Perfect storm of demand, destination and popularity could make Super Bowl LIV tickets the most expensive in history

Charles Robinson
NFL columnist

Right about the time San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was picking the last piece of confetti out of his hair and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid was putting a celebratory cheeseburger to bed on Sunday night, the first bellwethers started to flash for Super Bowl LIV tickets.

Inventory across secondary platforms instantly got tighter. The lowest-priced “get in” tickets started burning off — first in pairs, then in foursomes, and eventually, even a few large blocks. By late Sunday night, the underlying message was clear: For the secondary ticket market, early indicators were suggesting Super Bowl LIV was going to carry a monster price tag.

Once early Monday rolled around and brokers had studied inventories and price trends following the Chiefs and 49ers wins, brokerage search engine TicketiQ posted one of the more aggressive outlooks in a daily market update, simply titled: “Are We Headed For First-Ever $10K Super Bowl?”

That eye-popping number — $10,000 per ticket without fees — is referencing overall average of ticket prices, not the “get-in” numbers for the cheapest seats. But even the nosebleeds for Super Bowl LIV have debuted at some jaw-dropping levels. As of Tuesday morning, get-in tickets on many of the large sales platforms were hovering between $4,200-$4,500 for a single ticket. With fees added in, that payout bloats to nearly $5,600-$6,000 per seat. Across all tickets available on the market, the average price is hovering at nearly $8,000 without fees.

“For the $10,000 [average] math, if you look at the last four years of Super Bowl ticket prices, the get-in or cheapest ticket has risen an average of 14 percent between championship and Super Bowl Sunday,” said TicketiQ founder Jesse Lawrence. “From the average price of $8,500 [on Monday], prices would only need to rise 17 percent to break the $10,000 mark. …

“Between the Chiefs’ 50-year drought and the Niners’ high-net worth fan base, a 17 percent price increase is a very conservative target, especially given that the average price jumped 14 percent [Sunday] night alone.”

Of course, Super Bowl LIV is still 12 days away and peak inventory has yet to hit, so there’s no telling where this market could end up.

“We’re one mile into a marathon, buddy,” said one mid-level broker with decades of experiencing in the secondary market. “Things are always overpriced two weeks before the game and I don’t think that much inventory has actually moved at these prices.”

A 50-year Super Bowl drought will likely force some Chiefs fans to drop more than $5,000 on a ticket to the Miami showdown against the 49ers. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

While some NFL teams have begun to release portions of their ticket allotments in lotteries or to fans who already hold season-ticket packages for their respective franchises, the totality of available inventory likely won’t be known until the first few days of Super Bowl week. Some secondary brokers hold back stock this week to keep from flooding the market and driving prices down, while lumps of tickets that leak out through other avenues (like team personnel or others selling them) don’t begin to bleed out until the week of the game. Aside from assuming this Super Bowl will follow historical trends, it may not be possible to fully anticipate where the price of tickets will go until next weekend. Typically, the best read on the market comes in the first few days of game week.

That said, there’s always a chance for some unexpected havoc that could send prices swinging in either direction, from weather to hotel shortages to other unanticipated factors. It’s worth noting that it was only five years ago when prices for Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona spiked into the stratosphere due to reckless over-promising by “pre-sale” brokers. When the glut of tickets never became available to fill orders, it caused a ticket crunch during game week that ended up putting a multitude of speculative brokers out of business. Some were forced to buy up tickets at spiraling prices to fill orders, booking massive financial losses. Less reputable brokers simply closed down entirely, issuing refunds and refusing to deliver tickets to buyers who had already made their trips to Arizona for the game.

Since that debacle, protections have been built into a few of the major ticket broker platforms, helping to cut down on the fly-by-night operations that offer swaths of Super Bowl tickets for sale months early — without knowing what the market will look like when the game arrives. Interestingly, given the state of prices in Super Bowl LIV, such protections will likely save some speculators from losing massive sums of money this year, as the market launches into the priciest territory seen since 2015.

That doesn’t mean that some pre-sellers aren’t sweating the current high level of prices.

“It’s just a matter of what price some people pre-sold tickets at,” the mid-level broker said. “You might be [screwed] if it keeps up. … But after the Arizona Super Bowl, far fewer people can list tickets on the big exchanges without having them. I think the exchanges fixed a lot of that. The guys that ran for the hills in Phoenix probably stayed in the hills.”

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