NFL players compete for Super Bowl rings every season, but what is the history behind the tradition of awarding winners Super Bowl rings?
Fame? Money? They’re nice, but in reality, NFL players are competing for Super Bowl rings.
Think about it – you rarely hear someone say, “Tom Brady has won seven Super Bowl championships.” Instead, they talk about his “seven rings“.
It makes sense, especially when you learn that these days the average Super Bowl ring appraises for somewhere in the range of $35,000–$40,000.
But who started the tradition of rings? What is the history? Why not medals, like the Olympics, or a simple trophy for each player?
The History of Super Bowl Rings
It may surprise you to learn this is one area where the NFL played copycat rather than starting a trend.
As far as American sports are concerned, the first championship rings trace back to the legendary 1927 New York Yankees, a team including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig who won the World Series and received the jewelry as a token of the accomplishment.
Like so many other elements of Super Bowl history, rings started with Vince Lombardi who commemorated the Packers’ win in the first Super Bowl in 1967 by working with custom jeweler Jostens on a specialized ring.
One side of the ring featured the Lombardi family coat of arms with the phrase Harmony, Courage, Valor with the other side featuring the NFL logo.
In the center was a single diamond. Reports indicate that only players and coaches received these first Super Bowl rings.
The Most Expensive Super Bowl Rings in History
Today, the awarding of Super Bowl rings is much more elaborate. The National Football League contributes up to $7,500 per ring for the manufacturing of up to 150 Super Bowl rings. The mementos go to players and coaches, of course, but other team personnel such as trainers, executives, and other office staff.
Teams are responsible for the remaining costs, and it’s one area where budget constraints aren’t much of an issue.
After last season’s victory in Super Bowl 56, the Los Angeles Rams created and purchased rings estimated at a cost of up to $50,000. The rewards featured 20 carats’ worth of white diamonds, plus pieces of the field turf and a game ball used in the victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Who Makes Super Bowl Rings?
Lombardi’s Packers and many teams of the 1970s and 1980s used Jostens, a custom jewelry powerhouse.
Jostens is the originator and leader of the Super Bowl ring market, having created the prized jewelry for 36 of the 56 Super Bowl champions in NFL history.
But recent years see an increasing trend toward teams using local jewelers, such as Jason of Beverly Hills, the creators of the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl LV rings and the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI rings.
As with everything in the NFL, there’s always competition for the top spot!
How Much Does a Super Bowl Ring Cost?
Of course, over time some Super Bowl rings find their way to the public. Whether a player sells the jewelry, donates the proceeds to charity, or simply gives the reward to a family member – not every ring stays with the person who earned it forever.
So what can the average fan expect to pay for this unique piece of history?
Replica rings are often available for several hundred dollars through the victorious franchise, but there are instances of fans or collectors getting their hands of the real thing.
- In 2008, a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl rings from the 1970s went for $69,000 apiece on eBay.
- Je’Rod Cherry sold his Super Bowl 36 ring in 2017, with the estimated $200,000 in proceeds going to build an orphanage in Thailand.
- Lawrence Taylor’s son sold LT’s Super Bowl XXV ring for a reported $230,000 in 2012.
It makes you wonder – how much would one of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl rings fetch on the open market? Seven figures for the seventh ring?
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We may never know, but a ring with the name “Brady” on it (made for one of the quarterback’s family members) from the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI victory in 2017 fetched about $345,000.
Here’s another obscure fact that demonstrates how far Super Bowl rings have come – the seven rings Brady has earned over his career (six with the New England Patriots, one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) contain a total of 1,594 diamonds!
His last ring with the Buccaneers contained a record 319 diamonds – symbolic of the 31-9 final score of the victory over Kansas City.
The Incredible Story of Vladimir Putin’s Super Bowl Ring
We saved the best – or worst if you’re New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft – Super Bowl ring story for last.
Shortly after Kraft received his ring for the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXIX victory, he visited Russia with his friend and business colleague, then-Citi Group president Sandy Weill.
During the trip, Kraft showed the brand-new jewelry to his friend, who then uttered an ill-fated suggestion.
“Show [the ring] to Putin.”
According to Kraft, the Russian president took the ring and joked (we think), “I could kill someone with this ring.”
Surrounded by security, Putin then abruptly left the room, the ring tucked securely in his pocket.
Kraft didn’t give up easily, but eventually received a call from the White House, suggesting it would be in the best interest of international peace if he meant to give this Super Bowl ring as a “gift” to Putin.
“I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin,” Kraft’s 2005 statement said.
Years later, that’s an awfully ominous statement.
Luckily, thanks to the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, Kraft has five other Super Bowl rings to enjoy. It’s safe to assume he’ll leave them safely at home if he ever travels abroad again!
Are Super Bowl rings made of real diamonds?
Yes, Super Bowl rings are made of real diamonds. It is one of the most sentimental and grand ring in the world, after all. The Super Bowl 56 ring given to the Los Angeles Rams players has the most diamond carat weight of all Super Bowl rings in history.
Do Super Bowl runners up get a ring?
The runners up in the Super Bowl don’t receive the official Super Bowl ring for that year. However, they do receive a different ring to mark their appearance in the Big Game.
Do owners get a Super Bowl ring?
Everyone in the winning team, from coach to practice squad, will receive a ring. Owners can also choose to award a Super Bowl ring to anyone they want (within reason).