FIFA bets on collectibles with limited edition World Cup trophy replicas

Only 199 of these trophy replicas, a first in FIFA history, are up for sale.

FIFA, FIFA World Cup
Each trophy will be numbered and will come with a certificate of authenticity signed by FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura and Niels Hagemann, managing director of the FIFA issuing authority. (IE)

By Akanksha Seth

Fans of the beautiful game can now own a solid gold replica of the official FIFA World Cup Trophy, but it is only available by invitation to select clientele across the globe. Licensed by FIFA, the limited-edition pieces recreate the iconic design of the trophy, which shows two athletes rising in victory and holding the world in their hands.

Only 199 of these trophy replicas, a first in FIFA history, are up for sale. Each trophy will be numbered and will come with a certificate of authenticity signed by FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura and Niels Hagemann, managing director of the FIFA issuing authority. “They vouch for the authenticity, high quality, and strict limitation of the numbers manufactured,” said Donn Kabiraj, president & CEO of Donn Corporation, which has the rights to sell and distribute the trophy replicas in India, Dubai, and other SAARC countries.

Sources said each of the replicas could be valued around Euro 250,000, while one buyer is willing to pay upwards of Rs 4 crore for a unique number on the trophy. In comparison, sports trading cards can value in millions with the most valuable trade taking place in 2022 for a Mickey Mantle baseball card at $12.6 million.

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One of the most recognised and coveted sporting symbols in the world, the FIFA World Cup Trophy has a long history of mystery and intrigue. The original Jules Rimet Trophy was awarded to winners from 1930 to 1970. During World War II, then FIFA vice-president hid it in a shoebox under his bed to keep the trophy safe. In 1966, it was stolen while on display in London and later discovered by a dog called Pickles who went on to become a national celebrity.

After the trophy was awarded to Brazil definitively for becoming three-time champions in 1970, it was stolen once again from the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, and this time never recovered.

Since 1974, FIFA world champions are presented with a new version of the trophy, designed by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga. At a height of 36.5 cm (14.3 inches) and weighing 6.175 kg, the trophy is made with 18-karat gold, and the base is decorated with two bands made of green malachite.

The scale-model trophy replicas stand at 8.4 inches and are made with 24-karat gold with the same marking as in the original. Unlike the original trophy though, which is hollow from within, the replica is made of 1kg of solid gold.

According to Kabiraj, there is a “huge response” for this one-of-a-kind sports collectible in the region, with interest coming in from collectors, football fans, and club owners, mostly from Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi in India, as well as business owners from the UK, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. But there are also those who are looking at the piece as an investment, Kabiraj points out.

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In the world of sports, memorabilia have always held great sentimental as well as monetary value. The market size for sports memorabilia was estimated at $26 billion in 2021 (Market Decipher). The appreciation of these items comes from their authenticity and uniqueness. But for many, it’s also a matter of passion and connection with the sport.

“Rare collectibles often fetch higher prices, and the value of collectibles tends to appreciate over time. Nostalgia also plays a role in a collectible’s value as people get the itch to reconnect with the past,” said Kabiraj.

The nostalgia for football in India might often be overshadowed by Cricket, but there is no denying the strong fandom that the sport has in the country. This especially sees a peak during the FIFA World Cup, the 2022 edition of which ended just last month.

According to JioCinema, which live-streamed the entire tournament, over 110 million viewers tuned in digitally making India one of the highest digital viewership markets for the event. Indians also thronged to Qatar to watch the matches and made up the second-largest group of people watching at the group stage, second only to Saudi Arabia.

Interestingly, the unveiling of the World Cup trophy also saw an Indian connection for the first time in history in 2022. Bollywood star Deepika Padukone, who is the global brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton, became the first Indian to be part of the unveiling of the trophy prior to the Argentina vs France final. Louis Vuitton is the official manufacturer of the travel case for the trophy used to transport the highly valuable prize on select occasions.

While the original World Cup Trophy is kept secure at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, many are sure to be vying for these gold replicas, whether for investment or for the love of the sport.

Kabiraj adds that investing in collectibles is a great way to “diversify your portfolio while also owning things you love.” As one of the biggest emerging markets in collectibles, India is set to see exponential growth in the space. And Kabiraj’s company is betting big on the upward trend by going for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup next.

Cricket fans can look forward to a number of collectibles for the tournament, which is set to be held in India from October 2023. These would include “commemorative national and international legal tender coins, medals, and 3D precious metal commemorative products.”

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First published on: 08-01-2023 at 03:00 IST
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