Date of Award

August 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Studies

First Advisor

Richard K. Popp

Committee Members

David S. Allen, Michael Z. Newman


Collectibles, Collector Culture, Manufactured Scarcity, Memorabilia, Relics, Sports Marketing


This is a study of the contemporary sports memorabilia industry and its surrounding culture through the analysis of a pair of its biggest providers. The following research explores the business model of Steiner Sports and examines its methods concerning pieces of game-used memorabilia and personal artifacts. The workings of Fanatics Authentic are also evaluated through the analysis of its specific line of In-Focus photographs and its sports memorabilia show held in the spring of 2016. The examination of both companies reveals techniques of manufacturing both rarity and aura that exist in the sports memorabilia industry. Steiner’s focus on providing intimate artifacts to collectors has resulted in a largely diluted market, leading to the development of tactics to generate aura while also rapidly removing game-used relics to produce maximum revenue through commemoration. The study of Fanatics also reveals customization to be an important aspect of collecting that its shows can arrange for attendees. Fanatics’ events provide the opportunity for participants to transform their collectibles into a vessel for creativity and personal memory from within a controlled environment.

The workings of the sports memorabilia world help to better understand today’s consumer culture in a variety of ways. The manufactured scarcity that exists throughout the industry is reflective of several products within consumer culture that present the feature of limited edition as an avenue to renew individuality through the purchase of goods designed to sell exclusivity. Steiner’s manufacturing of aura concerning its artifacts seeks to generate a living power that is reflective of advertising’s ability to elevate products into status markers for owners. Fanatics’ ability to offer personalization outfits show attendees with the agency to transform a commercial object into a humanized representation of the purchaser that is typical of several high-end branded products. Ultimately, the sports memorabilia industry serves as an exemplary model of the ability of commercialized objects to be converted into valuable commodities that represent a living mystique, status, and expression to a rarity seeking world.