Bull Case Bear Case: Haaland Rookie, Skywalker Action Figure, Wines of the 2010s, World of Women NFT, and More (Pro Edition)
March 8, 2022
Dylan Dittrich, Bradley Calleja
Welcome to the latest edition of Bull Case Bear Case, with a full slate of offering analysis for our Pro subscribers. As always, the goal is to give investors a clear, balanced view of both sides of the coin. Prepare to tackle the week with confidence!
1978 Kenner Star Wars Luke Skywalker Action Figure (AFA 85)
3/9 @ 12:00PM ET
Early merchandise from a transcendent franchise. Star Wars remains one of the most valuable multimedia franchises in existence, with a value estimated at $70 billion. Beyond the success at the box office, the franchise has generated over $42 billion in merchandise sales. At the genesis of those merchandise sales were the Kenner action figures of the late 1970s. The franchise continues to grow in notoriety and popularity, and is now more frequently in the public consciousness thanks to the ongoing production of series on Disney+, which explore different corners of the Star Wars universe. The continued stream of content has boosted engagement with existing fans, in addition to creating new ones in younger demographics. Of course, Luke Skywalker remains the preeminent Star Wars character, and though the character has passed on (there’s always Force Ghosts), he will likely remain relevant as long as the franchise is.
Incremental Rarity. The Kenner Star Wars figures are among the most well-known and treasured toys in existence. Importantly, Rally’s figure comes from the early days of production: the Star Wars 12 Back-A series. As far as Star Wars collectibles go – and really toys more generally – this is close to as blue chip as it gets. Not only is this figure from the 12 Back-A series, but it’s also the “SKU on Figure Stand” variant, which puts it among the very earliest produced and in rare air. There are 313 standard 12 Back Luke figures that have been graded by AFA; this spans across 12 Back-A, Back-B, and Back-C. There are 158 graded figures of Blonde Haired Luke across those variants. The population report for the “SKU on Figure Stand” variant suggests that just four of those have been graded total (dynamic report). The AFA 85 grade, with 85 grades across all subcategories, should keep this figure in strong standing in years to come. Even among those more common variants detailed above, there are just 12 figures graded higher than 85.
Market data supportive. A number of Star Wars-related items have been offered to fractional shareholders. A 1978 Kenner Obi-Wan action figure was funded swiftly by 642 investors, as was a 1978 Kenner Jawa figure by 210 investors, and a 1979 Millenium Falcon by 298 investors. A Darth Vader figure from the same set IPO’d on Otis in September at a valuation of $11,200 and is since up 124%. Given the rarity and the importance of the character, a bullish investor might like the way this valuation stacks up against Obi Wan (1 of 4 AFA 85s SKU on Figure Stand - offered at $12,000) and Darth Vader (1 of 5 AFA 85 SKU on Figure Stands - currently valued at $25,088). Outside of toys, Star Wars #1, the comic book, is up 495% since IPO on Rally.
Population question marks. The AFA population reports, like many others in the collectibles world, are growing rapidly. For example, for the Blonde Haired Luke, the AFA report states that “168 figures have been added to this model since the population report has been last updated!” The report for the “SKU on Figure Stand” variant states that four have been added since the last update, with zero graded in the static report. The AFA population report alone introduces risk. It appears the report from AFA is under significant development; in its current state, navigation and clarity of understanding are challenges which reduce transparency in the category.
Valuation amongst more coveted figures. The only Luke Skywalker Kenner figures that have sold at or above the level of the offering valuation here are either mint-graded figures or those with double-telescoping lightsabers. The double-telescoping saber was part of the original production, before Kenner ultimately decided the intricacy of manufacturing was both too costly and resource intensive. The population report for such figures shows the same quantity as the “SKU on Figure Stand” variant, with four in the dynamic report, but the difference in manufacturing makes it a more coveted figure, even in lower grades or in Back-C prints. These differentiated figures may continue to command the major headline sales, potentially relegating this figure to the background. Hake’s estimated (conservatively, in their words) that this figure would draw $10,000-20,000 at auction. It came in at the lower end of that range at $14,278. For reference, in the same auction, a double-telescoping Back-A sold for $42,834, which was in slightly better standing versus its estimate range of $35,000-50,000, drawing 14 bids versus 11 for the Rally figure.
Competition from other characters? Though Luke’s standing in the Star Wars franchise is untouchable, one would think the on-screen appearances of Mark Hamill’s Skywalker would indeed be limited from here on out (despite the relatively recent digitally-rendered appearance in The Mandalorian). It is possible that characters more relevant to the next chapter of Star Wars canon may command the spotlight in the months and years ahead - for example, Hake’s is promoting its current auction with a significant emphasis on the timely Boba Fett. Twenty Luke items are up for auction, but they are not amongst the headliners.
Generational talent. Simply put, Erling Haaland is a footballing terminator sent back in time to do one thing: score goals. Standing at 6’4 and frequently ranking amongst the fastest players in the Bundesliga (he has been clocked at 22.4 mph in game), his combination of physical stature and athletic ability is unmatched. At the age of just 21 years old, Haaland has scored 20 Champions League goals (in 24 matches), leading the competition in 2020-21. This season, he has 16 goals in 14 Bundesliga matches. In all competitions professionally, he has notched 119 goals in 141 appearances, and he is actually scoring at a rate of 1.09 goals per 90 minutes. If you’re not a massive follower of soccer, rest assured, these numbers are absolutely absurd. Haaland is frequently coupled with Kylian Mbappe in discussions of who will lead the next generation of superstars as Messi and Ronaldo fade from their peaks.
Big move on the horizon. It’s widely expected that this summer will see Haaland make a move to a larger club. He has sharpened his trade for the last two and a half seasons at Borussia Dortmund, considered the second largest club in Germany’s Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich. Though the quality of football in the Bundesliga is strong, it is not considered to be among the most globally watched leagues in the world. So, whether Haaland moves to Real Madrid, Barcelona, or Manchester City - Spanish La Liga or English Premier League - he will be stepping into a much larger spotlight featuring significantly more global viewership. For reference, El Classico, contested between Barcelona and Real Madrid, is estimated to draw 75-100 million viewers worldwide.
Headline-making cards. Back in June, a Haaland card garnered headlines when his 1/1 Superfractor from this set sold for $432,000. In effect, this helped to solidify the increasingly strong perception of the Topps Chrome Bundesliga card as his key, coveted rookie. This was a more complicated choice than most, as other options include his 2019 Panini Fussball Sticker from his time at RB Salzburg, his 2019 Topps Finest Champions League card, also from Salzburg, and his 2019 Topps Chrome Champions League card at Dortmund. For example, a PSA 10 Base card from the Topps Chrome Bundesliga set carries a population of 974 and most recently sold for $999.99. The Panini Fussball sticker, despite having a population roughly a third the size and being chronologically earlier, last sold for $1672 (keep in mind the total population of Haaland cards, even PSA 10s, in the Topps Chrome set is much larger). The Gold Refractor has a print run of 50, with 11 currently attaining the PSA 10 designation. Haaland cards have seen seven six figure sales at Goldin. That’s three more than Mbappe and Messi combined, and just one less than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Big move poses risk. While the potential of a move to a globally iconic club presents a potential tailwind, the move also poses significant risk. What we know at present is that Haaland at Dortmund is a goalscoring force on par with the very best in the world. But many careers have stalled, been challenged, or sputtered following a big money, high pressure transfer to a club with significant expectations. For example, Jadon Sancho has encountered early struggles following his transfer from Dortmund to Manchester United for over $100 million, which is weighing on his card values; his 2018 Topps Chrome Refractor is down from a peak of $2,900 to just over $400. Even more established players, like Eden Hazard who moved from Chelsea to Real Madrid, have seen their performances plummet under the microscope that comes with hefty transfer fees.
Softening market. The last public sale of this card came in August at Goldin for $46,800, down 31% from its March 2021 peak. More common Haaland cards (base and refractor) are down anywhere from 20-40% since August. While the pain would not likely be as pronounced for a card numbered to 50, which appears much more infrequently, a bearish investor might be more comfortable had the offering been priced closer to Rally’s acquisition price ($36,533). The sourcing fee is $6,917, which is 15.37% of the offering value, bringing the valuation nearly in line with the most recent sale. This month’s PWCC Premier Auction, closing March 19th, will provide several key data points. Haaland’s Orange Refractor, numbered to 25, will sell for the first time since one sold for $73,200, in the same auction that the Gold Refractor sold for $46,800. A BGS 9.5 Gold Refractor will also sell.
No World Cup catalyst as modern gold rush slows. Norway failed to qualify for the World Cup, meaning that Haaland will not be a part of an event widely expected to serve as a catalyst for the soccer card market next winter. With his key cards sitting at the forefront of a modern soccer land grab in 2021, the lack of that catalyst perhaps hurts him more than it would other players. Notably, Haaland’s oft-mentioned generational equal, Kylian Mbappe, will appear in the World Cup for a strong France squad. He recently saw his PSA 9 Champions League Topps Chrome Gold Refractor rookie sell for $28,800 at Goldin, down considerably from the $34,440 paid for a PSA 9 in June. That card carries a PSA 10 population of just 9. His PSA 10 Orange Refractor, numbered to 25 rather than 50, sold for $46,200 at the same auction, in line with the valuation here.
World of Women #2221
3/11 @ 12:00PM ET
Opening the door to half the population. The gender statistics on NFT activity are depressing, but not surprising. A late 2021 report from ArtTactic found that male creators commanded 77% of NFT activity on Nifty Gateway over the last 21 months, with 16% of activity corresponding with artists of unknown gender. While those numbers are actually slightly less male dominant than traditional art at auction and in museums, most spectators of the NFT space would argue that its excessively male-centric, at the creator level, yes, but perhaps more severely at the collector level. A CNBC survey found that twice as many men invested in cryptocurrency and digital assets as women (16% versus 7%). World of Women aims to address this discrepancy. The collection, featuring 10,000 works of diverse women, is intended to celebrate inclusion and equality, with portions of sales proceeds re-invested in cryptoart and donated to causes supporting those themes. Quickly, WoW has become the most notable and frequently cited example of an NFT project seeking to increase female representation in the NFT world. To the extent the project is successful in doing so, it would be a prime target for female dollars entering the space - something that can’t be said of most NFT projects.
Joining prestigious NFTs at auction & in headlines. Earlier this month, WoW took its place amongst the most prestigious and celebrated NFT projects when the project joined the ranks of those that have sold at auction at Christie’s. As a matter of fact, it was included not in an NFT specific sale but among a diverse collection of impressionist, modern, and contemporary masterworks. Not only did a World of Women NFT sell, but it thrived: the 567,000 GBP result exceeded the high end of the 300,000 - 500,000 estimate range. That sale of course made headlines, as did the purchase of a WoW NFT by KPMG, which will guide its corporate clients in NFT strategy. Finally, Billboard announced a partnership with WoW, featuring covers for its Women in Music issue inspired by the project.
What happens when the lights come on? Reese Witherspoon’s media company has partnered with WoW to develop characters into feature films and TV shows. Female celebrities like Eva Longoria and Shonda Rhimes have purchased NFTs and shown support for the project. The project founder is indeed female, and the project has numerous initiatives to support women in NFTs. That stands in contrast to fraudulent art collective, Fame Lady Squad, which was advertised as founded by three women; the founders ultimately were revealed to be male. All of that being said, there is a risk here that the WoW ownership demographic still tilts predominantly towards the male speculator and collector rather than representing a groundswell change in NFT collecting. That it’s frequently noted Gary Vee, Pranksy, and Logan Paul were supporters of the project somewhat underscores that point (...Logan flipped one of his to The Sandbox). If that demographic risk is indeed realized, whether it comes to light through community events or otherwise, does that imperil the female-centric bull tailwind? Even the WoW NFT sold at Christie’s was bought not by a prominent female art collector or celebrity, but by MoonPay, a digital currency payments infrastructure provider. Do corporate purchases like those executed by Moonpay or KPMG, done at least in some measure for marketing, further increase the boom-bust potential for the project overall? Stepping back, when considering any NFT project, one should bear (pun intended) in mind that even those most prominent in the space have been quick to insist that while NFT technology is revolutionary, the vast majority (think ~99%) of current projects will fail or are ultimately worthless. And for some bears, that may be the only argument they need in choosing to pass.
Bought when floor significantly higher. Rally purchased this NFT on February 4th for $25,461. At the time, the floor price for the project was approximately $25k. Today, it sits about 25% lower at $18.5-19k. At an offering valuation of $28,000, near term upside may be limited for shareholders, as the valuation is approximately 50% above the floor price. Rally’s NFT does not feature any of the standout attributes which command markedly above average prices, like Night Goddess, Golden, or Rainbow skin tone, Resting Butterfly facial accessory, Purple Rainbow hair, or Art Lover necklace. Both volume and average sales price are on pace to be significantly lower this month, with just over $2mm in volume to date through 3/7 versus $23mm in total for February.
2010 Decades Collection
3/9 @ 12:00PM ET
Delivering a decade of diversity. Compared to previous offerings, this collection does not carry the highest number of bottles or the longest list of producers. What this collection lacks in volume and estate representation though it makes up for with impressive vintage range. There are five different wines represented and four different production years within this 42-bottle offering. Not only does this collection feature diversity across multiple vintages, but it also delivers wines from top regions. The offering includes vino from the iconic French regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the first-class fields of the Ribera del Duero in Spain. While many of Vint’s IPOs have keyed in on a specific region, this offering spans four estates across two countries to provide an added level of diversity.
Premier producers. Armand Rousseau, Mouton Rothschild, Le Pin, Pingus. Four of the top producers in the world are featured in this offering and this is a great example of the opportunity fractional investing provides. It would be incredibly expensive and time consuming to curate and care for a portfolio of wines with this level of prestige. When investing in fine wine, there is a limited lineup of producers that have demonstrated long-term appreciation and command consistent respect on secondary markets. In Spain, Pingus is rivaled by only a select number of estates such as Vega Sicilia, and in France, the capital of fine wine production, Le Pin, Mouton Rothschild, and Rousseau are considered three of the finest vines in the country.
Fair valuation with upside. The unofficial fair market value of this collection would likely settle around $95,000-$101,000. That does not take into account the insurance and storage of the bottles though, which is a significant value add, especially for wine, which requires cellar storage and temperature control. For a high-level overview, let’s review Le Pin, which makes up 59.2% of the offering. This collection from Vint has 12 bottles and to emphasize just how difficult acquiring a full case of Le Pin is, there were no 12 bottle sales at public auction in 2021. The last three sales for Le Pin were all for 6 bottles and ranged from $3,385 to $5,106 per bottle. The Vint collection values Le Pin on the higher end of that range, with a price per bottle of $4,909, but remember, the Vint valuation is for double the quantity. The price per bottle at auction has also climbed over the last two years as the average in 2020 was $3,394 but rose to $3,755 in 2021. 2016 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques has also experienced a jump in value as as the average price per bottle sold at auction in 2020 was $993, and in 2021, the average was $1,378.
Lack of liquidity. There are still questions surrounding the liquidity process on Vint, which have important implications on potential returns for investors. There is no secondary market currently on the platform so at this time, any liquidity would need to come from an outside buyer. Once Vint has established a consistent process for liquidation, this bearish point might lose relevancy but until then, there is a risk of the unknown. Even if/when Vint builds a secondary market for trading, will that market act rationally? Rally currently has a secondary market where wine is traded and multiple offerings are trading well below their fair market values. Vint might have a more wine-educated investor audience and prices could trade in-line with public markets, but that theory would be nothing more than speculation until proven by an active secondary market.
Will French fine wine sour? The Burgundy within this collection, Domaine Armand Rousseau, Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St Jacques has climbed significantly, 92% to be exact, over the last two years. Public auction results were limited last year though with only 18 total bottles sold, and the secondary/private brokerage market has outpaced other iconic names such as La Tache and Romanee St-Vivant. The fine wine market is ever evolving though and the reasonable expectation is that prices will pullback in the near-term to pace with the overall Burgundy market. On the other hand, Bordeaux stumbled in 2021 compared to other regions and the 10.5% ROI delivered by the Bordeaux 500 Index on Liv-Ex underperformed Burgundy and Champagne which rose 31% and 41.5% respectively. This collection leans heavily into one region, Bordeaux, which has recently underperformed, and into a wine in another region, Burgundy, which has significantly outpaced comparable estates.
External threats to vines in Spain and France. As with any international investment, there are potential perils that stretch beyond the control of the investor. We have recent examples of these threats, one of which is the ever-looming possibility of trade tariffs. In 2020, the United States imposed a 25% tariff on still wines from France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. This resulted in a large-scale rotation into wines from Italy and bubbly from Champagne as the 25% jump in price made purchase from Bordeaux and Burgundy less appealing. Those tariffs have since been suspended, but there are additional threats to the regions that are less politically driven. There are plenty of questions around the impact of global warming and climate change on French wines as production levels have dropped over the last decade and growing cycles have shortened due to earlier temperature peaks. There is likely a short-term benefit to lower production, especially for wine that is already bottled, but the long-term implications of a region forced to modify their production could spell a downturn in valuations as investors shift toward cooler climates.
1978 Topps Rookie Shortstops Paul Molitor/Alan Trammell Card (PSA 10)
3/10 @ 2:30PM ET
Hall of Fame credentials. Molitor and Trammell are two of the greatest infielders to ever play the game of baseball and is not often that two players of their status appear on a single rookie card. Basketball has the best multi-player card with the 1980 Topps Scoring Leaders (Bird/Magic), but when searching for the best multi-player baseball card, the top pieces of cardboard are this Molitor/Trammell and the Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman. One thing that will never be taken away from this card is the fact that it carries two Hall of Famers who played an important role in shaping baseball through the late 20th century. Trammell is a 6x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove Winner, 3x Silver Slugger, and MVP of the 1984 World Series. Molitor, who is listed as a shortstop but played every other infield position in addition to time as a designated hitter, earned 7 All-Star selections, 4 Silver Sluggers, and was MVP of the 1993 World Series.
The top 1%. The TLDR: This card is nearly impossible to find in gem mint condition. It is no secret that some of the late-1970s Topps production runs are marred with poor quality, and one could argue that no card exemplifies those condition issues more than this one. From smudging and surface flaws, to centering issues which are emphasized by the multiple borders, there is a reason why only 29 PSA 10’s exist for a card that has been graded over 7,000 times by PSA alone. The majority of graded examples fall within a PSA 6 through PSA 8, as over 70% of all 1978 Rookie Shortstop cards have received a grade in that range. The recent trend in grading also delivers more good news for this card. In the last year, PSA has graded 528 examples of this card and guess how many received a 10? If you answered ‘none’, you are correct. To date, less than 0.5% of the graded population for this card has earned a gem mint designation and with no new 10’s graded in the last year, the card carries a level of value stabilization that is difficult to find in most late-70s/early 80s production runs.
Stability in a volatile market. This bullish point coincides with the previous two. This is a card of two Hall of Fame players that has a microscopic percentage of equal-graded examples. The card, or the players featured on it, are unlikely to make a headline splash for better or for worse, and the overall value of the card is likely to remain range-bound with limited upside or drawdown. Understandably, in a world that is constantly chasing high-flying returns, the quiet demeanor this card presents might not be attractive. That said, any investor with a well-diversified portfolios knows the importance of combining growth with value. This card does not present a significant growth opportunity but It does offer a history of stable valuations combined with a lower-than-average potential for a price collapse.
Forever under-appreciated. Alan Trammell retired in 1996 but did not make the Hall of Fame until 2018. Paul Molitor had a very impressive career that included over 3,000 hits, but lookup a list of greatest infielders to ever play and you would be hard-pressed to find Molitor on that list. Molitor and Trammel are two of the best infielders to player the game but they are not known well outside of the immediate baseball fan circles. Trammell is without question one of the greatest shortstops to play and combined impressive hitting with flawless fielding but still sat on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot for 13 years before finally receiving justice. The issue for both players is the shadow cast by names like Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith, and Cal Ripken Jr., all of whom played during the same timeframe as Trammell and Molitor.
The unmotivated multi-player market. With only one sale above $50,000, the market for this 1978 multi-player rookie has never really found its footing. It is also worth noting that the $51,101 sale occurred at PWCC last February, during the height of the 2021 sports card bull market, and the example sold carried a PWCC-E designation for its superb eye appeal. Then in May, Heritage sold a different PSA 10 for $28,800, as the market was cooling. While other cards have started to push back toward their early-2021 values, there is no evidence to date that this card has replicated that trend. Unfortunately, that is the one “negative” trade-off for a card with a limited population. Lower graded examples are currently trading between 1.3x - 1.8x below February 2021 prices but those are not reliable comparables, especially for this card which has such an extreme disparity in grading.
Catalyst in question. Remember the third bullish point mentioned above? Well, here is the bearish side of that argument. To say that potential for a catalyst with this card is limited would be an understatement. This is not a card that is going to attract any record-breaking sales, or even strike a hammer price that is worth writing about. Both players are securely in the Hall of Fame and both have been retired for decades at this point. Molitor did manage throughout the 2010s but was fired in 2018 after winning 47% of games coached in four seasons. Trammell also managed but that was almost 20 years ago and after acting as an interim manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014, it seems like he has stepped completely away from the game. The card itself does not offer much potential for a surge in valuation either. The rarity factor is already baked into the price and if anything, the threat of more PSA 10s adding into the population acts as a potential negative catalyst.
1968 Topps Nolan Ryan Milton Bradley Rookie (PSA 9)
3/8 @ 2:30PM ET (Previously Early Access)
Multi-generational, iconic flamethrower. Nolan Ryan’s career spanned the administrations of SEVEN different US Presidents. He struck out SEVEN pairs of fathers and sons - when we use the word multi-generational, we mean it literally. During that long career, Ryan amassed a statistical resume that will be near impossible to rival for decades to come. He ranks first all time in strikeouts, opposing batting average, no-hitters, and hits per nine innings pitched. The strikeout record leaves a more than 800 K gap to second place, Randy Johnson, who played 22 years. Max Scherzer leads all active pitchers and remains about 2700 strikeouts behind at the age of 36. Importantly, Ryan did it all in style, consistently registering 100 mph+ pitches over the course of his career and mixing in a venomous curveball.
Incredibly favorable population. Before even delving into the stats for the Milton Bradley edition, the population numbers for the regular Topps Ryan rookie are impressive. There have been over 13,000 Ryan/Koosman rookie cards graded by PSA - only one has received a PSA 10, and just 66 have received an unqualified PSA 9. But also printed for the 1968 set were cards to be included in the Milton Bradley “Win A Card” trading cards game. These cards bear slight distinctions to the regular Topps set, namely a white strip on the left hand side of the card and a lighter yellow background on the reverse. As they were part of a game, condition was more likely to suffer. Consequently, a little over 450 Ryan cards have been graded by PSA, and just 3 (!) have received a PSA 9, with none higher. Fun note: the rarest version of all is the O-Pee-Chee version of this card; the population features zero PSA 10s an