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Messi's World Cup jerseys bring in millions at auction

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Six white and sky blue jerseys that ended the French dynasty at the 2022 World Cup are now worth millions of dollars.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: It's a goal. It's a goal. Messi the magician once again when Argentina needed him most. He delivers. He wants that World Cup trophy.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That was the call from Fox Sports as Argentinean soccer superstar Lionel Messi scored a third goal for the South American team in last year's World Cup finals. And six jerseys that he wore throughout the tournament are now garnering millions of dollars in bids at an auction at Sotheby's in New York.

BILLY LESNAK: These jerseys might sell for 10 million, but in five years, 10 years, 20 years, they may sell for even more.

SHAPIRO: Billy Lesnak is the marketing coordinator for Steel City Collectibles in Pittsburgh, and he says the reason game-worn memorabilia can sell for so much is the connection to the game that the buyer feels.

LESNAK: Game-worn jerseys, game-worn memorabilia tend to elicit those emotional responses more than just an image or just a video because it is a physical, tangible reminder of a specific sports moment. These game-worn jerseys are something that somebody can touch, something that they can frame, something that they can show off that they then own. It's a physical, tangible reminder of their favorite players, some way that they can get closer to the game that they can't in any other way.

CHANG: And that is why they are available as is - unwashed. Simeon Lipman is a pop culture specialist and appraiser in upstate New York. The stains and the scents, he says, are part of the nostalgia and help an auction house piece together a provenance that these are the jerseys Messi wore.

SIMEON LIPMAN: There's a grass stain here. There's a little tear there. There's a thread loose, you know, on the back. And they're able to actually pinpoint these little tiny things which make these jerseys authentic. So that's very important. And obviously, the provenance is of immense importance.

SHAPIRO: Plus the winner gets to find out what Messi smelled like. The auction comes to an end next week. And no matter who ends up winning the lot of six jerseys, they will have successfully spent millions on their goal. Not bad for dirty laundry. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gabriel J. Sánchez
Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
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