TJ Kaye is a veteran of sports authentication. His job is to certify championship rings, trophies and awards for PSA. With Super Bowl LIV (54) looming around the corner, this time of year gets busy for Kaye. It’s a practice he’s used to as he’s examined hundreds of Super Bowl rings rings through his 15-plus years of service for PSA. A quick rundown of the NFL’s most valuable pieces of jewelry reveals that he has examined two of the top-selling Super Bowl rings in history: William “The Refrigerator” Perry’s 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX beauty (48 grams, size 25), which sold at auction for $203,150, and the late Harvey Martin’s 1977 Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII gem (size 11.5), which fetched $71,700. Both rings sold publicly via Heritage Auctions in 2015.
The art of authenticating genuine championship rings does not come easily as Kaye has been honing his craft for more than 30 years. A native of Long Island, NY, he serves as Founder, President and CEO of TJ’s Memorabilia, Inc., in Boca Raton, FL, a business he started in 1991. He calls Super Bowl rings “the ultimate NFL collectibles” and knows it takes a trained eye to differentiate a fake from the real deal. In fact, in 2004 when PSA and PSA/DNA looked to bring on an authenticator who could validate championship rings, trophies, and awards, TJ Kaye was the choice. When pressed for any tricks of his trade, Kaye brings up the now-discontinued practice of salesman sample rings as one of the great fake outs in his line of work.
MAKE SURE IT’S REAL
“Years ago, most manufacturers used to make sample rings so their sales personnel could show other teams or colleges what types of rings they made,” explained Kaye. “They’ve since stopped doing that because both the manufacturers and the teams didn’t want their World Series or Super Bowl championship rings getting out to the public.” Despite the prohibited practice, there are still unscrupulous types who have rings made through private jewelers that are nearly identical to the genuine articles. That’s why third-party authentication is vital, especially with auction houses selling many top player rings for hundreds of thousands of dollars nowadays.
Once Kaye determines a ring is authentic, PSA provides the owner of the item with covert synthetic DNA tagging along with a letter of authenticity (LOA) notating important characteristics, such as the award type, the type of metals or precious stones that have been used, the size, the manufacturer, and the athlete, coach, or team executive for whom the award was originally made. Let’s now look at the five top selling Super Bowl rings that Kaye has authenticated on behalf of PSA. The auction prices realized for these valuable Super Bowl rings are truly eye-popping.
TJ’S ‘TOP 5’ SELLERS
William Perry’s 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX Ring: $203,150
“The size of this ring is as large as the man who wore it,” said Kaye. “It’s still the largest finger size championship ring ever made.”
The face of the ring is awash in genuine diamonds which allow just a hint of the navy blue stone beneath to peek through. Raised text at the perimeter trumpets the achievement: “1985 Chicago Bears World Champions.” Left shank announces “Perry” above a figural helmet and text reporting, “16-1, GSH, Attitude.” The right shank reports the lopsided score (“Bears 46 Patriots 10”) above the logos of Super Bowl XX and the NFC, and a figural Lombardi Trophy. The gargantuan-sized ring, estimated to be a size 25, is made of 10k gold.
Harvey Martin’s 1977 Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII Ring: $77,700
“One of my favorite rings of all time,” said Kaye. “One of the most elegant and stunning Super Bowl rings ever made.”
Twin stars on the ring face represent two trips to the NFL mountain top, each sporting a genuine diamond nucleus and blue sapphire spokes and set against a field of smaller diamonds. “Dallas Cowboys World Champions” stands in raised lettering at the perimeter. Left shank reports Martin’s surname and a Cowboys helmet, with his jersey number inside an outline of Texas, while right shank features a Lombardi Trophy in miniature with text reading, “Super Bowl XII, 1977, 27-10.” The white gold beauty is stamped “Jostens 10k” at interior band, which measures to a size 11.5.
Lance Moore’s 2009 New Orleans Saints Super Bowl XLIV Ring: $44,812.50
“The fleur-de-lis honors the city of New Orleans and France’s Royal Family,” said Kaye. “The Saints introduced it with their inception in 1967 and now it graces the top of their Super Bowl ring. It’s perfect.”
The team logo fleur-de-lis rises in diamond-studded opulence from a sea of still more diamonds, leaving only enough room for the raised lettering of “World Champions.” Left shank features the logos of Super Bowl XLIV and the NFL amidst text that reads, “Saints 31 Colts 17, 02-07-10, Miami, FL.” Right shank holds miniature renditions of the Superdome, the Lombardi Trophy and the French Quarter’s Jackson Square with “Moore 16 WR.” Interior band measures to a size 11.5 and is engraved with the team motto: “Finish, Be Special, Smell Greatness.” Stamping reads “T & Co .585,” translating to “Tiffany & Co.” and “14K gold.”
Von Miller’s 2015 Denver Broncos Super Bowl L Ring Gifted to His Brother Vinny: $40,364
“This is a masterpiece of a ring,” said Kaye. “It celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Super Bowl with a 50 on top. It’s just amazing.”
The Jostens 10K gold ring face has the Broncos logo with three Lombardi Trophies and “50” surrounded by “WORLD CHAMPIONS” in raised gold lettering. The left shank has a bank of diamonds above “MILLER” in raised letters and the NFL logo mounted on a crown bearing eight diamonds. The right shank has “DENVER BRONCOS” above a Lombardi Trophy and gold ribbon reading “THIS ONE’S FOR PAT” and “2015” in raised letters. The interior has “SUPER BOWL 50 02.07.16” with the Broncos logo and the scores of the team’s successive playoff wins that season over the Steelers, Patriots and Panthers. Ring size is 12.5; weight is 60.3 grams.
Byron Chamberlain’s 1998 Denver Broncos Super Bowl XXXIII Ring: $31,720
“The Broncos back-to-back Super Bowl championship ring features a double horses head on the top with glistening yellow and white diamonds,” said Kaye. “It remains one of the most incredibly designed rings to date.”
As Shannon Sharpe’s back-up tight end Byron Chamberlain saw limited play during the 1998 season. But when Sharpe got injured on the Broncos’ opening drive during Super Bowl XXXIII, Chamberlain stepped in with three receptions for 29 yards (including a 13-yard first down) and recovered not one but two on-side kicks. Chamberlain’s 14K gold, size 12 Super Bowl ring features a staggering amount of diamonds accenting the double-stallion design on its face, the surrounding diamond bed, all four borders and the shanks. Manufactured by Jostens, it’s one of the most attractive championship rings ever made and one of the ultimate collectible tributes to Broncos quarterback John Elway and company’s late-1990s NFL dynasty.