With the year-end holidays right around the corner, it's time for the annual Uni Watch Holiday Gift Guide, your best source for cool sports-themed gift items. The ground rules this time around are the same as in the past: If you're looking for your basic jerseys and caps, you won't find those here (you already know where to find those). But if you're searching for unusual products relating to uniforms, team logos, sports equipment, or any other area of athletics aesthetics, you've come to the right place.
As usual, we've tried to compile items from a variety of sports and with a wide range of price points, so you should be able to find something for that special someone on your shopping list (or just for yourself). Ready? Here we go.
Silver and Gold Hockey Coins
Upper Deck, the trading card company, has come out with a line of impressive limited-edition coins featuring 20 past and present NHL stars. There are 5,000 in basic silver, 1,000 in high-relief silver, 500 in frosted silver, and 100 in 24-karat gold. They're being sold as blind packs, so you don't know which kind of coin you'll get. They're not cheap -- one for $100, or four (with a guarantee of getting at least one of the rarer varieties) for $500 -- but they have a satisfying heft and are actually legal tender in the Cook Islands! Check them out here.
College Baseball Throwback Jerseys
For the past generation, Ebbets Field Flannels has been the go-to source for classic baseball jersey reproductions from the minor leagues, Negro Leagues, Latin American leagues, and more. But this year they added a great new category to their portfolio: vintage college baseball jerseys. The designs are gorgeous and the jerseys live up to Ebbets Field's longstanding commitment to quality materials and construction. Check them out here. Use the drop-down menus on each page to see the full range of teams that are available.
Indiana uniform-themed T-shirts
Sometimes a small design detail can pack a big visual punch. Take, for instance, some of the T-shirts offered by an Indiana operation called the Shop (yes, that's the full name). One of their designs uses a few strategically positioned stripes to unmistakably evoke the Indianapolis Colts' jerseys, and another one uses simple color blocking to evoke the Indiana Pacers' old "FloJo" uniforms. Two great examples of uni-themed T-shirts. You can check out the entire shop here.
NBA Throwback Shorts
Anyone can wear an ugly jersey. But it takes real guts to wear ugly, garish basketball shorts. Mitchell & Ness offers a full line of NBA shorts, including some classically so-bad-they're-good designs from the 1990s, when the league kind of lost its mind from a uniform perspective. Do you dare to wear the Raptors' purple design, or the Grizzlies' teal design? You can check out the entire line here.
3-D Stadium and Arena Diagrams
Artist Kaitlyn Murphy has taken the format of the familiar stadium diagram and turned it into a vehicle for striking three-dimensional renderings that look great on the wall. They're available for a variety of NFL, MLB, and college football stadiums, and also for a range of college basketball arenas.
Repurposed Hockey Stick Accessories
If you like the feel of a hockey stick in your hand, there's a guy on Etsy named Matt Tarbutt who totally delivers the goods. He makes all sorts of things from hockey stick handles -- windshield snow brushes, bottle openers, grilling tools, golf brushes, and even toilet plungers. You can check out his full shop here.
"History of American Baseball" Print
An e-commerce site called the Grommet has a series of very handsome prints that chart the history and progression of various American heroes -- firefighters, soldiers, aviators, and, yes, baseball players. The baseball print essentially tells the story of the baseball uniform's evolution from the 1880s to today. It's available framed or unframed.
Baseball Glove Wallets
Old baseball gloves don't die -- they just get repurposed into cool stuff like these one-of-a-kind handcrafted wallets. Most of them have a player's signature, a manufacturer's logo, or both. Check them out here. (And while you're at it, you can see watch bands made from baseball glove leather by scrolling down to the middle of this page.)
Vintage Felt Pennants
If you're a fan of old-school sports pennants, you'll definitely want to check out the Felt Fanatic, a website that provides one-stop shopping for vintage pennants. You'll find classic designs from the major pro and college teams, along with hard-to-find pennants from minor leagues, defunct leagues, and more. Seriously, where else will you find pennants for the Boston Lobsters (that's a 1970s World Team Tennis franchise), the Houston Hurricane (a late-1970s NASL soccer team), and the Birmingham Stallions (of the old USFL)? The full range of offerings is available here.
Race-Used NASCAR Gear
Everyone knows about game-used sports gear. But did you know that there's also race-used NASCAR gear? An eBay shop called the Racing Warehouse offers a good range of fire suits, pit crew attire, and sheet metal car panels. Their full online shop is available here.
Honorable Mentions and Old Favorites
• Fans of Lego and other building bricks will enjoy these sports-themed Brxlz kits.
• Headgear Classics has lots of jerseys based on the teams from old movies and TV shows.
• If you're looking for curling T-shirts -- yes, curling T-shirts! -- here's a good assortment of designs.
• Here's a good new book on the history of cycling jerseys.
• If you want to hang a jersey from your tree, you can do it with these Hallmark jersey ornaments, available for a variety of MLB and NHL teams.
• Designer Louis Chirillo has a cool line of T-shirts devoted to the history of hockey in Seattle.
• If you want a stylish display for your bobbleheads, Bobblehouse Industries has you covered.
• It's one of the immutable rules of life: You can never have enough Tecmo Bowl T-shirts.
• Your go-to source for throwback college football helmets is still Gridiron Memories.
• You can still get beautiful illustrations of old-timey baseball stadiums from Jeff Suntala.
• Bill Henderson's Game Worn Guide to MLB Jerseys remains the essential resource for charting the uniform history of baseball's post-flannel era.
• And your best bet for spectacular one-of-a-kind painted baseball gloves is still Sean Kane.
Paul Lukas humbly suggests that a Uni Watch mini-helmet might also make a fine gift. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.