How sports cards became a multi-million dollar alternative investment

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Sports card collecting is having a moment not seen since the 1970s and 1980s. This year saw sales of sports cards at public auction reach all-time highs. Over ten cards sold for $500,000 or more. Two basketball cards sold for $1.8 million each, a Lebron James rookie card and a Giannis Antetokounmpo rookie card. 2020 also saw a 2009 Mike Trout baseball card sell at auction for a record-breaking $3.84 million.

Packs of 2019 Topps cards spread out across a table.
Sam Rega

Interest in collecting and values have seen a steady uptick for the last decade with prices really starting to rise at quicker rate somewhere around 2016 or 2017. With the onset of the pandemic at the beginning of this year, card collecting reached new heights. Largely driven by those in their 30s and 40s, who collected when they were young, these individuals found themselves at home revisiting their card collections.

Then came ESPN’s release of the Michael Jordan documentary series, “The Last Dance.” Auction houses and eBay saw a surge for Michael Jordan cards and memorabilia followed by an even greater interest in basketball cards and beyond.

“It brought back nostalgia. It brought back memories of the greatness of Michael Jordan and his cards and memorabilia started going up. And in our industry, it is definitely a case where rising tides lifts all boats,” Ken Goldin, founder and CEO of Goldin Auctions, told CNBC.

A 15-card pack of 2019-2020 Panini Chronicles basketball cards.
Sam Rega

With sports cards growing in value, many collectors are amassing collections of high value as part of a diversified investment portfolio. What separates this era from the previous is the recognition that these cards are a legitimate alternative asset. A Silicon Valley startup, Alt, founded by Leore Avidar, aims to bring clarity and security to alternative assets, specifically sports cards.

Collectors and investors see a bright future for sports cards. Card companies are well aware of their past mistakes and collectors have more information than ever before. If growth continues, Leore Avidar believes records will continue to be broken.

“I will say, we will see our first ten million dollar card in the next two years,” says Avidar.

Watch the video above to find out why sports cards are a popular alternative asset.

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