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If you’re like a lot of wrestling fans, you’ve probably found old WWF or WCW t-shirts lying around while cleaning out your closet or going through old boxes. Before tossing them out, be sure to check their values online.
Vintage wrestling t-shirts – just like old rock, TV, and movie shirts – have become popular with the people who grew up with them, particularly Generation Xers and older Millennials. Some collectors frame them in shadowboxes, and others put them in a flip-through display, similar to the kind posters are sold in at retail stores.
If you’re looking to buy old t-shirts to wear, keep in mind that sizes from the 1980s and 1990s are quite different from today. Many sellers are upfront and will tell you that an extra-large shirt from 1989 is the equivalent of a medium shirt in 2015.
Vince McMahon wasn’t the first person to sell t-shirts of popular wrestlers, but he took merchandising to a whole new level in the 1980s. The majority of the wrestling shirts out there on the secondary market are WWF t’s from 1984 onward.
The WWF sold t-shirts at live events and through merchandise catalogues inserted in WWF Magazine and programs during the 1980s. Many of these shirts have a white tag in the collar with a blue WWF logo; that’s one way to verify a shirt’s authenticity. However, many early-to-mid-1990s shirts do not have a WWF tag.
The most commonly traded shirts on sites like eBay are from the late 1980s and early 1990s. A blue Mr. Perfect t-shirt from 1990 recently sold for $225. A gray t-shirt with an illustration of Hercules swinging his chain fetched $199.99. A pink Bret Hart t-shirt from 1990 ended at $112.50 with 22 bids.
Rare t-shirts from big events are also popular with collectors, especially when they feature pictures of the wrestlers who participated in that event. A t-shirt sold at the 1989 Summerslam event with pictures of Hulk Hogan, Brutus Beefcake, Randy Savage, and Zeus recently sold for $99.
Jim Crockett Promotions didn’t crank out the volume of t-shirts that the WWF did in the 1980s, but the company did sell shirts of top acts like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and the Rock ‘n Roll Express. Many of these shirts had a “Licensed by JCP” logo screen printed on them.
A 1987 shirt of the Four Horsemen – Flair, Lex Luger, Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, and J.J. Dillon – sold for $70 with 18 bids. A blue 1987 Starrcade shirt with pictures of Flair, Rhodes, Luger, Ron Garvin, and the Road Warriors sold for $48.
Early WCW shirts from 1988 to 1990 are rare, but do exist. Unlike the WWF shirts of the day, most of these shirts did not have a logo tag in the collar; they simply had the logo of the t-shirt maker, such as Froot of the Loom.
One of the most notable shirts to sell recently was a 1990 Great American Bash t-shirt. It was at this event that Sting defeated Ric Flair for his first world title. This white t-shirt had illustrations of Sting and Flair and sold for $89.99. A 1990 Capitol Combat crew t-shirt – with pictures of Sting and Robocop – sold for $48 with 12 bids.
WCW’s t-shirt sales took off in the late-1990s, thanks in large part to the black NWO t-shirts. Sean Waltman, a/k/a Syxx, had one of the top selling shirts at the time, which featured the NWO logo on the front and a pool ball with the number 6 on it. Another popular shirt said “Syxx Rules” on the front and “You know it, man” on the back. One of these recently sold for $74.99.
There are still plenty of fans hungry for ECW merchandise, many of whom weren’t even born during the company’s heyday. Many former ECW top stars have shared stories of their role in designing and shipping merchandise, such as Taz and Little Guido.
A “Team Extreme” ECW shirt is a common seller on eBay, usually in the $60-70 range. This shirt has an illustration on the front of New Jack, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and Taz that is similar to the cover of Kiss’s Destroyer album.
A t-shirt commemorating Brian Pillman’s brief venture into ECW in 1996 recently sold for a whopping $200. This shirt has Pillman’s image on the front, along with “Brian F’n Pillman.” The back reads, “The Rogue Horseman Goes Extreme!”
PWTorch Collectibles specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.