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A Five-Year History of the Super Bowl Ticket Racket

Welcome to the scalper playoffs.

 

Most Super Bowl tickets go either to people with ties to the NFL and its sponsors or to the eternally connected (celebrities, dignitaries, CEOs). The rest of us have to hit the secondary market—and that means a hefty markup. According to a worker inside one team office, the face value of a standard ticket this year ranges from $850 to $1,800. That’s a total bargain, considering that the average price of a ticket sold on ticket reseller StubHub so far is more than $5,400. In late December, prices were floating nearly $1,300 above the average ticket price for last year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix, before the Panthers and Broncos had even won their championships. No way that was all Beyoncé (or, ahem, Coldplay). Two weeks out, Super Bowl 50 is shaping up to give scalpers a big windfall—though prices could dip at any time, and they tend to fall as game day approaches. To tease out the economics of NFL ticket scalping, we ranked the past five years’ Super Bowls by final ticket price.

Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara (2016)
Matchup: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Average ticket price: $5,461 
Follow the money: Big tourist destinations push the price up, especially when they rarely host the Super Bowl, says Cameron Papp, communications manager at StubHub. “Right now the average ticket price is really high compared with every other Super Bowl except New York’s,” he says. Papp sees similar dynamics in New York and San Francisco, he adds, because each city is “a large market, a destination, full of people with deep pockets.”

Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix (2015)
Matchup: New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
Final average ticket price: $4,222
Follow the money: Last year was an exception, because the price kept on climbing right up to the day of the game, to a record-shattering $10,466.11, according to TiqIQ.com. A shortage of tickets buoyed the price, says Papp, as did some 11th-hour ticket grabs from Seattle fans who took advantage of the relatively easy trip to Arizona.

Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis (2012)
Matchup: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
Final average ticket price: $3,040
Follow the money: Not being an enormous winter tourist draw, Indianapolis prices “were initially not that high,” says Papp. “But the game ended up being a dream matchup—a rematch of Super Bowl XLII with Tom Brady versus the Giants.”  

Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans (2013)
Matchup: San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens 
Final average ticket price: $2,524
Follow the money: The host city wasn’t a particular draw because the Big Easy seems to host practically every other year. Plus, says Papp, the location was “a little bit of a travel” for both teams’ fans.

Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey (2014)
Matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos 
Final average ticket price: $2,516
Follow the money: For the New York area’s first-ever Super Bowl, prices were astronomical out of the gate, surpassing $5,700 by mid-December. Sellers perhaps got a bit greedy in their attempt to fleece well-off New Yorkers: “Initially the prices were too high,” says Papp, “and then buyers started getting scared off.” The prospect of a snowstorm made prospective attendees still more skittish, sending prices down to $937 two days before the game. 

 

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