The Cubs organization is handing out World Series Championship rings to players and other employees, describing the bling as a “priceless memento of the greatest championship quest in all of sports.”
In fact, each ring does have a price — $1, to be precise — even though appraisers say they could fetch anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 on the open market.
That’s because the rings come with strings attached. The Cubs are discouraging ring recipients from selling the hardware. But if they get the urge, the Cubs reserve the right to buy each ring back for $1, according to a memo the organization is asking ring recipients to sign. A copy of the memo was obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We regret the formal nature of this memo, and we do not intend for this information to overshadow our joy in being able to provide this ring to you,” the memo states. “However, we think it is important to communicate this information to you.”
Those planning to sell “or otherwise transfer your ring,” must give the Cubs written notice of “the proposed transaction and a complete accounting of the terms.”
There’s more: “If the Cubs elect not to purchase the ring, then you may transfer it according to the terms you provided to the Cubs; however, each subsequent owner shall also be bound by these terms in the event of a subsequent proposed sale or other transfer.”
The memo makes an exception for rings that are given as gifts — say to a child, spouse or grandchild.
The edict was met with scorn by some of the players who won the team’s first championship in 108 years, and at least two of them said they wouldn’t sign the agreement, sources told the Sun-Times. A team member who won multiple titles with another organization said he never was asked to agree to such conditions.
Some players also noted that they still might have to pay taxes on the rings, even though they would have no resale value to them.
Julian Green, a Cubs spokesman, said the organization isn’t doing anything unusual.
“We did do research of other teams and this is not an uncommon practice,” Green said, adding, “This was a very generous offering by the Ricketts family, and we want it to be cherished. We hope people would want to keep and cherish this ring, versus using it as a saleable asset.”
On Tuesday, after this story was published, Green also said that “uniformed players and coaches were never asked to sign the form and were not even aware a form existed until yesterday.”
Green said the Cubs are in the process of distributing some 2,000 rings to full-time, part-time and seasonal staff. He would not discuss the value of the rings, adding, there are “different tiers” of rings.
The rings handed out to players last week — and designed with their input — feature 108 diamonds — marking the 108 years between World Series titles for the Cubs. The manufacturer, Jostens, is selling a version to fans online — for $10,800.
A star player like Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo could sell his ring for upward of $250,000, said Ken Goldin, an expert sports memorabilia auctioneer. Less prominent players could still rack up more than $100,000, though prices tend to decline after the first ring hits the market, Goldin said.
Rings given to team employees would be worth about $50,000 in a Cub-crazed town, according to Goldin, who said he had never heard of a championship team trying to control what recipients did with their rings.
“It’s a horrible policy,” Goldin said. “What about the 55-year-old staffer who needs to pad their retirement money down the road?”
If an employee is in a financial bind, Green said, “there may be some assistance the organization can provide before it came to selling the ring.”
Back in 2005, when the White Sox won it all, the organization also handed out diamond-studded rings — 432 of them, said White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert.
But the rings didn’t come with strings attached.
“It was viewed as a gift to the employees,” Reifert said.
And the rings — whether for players or staff — were of equal value, Reifert said.
Reifert said he’s heard of a couple of instances of people selling their rings online — including one in 2013, with an asking price of about $25,000.