Published: June 15, 2013
Linda Peterson and her family have witnessed firsthand some of the biggest sporting events in Colorado history.
From the Avalanche hoisting the Stanley Cup to the Rockies' franchise debut to the opening of Invesco Field, they were there. They were in the stands when John Elway exceeded 50,000 passing yards. These occasions left a paper trail in their wake in the form of ticket stubs, proudly displayed in the family's home.
Mementos like these figure to be the next casualty to advancing technology, as electronic tickets (e-tickets), print-at-home options, simply swiping a credit card or a cell phone at the gate allow fans entry to sporting events - or movies, concerts or virtually anything else - with increasing ease and convenience.
Jennifer McGee considers herself to be a ticket stub collector, but as the Air Force ticket manager she's not going to stand in the way of technology.
Under her watch, Air Force has moved further and further from hard tickets to the point where she estimates 80-85 percent of Falcons football tickets are printed at fans' homes.
The advantages of issuing tickets in digital formats stretch beyond savings to teams and venues on printing, materials and postage costs. They also provide the ability to track transactions, since collected data can then able to be used to gain a clearer understanding of the purchasers, which in turn makes marketing campaigns more effective and efficient.
The Falcons work with a company called Paciolan, which trumpets itself as a leader in venue enablement that powers ticketing, fundraising and marketing solutions for more than 500 live entertainment organizations that sell more than 120 million tickets annually.
Paciolan, partnering with Denver-based Strategic Solutions for Business, recently announced a deal to integrate its systems into college athletics programs at Michigan, Michigan State and Texas.
"Paciolan's Ticketing Intelligence system provides our staff with a time-saving reporting tool that assists us in better understanding customer trends and helps inform marketing decisions," said Hunter Lochmann, Michigan's chief marketing officer in a press release announcing the deal with Paciolan. "Additionally, we plan to use this tool to bring together data from multiple disparate databases to have a holistic view of every interaction we've had with Wolverine fans and customers."
The Avalanche and Nuggets use a company called Flash Seats to handle their e-tickets. Flash Seats is based out of Cleveland and markets itself as "The future of ticketing today." It emphasizes the elimination of hassles with lost or stolen tickets, the ability to transfer a ticket up to the last possible moment before entry and, like Paciolan, stresses the ability to monitor a team's market and enhance marketing strategies.
What was once perhaps the most innocent transaction a sports fan could make - handing over cash for a ticket - certainly has taken on an Orwellian feel.
For the most part, ticket stubs that escape the trash or a final resting place under a stadium seat find themselves shuffled into a shoe box or drawer. At best, they might work their way into a scrapbook or a frame on the wall.
On occasion, however, these stubs turn into big business.
There were more than 62,000 active listing for ticket stubs on eBay on June 6, including a full ticket from the 1926 Rose Bowl with an asking price of $18,500. Others, such as a 1869 baseball ticket have sold for more than $25,000.
Want a stub from a Broncos' Super Bowl appearance? It can be yours for anywhere from $99 to $975.
Entrepreneur Dean Macchi has followed the ticket stub market for years as a collector with more than 10,000 stubs - loot that includes tickets from each Super Bowl and is closing in on a stub from each game in which Jerry Rice caught a touchdown.
Ten years ago, Macchi turned his passion into a Boston-based company called That's My Ticket, that specializes in creating wall art out of tickets and ticket stubs.
Macchi said the collectibles market actually saw more ticket stubs available - and thus a market downturn - when the e-ticket trend first became prevalent over the past six or seven years.
The reason is that hard-copy tickets were being sent to season-ticket holders, who would then save their tickets as they instead gained entrance to the games with e-ticket receipts.
"What it ended up doing is putting more of the hard tickets on the market in perfect condition," Macchi said. "Me, personally, I'm a Patriot season-ticket holder. Instead of taking my ticket to go see Tom Brady break another record, I would print out a ticket and leave mine in pristine condition."
Macchi said the market has started to recover as tickets have grown scarce. Both teams in the NBA Finals, Miami and San Antonio, for example, issued no hard-copy tickets this season. The same was true for a number of NHL teams because of the strike, including conference finals teams Boston and Pittsburgh.
The evolution has forced Macchi's business to adapt. Because That's My Ticket is officially licensed by a number of professional leagues and the NCAA, the company is able to produce enlarged replica tickets based on an e-ticket receipt.
The e-ticket themselves have little value from a collectability standpoint.
"These e-tickets, as they stand now, are generic, black and white, very unsexy tickets," Macchi said.
While Macchi believes the convenience of e-tickets will eventually kill hard-copy, quality-stock tickets altogether, he doesn't believe that will be the end of the market for those artifacts.
"I think future generations won't use tickets in the way that most people now know them," Macchi said. "But I do think it will make older tickets significantly more valuable, because those were the true artifacts that were present at historic games. As we get further away from them, people will find them to be more nostalgic. And when collectors find nostalgia, that's harder to find and the price goes up."
David Ritz didn't expect that a preseason Broncos game in 1983 would yield one of his most prized keepsakes.
But on that warm summer evening he saw John Elway run into Mile High Stadium for the first time against the Seattle Seahawks. A legend was born, and Ritz was there to see it.
"The stub takes me back to that night," said Ritz, a fifth-grade teacher at Stetson Elementary School in an email.
Ritz, 44, doesn't consider himself a collector or hoarder, but he has saved stubs from nearly every sporting event he's ever attended "in order to preserve this part of 'my' history."
"I am sure there are a lot of people out there with more 'prized' stubs than me," Ritz added. "But mine mean more to me than anything."
That's the conflict. On one hand, you have the unblinking tide of technology and convenience. On the other a collection of devotees who would cringe at the thought of witnessing a life-changing event with nothing more to save for posterity than a receipt indistinguishable from one you get with a gas station purchase or, even worse, printed on their computer.
It's a battle that has been waged since airlines first started implementing e-tickets in 1994.
And while the outcome won't significantly alter history, it certainly will impact the way we commemorate our history.