Super Bowl week is upon us once again. I'd like to kick off the week here at The Sports Economist with a few observations about Super Bowl ticket prices. Alan Kreuger wrote a nice piece on the topic a few years ago that lays out a number of interesting economic arguments about the price that the NFL charges for Super Bowl tickets. The NFL Commissioner's Office and a group of team owners set the prices for Super Bowl tickets. I am not sure if all tickets to the game have the same face value, but I suspect not, since I saw two different Super Bowl XXXIX stubs on sale on eBay for two different prices ($400 and $500). I treated the price of Super Bowl XXXIX tickets as $500 in the graph below. As Kreuger points out, the prices are set well below market value, based on scalper's prices.
I dug around eBay and the NFL Super Bowl web site to find the face values of Super Bowl tickets since Super Bowl I, and then deflated these prices to express them in 2005 dollars.
Super Bowl I tickets had a face value of $10, quite a bargain at $58.47 in today's prices. Until the mid-1980s, real Super Bowl ticket prices were below $100. After about 1985, someone must have realized that there were rents to be captured even while maintaining the appearance of "fairness" in pricing the tickets. Super Bowl ticket prices have been steadily climbing in real terms since then.
Super Bowl XL tickets have a face value of $600. A glance over on eBay shows that tickets on the secondary market are currently going for around $2,000-$3,000 each. Ford Field's listed capacity is 65,000, so if the NFL had priced the tickets at $2,500 each, they would have earned an additional $123,500,000 in revenues on ticket sales. Of course, as Kreuger points out, there are any number of economic theories that explain why the NFL would price Super Bowl tickets below market value, but that's still a chunk of change left on the table.