Athletes have numerous reasons for putting themselves through the years of training and the pain of injuries in order to play their particular sports. For almost all of them, one reason that appears at or near the top of their list is the pursuit of “the ring.”
The ring, of course, is the prize awarded to members of the team that hoists the championship trophy after the season’s final game. More than a shiny bauble, the ring represents a championship, all the work that goes into earning a championship … and a lifetime of bragging rights. Everyone who earns one will be introduced forever as “Super Bowl champion linebacker…” or “NBA champion point guard …” Other players might put up gaudier statistics or earn more all-star game selections, but it’s a select group that can claim to have played for a championship team, and the ring is the evidence that verifies those claims.
Rings – especially those earned by NFL players who win the Super Bowl – have undergone a massive evolution over the years. The ring presented to members of the Green Bay Packers after winning the first Super Bowl was relatively simple, compared to the monstrosities handed out in recent years. The inaugural version of a Super Bowl ring had one diamond in the middle of an otherwise simple design, compared to the monstrosities handed out in recent years.
Now it’s time to start eyeing the jewelry again, as Super Bowl LII is set for Feb. 4. With football’s biggest game quickly approaching, fans and collectors will have a chance to acquire some Super Bowl hardware of their own in Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night Sports Collectibles Auction Feb. 24-25 in Dallas. The event includes an extraordinary array of Super Bowl memorabilia, including rings. Five of our favorites are:
1. The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the last team to navigate an entire season without suffering a single loss. This 1973 Miami Dolphins Super Bowl VIII Championship Ring Presented to Offensive Tackle Wane Moore (est. $40,000+) commemorates the 1973 team that had the misfortune of trying to repeat that perfect record – a feat that has not been accomplished since. The team lost twice in 1973, but won when it counted most, winning by double-digit margins in all three postseason games, including a 24-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl. Featuring a pair of diamonds set in the blue stone of the ring face, to symbolize the team’s back-to-back championships, the ring features raised text reading, “Miami Dolphins World Champions 72-73.”
2. Another ring celebrating the second half of back-to-back championships is a 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl X Championship Ring Presented to Safety Jimmy Allen (est. $30,000+) in the Steelers’ first Super Bowl matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Two large diamonds flank a miniature Lombardi Trophy, surrounded by a circle of text that reads “1975 Pittsburgh Steelers World Champions.” Text on the left shank reads, “Super Bowl X” over the names of both teams with the final score, while the right side feature’s Allen’s surname over a Steelers logo.
3. This 1977 Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII Championship Ring Presented to Running Back Doug Dennison (est. $30,000) commemorates the first Super Bowl ever played indoors, a game in which the Cowboys forced eight turnovers by the Denver Broncos in a 27-10 victory in the New Orleans Superdome. The ring features two stars – symbolizing the team’s two titles, each with a diamond nucleus at the center of the sapphire stars – set on a field of diamonds. The face of the ring features raised text that reads “Dallas Cowboys World Champions” while the left shank shows Dennison’s surname over a team helmet and the right shank boasts a miniature Lombardi Trophy with text reading “Super Bowl XII, 1977, 27-10.”
4. The team’s first Super Bowl title came at the end of its 12th NFL season. This 1971 Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl VI Championship Ring Presented to Offensive Tackle Ralph Neely (est. $30,000+) celebrates the Cowboys’ 24-3 win over the Miami Dolphins, a year before the Dolphins embarked upon their perfect 1972 season. The recipient of this ring, Ralph Neely, was unable to play in the game, but was an important piece of the Dallas offense in about half of the team’s games. The ring features the team’s famous blue star with a diamond in the center. The left shank features Neely’s name above a team helmet and his jersey number, while the right shank reads “1971” over a miniature Lombardi Trophy and NFL logo.
5. A game some remember best as the first played in – and won by – an African-American quarterback (Doug Williams) is commemorated in this 1987 Washington Redskins Super Bowl XXII Championship Ring Presented to Defensive Tackle Dean Hamel (est. $20,000+). One of just nine NFL teams to win three or more Super Bowl championships, the Redskins rallied from a 10-point deficit to overwhelm the Denver Broncos, 42-10. A total of 140 points of diamonds form a figural football between the two Lombardi Trophies that Washington had won at that point. The face also includes two rows of 15 red rubies and raised text trumpeting “Washington Redskins, World Champions 1987.” The left shank features the logo and final score of the game beneath a scroll bearing the team’s “Hail to the Redskins” motto, while the right shank shows Hamel’s name over a side image of the team’s helmet and his jersey number: 78.
Written by: Steve Lansdale