They arrive on the doorstep with a resounding thud. Catalogs that make your college textbooks look like elementary school readers. Page after page of sports cards and related goods — from 19th century survivors to freshly minted signed cards of this season’s top rookies. In a world of NFTs, the good old fashioned sports memorabilia auction catalog is alive and well — and bigger than ever.
The most recent arrival on my doorstep was a three-volume set (yes, you read that right) for Heritage Auctions’ Spring sale. Two for cards, and one for game-used jerseys, autographed items and anything else that wasn’t cards. The auction close is spread over three days. This on the heels of Robert Edward Auctions’ massive tome that resulted in about $15 million worth of stuff changing hands in one crazy night. Goldin Auctions’ latest massive event ends this weekend. Other companies are gearing up for their next major auction and some of the larger companies — including the three aforementioned companies — have now started running smaller sales between those larger affairs that happen a few times each year. They all bring in seven figures. The companies have hired extra people to manage the flood of consignments coming in and packages going out.
It means there’s an incredible amount of buying and selling going on in this market, unquestionably more than at any time in the hobby’s history. All of these events — plus everything that here on Loupe, on other consignment venues, on eBay or through social media — are taking place because of demand. If it were demand only from sellers, that might be an issue. But it’s pretty clear there’s demand from buyers too. The amount of new money coming in has resulted in record-setting numbers of bidders participating and record numbers of bids taking place.
“Quite simply, there’s never been a more exciting time to be part of this amazing hobby,” says Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “Every day, more collectors flock to sports cards, and a thing we love as kids clearly remains a passion and pursuit for so many today.”
Collectors who have been pondering whether to sell some or all of their collections or certain cards are deciding the market is ripe to get a result they may have never thought possible. While not every result is a record-setter and prices on some items have dipped, others continue to rise. Either way, most items are selling for far more today than they would have 18-24 months ago.
The good thing is that while big events are happening at a pace that makes it difficult to even get through one catalog before another arrives in the mail or online, you don’t have to buy anything. There’s some great stuff coming up for auction every single week now, it seems, and looking doesn’t cost a nickel.