated magazine?

A: The condition of your Sports Illustrated magazine can significantly impact its value. Use the following grading scale to assess its condition:

  • Mint (MT): Perfect condition, without flaws or defects.
  • Near Mint (NM): Nearly perfect condition, with only minor flaws or defects not immediately noticeable.
  • Very Fine (VF): Excellent condition, with minor flaws or defects noticeable upon close inspection.
  • Fine (FN): Good condition, with noticeable flaws or defects that do not impact readability or appeal.
  • Very Good (VG): Fair condition, with noticeable flaws or defects impacting readability or appeal, such as creases, tears, stains, or marks.
  • Good (GD): Poor condition, with significant flaws or defects impacting readability or appeal, such as missing pages, water damage, mold, or tape.
  • Fair (FR): Very poor condition, with severe flaws or defects rendering the magazine unreadable or unappealing, such as large missing sections, heavy water damage, mold, or tape.
  • Poor (PR): Extremely poor condition, with minimal collectible value, such as torn, burned, or shredded pieces.
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Q: How can I sell my Sports Illustrated magazines?

A: You have several options to sell your Sports Illustrated magazines:

  • Online platforms: Utilize online platforms like eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace to reach a vast audience of potential buyers. Ensure you take high-quality photos, provide accurate descriptions, and set fair prices. Handle shipping, payment methods, and any arising issues or disputes.
  • Auction houses: Consider auction houses such as Heritage Auctions, Goldin Auctions, or Lelands to sell your magazines to serious collectors and investors. Submit your magazines for evaluation and authentication, paying a commission fee to the auction house. Abide by their rules and guidelines, and prepare for the auction date and outcome.
  • Local shops: Approach local shops like comic book stores, sports memorabilia stores, or antique stores to sell your magazines to interested local buyers. Visit the shop, negotiate a price with the owner or manager, and be aware of market value and demand. Be prepared to accept cash or store credit.

Q: How can I store and protect my Sports Illustrated magazines?

A: Follow these tips to store and protect your Sports Illustrated magazines:

  • Keep your magazines away from direct sunlight, heat, moisture, and dust, as these factors can cause fading, warping, mold, and deterioration.
  • Store your magazines in acid-free bags and boards to prevent yellowing, curling, or sticking together. Consider using rigid plastic cases for additional protection.
  • Choose a cool, dry, and dark storage location, such as a closet, drawer, cabinet, safe, or lockbox. Ensure it does not attract pests and is kept away from pets or children.
  • Keep your magazines neatly stacked and flat, avoiding bending, folding, or rolling. Avoid stacking them too high or tightly, and refrain from placing heavy objects on top.
  • Protect your magazines from pests, pets, and children, as they can damage or destroy them through chewing, scratching, tearing, or spilling.

Q: How can I enjoy my Sports Illustrated magazines?

A: Follow these tips to derive maximum enjoyment from your Sports Illustrated magazines:

  • Read them carefully and respectfully, avoiding forcing open the spine or roughly turning pages. You may choose to wear gloves to prevent leaving fingerprints or oils.
  • Display them proudly and tastefully using frames, stands, or shelves. Showcase your favorite issues or covers and utilize posters, stickers, or magnets to decorate walls or doors.
  • Share your magazines with others who appreciate them. Participate in online forums, clubs, or groups to discuss and trade magazines with fellow collectors and fans. Attend shows, conventions, or events to connect and network with other enthusiasts.

We trust that this article has been helpful and informative. Thank you for reading and happy collecting!

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