For winning hands only

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:48 PM ET

It's not like Miran Armutlu gives a speech before delivering championship rings to some of the biggest names in sports.

However, he does let the players know he's more than willing to take their rings back.

"When we hand out rings, especially in the CFL, I tell guys 'call me if you need money,'" said the Calgarian who is slowly taking over the championship ring business in most major pro sports in North America.

"I just hate to see their rings on eBay."

While the price tag on each ring is a closely-guarded secret, NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball title rings are generally valued between $20,000 and $30,000 by insurance companies.

However, they sell for radically different prices on the internet, which is something that upsets Armutlu.

"It pisses me off but I see it," said Armutlu, a fifth-generation Armenian jeweler who founded and owns Intergold, a 30-year-old Calgary company that operates out of a factory outlet.

"There's a couple ex-CFLers selling them right now. Last year a guy who went to play for the St. Louis Cardinals was selling -- I can't stop them."

But he can offer to provide players' in dire circumstances a chance to get back on their feet before resorting to selling what many would see as one of their most prized possessions.

"I have five or six rings here," he confirmed.

"People call and need money and I've even given them more than what the team paid for them. They know it's here and whenever they come up with the money they'll come back because eventually they're going to want it."

Armutlu is regularly contacted by people around the globe inquiring about the legitimacy of championship rings up for sale on sites ranging from Craigslist and Kijiji to the more reputable Championshiprings.net.

"Collectors are a big market -- there are a lot that get moved around and you don't even hear about it," he said.

"I know one guy who has over 200 rings and he contacts me to see if certain rings are legit."

While many up for grabs are "salesman samples," or from team executives, a 1992 Stampeders Grey Cup ring recently posted on championshiprings.net is listed as being from an unnamed player.

And then there are those whose parting with their rings is not by choice.

"One of the Marlins coaches lost his within 24 hours of getting it -- he was washing his hands at the airport and left it on the counter," said Armutlu.

"That ring never resurfaced on eBay. It happens."

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca


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