Colin Kaepernick's stock is skyrocketing in the National Football League - and he's moving the needle on sales of San Francisco 49ers team jerseys and memorabilia as a result.
Kaepernick, the 49ers' second-year quarterback who led the University of Nevada, Reno, football team to one of its best seasons ever in 2010, proved his mettle in the NFL with several big wins - including a thrilling win over the New England Patriots in a nationally televised game barely more than a week ago.
Sales of his No. 7 team jersey increased 4,000 percent since he was named a starter, says Josh Feinstein, director of consumer products for the National Football League.
In the past three weeks, Kaepernick's jersey has been the hottest-selling 49ers item, outpacing sales of jerseys from well-known teammates such as linebackers Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis and venerable running back Frank Gore.
"We have certainly seen an incredible growth based on demand from fans, and his performance on the field lends to that," Feinstein says.
Fourteen percent of total sales of Kaepernick jerseys are from customers in Nevada, Feinstein says, while another 49 percent are from 49ers fans in California. The league has sold "Kap" jerseys to 49ers fans in Italy, Australia, Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska. The NFL tracks sales metrics through its official Web site, nflshop.com.
"It is really across the globe we are seen orders coming in," Feinstein says. "That is a credit to the 49ers fans that are all over place."
Posts on eBay give an idea of the increasing value for Kap memorabilia: a limited-edition autographed Topps rookie card is listed for $7,000 (no word on any bidders). More than 1,700 Kaepernick-related items on eBay range in price from a few cents to several thousand dollars.
Sports and memorabilia shops in the Truckee Meadows also are enjoying increased sales of Kaepernick items - when they can get them.
Keith Lembi, store manager and buyer for Pro Image Reno at the Grand Sierra Resort, just secured a shipment of youth "replica" jerseys. The authentic team jersey that's identical to one Kaepernick wears on the field isn't in full production by Nike, Lembi says - at least not yet. Nike hedges on making production runs of player jerseys, Lembi says, because it doesn't want to get stuck with thousands of useless jerseys. (Anyone need a Terrell Owens Cincinnati Bengals uniform?)
"You have to meet certain minimums to get it made," Lembi says. "It's 144 units just to buy, and that is a big minimum. Twelve (jerseys) is one thing - 144 is a whole different animal."
Pro Image sells replica jerseys for $125, and the authentic model retails for $250.
Lembi has seen a boost in sales of Kaepernick's player T-shirt, which retails for $32.
"Since Kaepernick is a local boy sales are picking up, but everyone wants the better stuff and it is just not offered," Lembi says.
Don Johnson, owner of Home Team Sports Collectibles in the Moana West Shopping Center, says framed and autographed Kaepernick cards are running in the $30 to $40 range.
The cost to replenish stock of Kaepernick items continues to rise, Johnson says. He usually picks up Kaepernick collectibles from memorabilia shows, though he sometimes swaps merchandise with acquaintances who operate stores on the East Coast and have other needs.
"He has always been somewhat popular, but now that he is actually in there quarterbacking and winning, people are coming in looking for jerseys," Johnson says. "There is a great demand for that stuff and the right now the demand is greater than the supply."
Dave Gunther, owner of Action Sportscards and Coins, says even base-level Kaepernick cards are hard to secure. He had 25 to 30 Kaepernick rookie cards, but he sold out in February and hasn't had any luck restocking.
"The only way to get them is eBay, and they cost more than they are worth," Gunther says. "Once you buy them and add shipping, it makes it where you can't afford to resell."
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