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News & Trends

Timely news and analysis to keep your finger on the day-to-day pulse of collectible markets
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Vintage Football Jerseys: A Collector's Golden Goal?
May 22, 2024

Vintage Football Jerseys: A Collector's Golden Goal?

By 
Dylan Dittrich
The Chernin Group recently invested $38.5 million in Classic Football Shirts. We examine the growing market of vintage football shirts, including what drives values and how the market might grow in the future.
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Eventful Developments in Overlooked Event Memorabilia
Asset Class Insights

Eventful Developments in Overlooked Event Memorabilia

This is the latest edition of a multi-part blog series produced in partnership with The Realest on the key events and factors shaping the music memorabilia market. The Realest is the first dedicated authentication standard and marketplace for entertainment memorabilia.

“A shoe is just a shoe until my son steps into it.” That line, improvised by Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan in AIR, is probably the most memorable one in the film. It’s also an incredibly astute characterization of the memorabilia market both at the time and even more so today. 

While exciting assets like jerseys and sneakers went unmonetized via formal channels for years, today’s sports memorabilia market sees those items brought to market via formalized programs, as leagues and teams alike have recognized the untapped source of value. Until very recently, though, the mundane class of items - those that, at most, might have been fodder for unassuming ballboys, equipment managers, and locker room attendants - was scarcely even called memorabilia. But that’s all changing. Those overlooked items are now a burgeoning target for bidding.

“A chair is just a chair until someone sits in it.”

“A towel is just a towel until it wipes someone’s sweat.”

“A net is just a net until someone’s shot passes through it.”

Today, leagues, teams, and players are better equipped (pun intended) to engage fans who are eager to own a piece of the moment, whatever shape that may take. Few athletes have commanded the recent moment in sports better than Caitlyn Clark. The Iowa Hawkeyes hooper captivated the nation and propelled women’s college basketball to unprecedented heights in viewership through the team’s postseason run, culminating in an NCAA Tournament Final loss to South Carolina. At the beginning of that postseason run, Iowa won the Big Ten Tournament, for the third successive year thanks to Clark’s third successive Tournament MVP effort.  

In the past, the paraphernalia from such events - the chairs, towels, nets, and signage - were effectively lost to the world, or at least their connection to the games and those who played in them was. Some well-connected fans might’ve walked away with keepsakes from time to time, but those not fortunate enough to be on-site often lacked the opportunity to acquire those items, at least with any notable and verifiable provenance. This time around, though, those opportunities were plentiful and their authenticity was assured, as The Realest partnered with the Big Ten to offer witness-based authentication and auctioning of an assortment of tournament items. 

Among those items: “Game-Used Player Chair (Used by Iowa WBB #22 for Pre-Game Introductions).” We’ll allow you to guess or perhaps Google who might’ve worn #22 for Iowa. The chair featured The Realest’s gold hologram, meaning use by the athlete is guaranteed thanks to the presence of a TRuEST Authenticator who doesn’t let the item leave their line of sight from usage to collection to sale. It turns out that the market quite appreciated this offering. It received a staggering 45 bids to reach a $3,722 final price. 

A seat used by #22 before the start of the game amassed 44 bids to sell for $2,505, while a seat used near the end of the second quarter drew 42 bids tallying $2,750. To put the results in context, the most expensive sports chairs ever sold at Goldin and Heritage were $3,840 and $3,383 respectively. A mere piece of the net from the same game similarly saw 41 bids battle to a $560 result. These prices, and perhaps more the competition to achieve them, are significant validation of the value proposition for witness-based authentication, particularly for those items that might be outside of the scope of a traditional photomatch. Similarly, for leagues and teams, the appetite from fans to collect previously overlooked items should serve as a jolting wake-up call.

In fact, Iowa’s rival in the NCAA Final, the South Carolina Gamecocks, recognized the value in the very court on which they won the championship. The university purchased the center-court logo and other parts of the court for approximately $86,000. While the school will keep the logo for display, other panels will be sold via Artsman, a company that specializes in crafting memorabilia from flooring and other items that would fall in the previously overlooked bucket.

The NBA has long embraced the value of game-worn memorabilia, led by jerseys. Recent events hosted by Sotheby’s as part of the NBA Auctions partnership demonstrate increased acknowledgment that fans covet other items as well. Via All-Star Weekend events, the league took the opportunity to bring the locker room nameplates of All-Stars and Rising Stars to auction. The nameplates were photomatched by MeiGray as part of the existing program. Continuing the rookie’s white-hot streak on the block, Victor Wembanyama’s nameplate sold for $12,700 against an estimate of $2,000 - $4,000. While most of the players didn’t perform to those heights, the nameplate lots still achieved $29,464 in total sales. That amount of revenue changes very little for the league, but it came from 25 throwaway items that otherwise would’ve added no value. 

One item that might have been overlooked in a different era until its story was muddied and lost to time was the rim on which LeBron James broke the all-time scoring record. With 100% of net proceeds going to The Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation via MeiGray, it sold for $152,400. While it may be fair to consider nearly $30k in revenue to be de minimis for the NBA, most would agree the opportunity to direct $120,000 to charity is an exceedingly worthwhile pursuit. That’s the kind of door that organizations can now open by bringing previously overlooked memorabilia to market via more formalized channels. It may take time for the value of those items to find their appropriate level, and the consistent introduction of new supply may weigh on that value, but done via the right channels with the right authentication, win-win opportunities abound nonetheless. 

The world can continue to let chairs be chairs and towels be towels, and that’s fine. But fans and collectors love storytelling, and memorabilia of various kinds, accompanied by verifiable provenance, can provide the perfect vehicle for it.

Enjoyed this article? Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more like it in your inbox weekly!

Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

Auction Action: REA Spring 2024 Preview (Part 3)
Auctions

Auction Action: REA Spring 2024 Preview (Part 3)

REA’s first major auction event of 2024, the Spring 2024 event, closes this Sunday, offering a formidable assortment of vintage and modern card grails, as well as some unique memorabilia pieces. In partnership with REA, we’ll be previewing the action throughout the week to highlight some eye-catching lots with insightful market context. On Monday, we learned about some vintage baseball grails. On Wednesday, we took a deeper look at the game-worn market and the market for early Jordan sneakers. Today, we wrap it up with some unique card lots and consider the allure of sealed packs and set collecting.

Lot # 14: 1969-1970 Topps Basketball Complete Set (99): #4 PSA Set Registry (8.77 GPA)

Photo: REA

After more than a decade in hiatus beginning in 1957, Topps returned basketball cards to the collecting forefront with its 1969-1970 set. The set brought striking and colorful issues for the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Lew Alcindor, John Havlicek, and Walt Frazier to collectors, with the latter three representing rookie cards. Given the void in releases, the memorable nature of the set’s design, and the stars featured, 1969-70 Topps has become one of the more cherished sets in basketball card history. In fact, it sits behind only 1986 Fleer and 1986 Fleer Stickers on the PSA Set Registry in terms of number of sets tracked. Put differently, only the power of rookie Michael Jordan proves superior in desirability.

Recent results for offerings from the set further emphasize that desirability. Take, for instance, a full, uncut sheet of all the cards in 1969-70 Topps. That work of art sold at Heritage earlier this year for $216,000. Or, there’s a set with a GPA of 9.01 that was ranked #6 on the registry at the time of sale in May of 2023; it sold for $174,000. While many have tried and successfully completed sets, doing so in high grades or otherwise desirable condition is a vastly more difficult task, and the market rewards the achievement in kind.

Of the 197 sets PSA counts on its registry, this example offered at REA currently ranks number 4, with a grade point average of 8.77. With that GPA, the set boasts a considerable number of cards that grade a PSA 9, and the infrequency with which some of those cards change hands says much about their rarity. A PSA 9 Jerry West, for example, hasn’t sold since January of 2021. A PSA 9 Oscar Robertson hasn’t sold since June of 2022. Nate Thurmond’s rookie in that grade last sold in February of 2022. There are countless, similar examples that aren’t exactly the types of cards you can pick up monthly in 2024. 

While the set that sold for $174,000 in May 2023 may have offered a slightly higher GPA, the set at REA makes up for that shortcoming with a number of key cards in higher grades. While both sets land the most important Alcindor and Chamberlain cards in PSA 8 grades, the REA offers Oscar Robertson and Bill Bradley cards in a PSA 9 instead of a PSA 8 and an Elgin Baylor in a PSA 8.5 instead of a PSA 8. The difference between a PSA 8 and a PSA 9 can amount to several thousand dollars. Let’s use Earl Monroe’s card as an example; while he’s represented in PSA 9 format in both sets, his PSA 9 and PSA 8 cards both have relatively recent sales. In September of 2023, his PSA 9 sold for $10,010, while his PSA 8 recorded two sales that same month for $510 and $585 respectively. 

In other words, GPA - while a very helpful tool in evaluating sets - may not tell the whole story, particularly when differences in score are relatively minor. The composition of the set is similarly important, and the composition here is quite strong, pushing the bidding to $174,000 with buyer’s premium before the weekend even begins. Now we wait to see if the power of top tier set collecting will once again demonstrate its might.

Lot # 2207: 1954-1955 Topps Hockey Unopened Five-Cent Wax Pack PSA EX-MT 6

Photo: REA

Released during the prime of the "Original Six" era, the 1954 Topps Hockey set represented the entry of the biggest name in trading cards into a sport that was gaining increasing popularity in the United States.

With the National Hockey League confined to only six professional teams, the 1950s were defined by bitter rivalries, Canadian dynasties, and an uptick in star-power on the ice. The 1940s belonged to Toronto, as the Maple Leafs won five titles throughout the decade. Then, it was the Detroit Red Wings, powered by a lineup laden with hall-of-fame icons, who would win four championships between 1949-1955. In the latter-half of the ‘50s, the torch was passed to Montreal, who secured five consecutive titles while winning 57% of their games between 1955 and 1960.

The legends who built the NHL into a thriving 32-team league can be found within the iconic 1954 Topps set. 

Something that you won’t find: Any card from that set in a gem mint grade.

The hockey card market debuted in the early 1900s with the introduction of tobacco cards like the C55 set, but it wasn’t until O-Pee-Chee and Parkhurst produced their first hockey sets in the 1940s and ‘50s that hockey cards were manufactured and distributed at scale. 

Spurred by their early success within the baseball card market, Topps entered the industry of hockey cards with this set in 1954. With vibrant colors and intricate illustrations, the 1954 Topps set was loaded with legends. Known simply as “Mr. Hockey”, Gordie Howe had already transformed Detroit into a dynasty, and today, prices for his cards reflect his influence on the game. His teammate, goalie Terry Sawchuk, stymied opponents during Detroit’s reign of dominance and also made his Topps debut within the 1954 printing. 

The set wasn’t released without controversy. Any astute hockey collector might notice that despite printing a hockey set in 1954-55, Topps took time off before returning to the sport in 1957. This wasn’t by accident or oversight but, instead, was due to a lawsuit filed by the NHL against Topps due to the 1954-55 edition. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the cards found within the set, as they carry the name, image, and likeness of all players featured in addition to the actual team logos, but Topps didn’t carry a license with the league. This legal breach and lack of permission led the NHL to sue Topps and halt any production until an agreement was reached and the trading card company restarted its hockey card operations two years later.

Robert Edward Auctions has been a leader within the Topps hockey market. According to our data, REA has sold more than $1.7 million in Topps hockey cards over the past five years with more than $300,000 coming by way of sealed wax and unopened case sales. The pack presented by REA is graded PSA 6, one of the highest graded five-cent specimens in existence. Just as the 1954 set was the first appearance of Topps within the hockey card market, this pack is the first unopened example ever offered by REA. This hockey history has already attracted more than two dozen bids and surpassed $20,000 with just days remaining in the auction.

Lot # 19: 2017 Panini National Treasures Football #161 Patrick Mahomes II Rookie Patch Autograph Green #3/15 BGS MINT 9 with GEM MINT 10 Signature

Photo: REA

The modern NFL collectibles market is dominated by two names: Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

Considering 8 of the last 10 Super Bowls featured at least one of those two superstar quarterbacks, their control over the card market is fitting.

The premier card for Mahomes is the 2017 Panini National Treasures rookie patch auto (RPA), which comes in multiple variations including gold, holo, and green. Each variation provides a source of forced scarcity as the print runs are limited and, in turn, create an active market as collectors clamor for an opportunity to own one of these prized football collectibles.

The market for Mahomes reached a crescendo in 2021 with more than $23 million worth of cards and memorabilia sold including a $1.1 million sale of a BGS 9.5 graded Holo Gold RPA. In addition to the million-dollar result, 38 six-figure sales combined to contribute more than $11 million to the annualized total.. The market receded slightly in 2022 with $22 million in sales before really hitting the breaks in 2023, as the combined auction sales across all major houses tracked by Altan Insights settled below $12 million. 

With little momentum heading into 2024, collectors of Mahomes memorabilia had to be impressed by the results in the first quarter. For starters, there was a National Treasures Red RPA that sold for $330,755, surpassing any sale at auction in all of 2023. The Mahomes market also saw a sports memorabilia record established by way of a game-worn jersey. Heading into the new year, the auction record for game worn Mahomes memorabilia was just above $50,000. There were two sales in Q1 that exceeded any previous result as a pair of photomatched cleats sold for $71,980 and a game-worn jersey realized a record-setting $213,500.

Since 2019, Robert Edward Auctions has sold more than 60 Patrick Mahomes cards and collectibles with a top sale of $60,000. That sale was for the same 2017 National Treasures Green RPA that is up for auction this week with bids already pushing above 50% of the previous sale price. The card is graded BGS 9 with gem mint corners and mint centering. The tri-color patch showcases the unmistakable red, yellow, and white color scheme that has adorned the uniforms of the team since the 1960s, when the franchise was headquartered in Texas. Completing the card is the penmanship of Mahomes in blue marker that earned a gem mint 10 from Beckett. 

In February, Mahomes secured his third Super Bowl title in five years as the Chiefs officially entered the dynasty conversation. In 1Q24, collectors took notice with record-setting sales and a positive turn for five and six-figure Mahomes cards. During that same quarter, total sales for comparable active quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, and Lamar Jackson declined as the market made a statement. No current star QB can compete with Mahomes on the field, and we’re witnessing a similar trend on the auction block.

The REA Spring 2024 auction, featuring all the items we've previewed this week, closes this Sunday (4/21) at 9PM.

Enjoyed this article? Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more like it in your inbox weekly!

Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

Auction Action: REA Spring 2024 Preview - Take Flight with the Air Ship
Auctions

Auction Action: REA Spring 2024 Preview - Take Flight with the Air Ship

REA’s first major auction event of 2024, the Spring 2024 auction, closes this Sunday, offering a formidable assortment of vintage and modern card grails, as well as some unique memorabilia pieces. In partnership with REA, we’ll be previewing the action throughout the week to highlight some eye-catching lots with insightful market context. If you missed Part 1, we covered some incredible vintage baseball grails. Read it here. Today, we resume our series, this time focusing on a game-worn primer before some major sneakers and jerseys come to the block.

The market for game-worn and game-used memorabilia has grown significantly over the past few years. Consider these statistics from our reports on the Sports Collectibles Market:

  • The number of six-figure game-used sales at auction increased by 46% in 2022 and then a further 4% in 2023. 2023’s total was 51% higher than 2021’s.
  • The top 50 game-used sales at auction produced a total in 2022 that was 105% higher than it was in 2021. 2023 produced a further 4% increase from 2022, improving on 2021’s total by 115%.

These statistics are impressive, but they become more remarkable when you consider that sports cards (particularly modern cards) have decreased dramatically in both values and sales volumes over the same period. While the category that led the sports collectibles boom in late 2020 and late 2021 has succumbed to market weakness, the high end of the game-used market has taken to new heights with startling regularity, producing auction results that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Eight of the top ten sports memorabilia auction sales of all time have come in 2022 and 2023. The record books have quite literally been rewritten and then rewritten again.

One of the earlier signals of a surge in game-used interest came in October 2021, as the Michael Jordan nostalgia wave rolled through Sotheby’s, bringing with it the Nike Air Ships believed to be his earliest known sneakers worn in the NBA regular season. Before his debut signature sneaker, the Air Jordan 1, was ready for primetime, Jordan wore the Air Ship in his earliest days as a Chicago Bull. This particular pair dated to his fifth game, with provenance to a Denver Nuggets ball boy. The signed pair was estimated to sell for $1,000,000 to $1,500,000, and the result didn’t disappoint. The sneakers sold for $1,472,000, establishing a record at the time for any pair of sneakers sold at auction. 

To put the result in context, it more than doubled the prior record of $615,000, held jointly by two pairs of Jordan-worn Air Jordan 1s. While the appearance of Air Jordan 1s at auction is relatively common, with more than a few available at auction annually, worn Air Ships are seen much less frequently. Prior to that Sotheby’s result, we count only two appearances. 

A signed pair with ball boy provenance from a December 2nd, 1984 game against the Lakers sold for $71,554 at SCP Auctions in 2015. That pair featured “Nike Air” on the back of the shoes, a sign that they may be a slightly later and more common iteration than the $1,472,000 pair, which features only "Air" printed on the back. Still, the ~$1.4 million difference in price says much about the elevation of the market since 2015. Another pair, similar to the one sold at SCP, was included in a Christie’s event in 2020 with an estimate of $350,000 - $550,000 but ultimately did not sell, perhaps arriving just a shade too early for the game-used boom.

In what’s a bit of an oddity for such a premier pair, the record-breaking Air Ships returned to auction in September of 2023 at Goldin. Though they highlighted the Sotheby’s auction, this time they fought for the spotlight with other top lots, reaching only $624,000. While it’s a significant cut from 2021, it still would’ve been sufficient to set a sneaker record back in 2021. 

Today, the auction record for a single pair of sneakers stands at $2,238,000, set in November 2023 by a pair of Jordan 13s worn in Game 2 of the 1998 “Last Dance” NBA Finals. The record for any sneakers belongs to a collection - The Dynasty Collection - comprised of one sneaker from each of Jordan’s title-clinching performances. That collection sold for $8,032,800 earlier this year. For another piece of context on the market’s rise: in June of 2023, the sneakers worn in Michael Jordan’s famous “Flu Game” sold for $1,380,000 after selling for just $104,765 back in 2013. What a difference ten years can make.

Photo: REA

REA will test the market for those early, Jordan-worn Air Ships this weekend, as the house brings a Hobby-fresh example to the auction block. Like those before it, this signed pair has provenance to a ball boy, but this time it’s direct provenance, as the consignor was the very person to collect the sneakers from Jordan when he served as a ball boy for the Pistons. The Bulls played away to the Pistons on November 7th and December 12th of 1984, meaning Jordan wore these sneakers in either his 6th or 24th game. The 6th game directly followed the game in which he wore the $1.5 million sneakers, and since he gave that “Air” pair away after the 5th game, he possibly began wearing this “Nike Air” pair the next time he took the court. By December 12th, he had begun wearing the Air Jordan 1 on occasion, though it was not yet a permanent fixture. The sneakers are accompanied by a wealth of material from the consignor demonstrating his position as a ball boy.

As it turns out, that ball boy made a frequent habit of asking players for their sneakers. And he was often successful. Also included in the REA event are signed pairs from Isiah Thomas and Dominique Wilkins, as well as a pair from Robert Parish. Thomas and Wilkins pairs have generally taken to low four-figure territory when they appear at auction. There’s a lot containing a further 18 pairs (17 of them signed) from a variety of players including Sidney Moncrief and Bill Cartwright. The collection is a veritable museum of 1980s basketball models, with Nike, Adidas, Converse, and even Pony all represented. 

Photo REA

The game-worn material isn’t limited to sneakers, though, as game-worn baseball material will also come to the block this weekend. A 1968 Al Kaline uniform, worn in a championship season for the Tigers, is up for sale. The uniform has provenance to Tigers scout Bob Prentice, and SGC assigns it an “Excellent” grade despite post-Kaline wear by Prentice; the “Excellent” criteria states “there can be no doubt about the attribution of the use and wear to the single player in question.” A jersey from the championship clincher in the same season with photographer provenance sold for $47,800 in 2015, and Kaline-worn material continues to reside comfortably in the same low-to-mid-five-figure range depending on provenance and authentication.

Kaline is no doubt an all-time great, boasting 18 All-Star selections, but more contemporary stars are represented in the event as well. A Chipper Jones rookie uniform features in the Spring 2024 auction. The uniform boasts heavy wear from that '95 rookie season that ultimately saw the Braves win the World Series. It's graded A10 by MEARS and inscribed by Jones, headlining an assortment of three Jones-worn jerseys in the event. REA previously sold a 2005 Jones jersey for $2,040, while a home jersey from the same 1995 season sold at Goldin this fall for $4,880. The full uniform, though, could be the most desirable of them all.

With the background out of the way, now we wait to see if game-worn lots can again inspire spirited bidding as they find new homes at REA this weekend.

Stay tuned for the next edition of our preview - on Friday, we'll take a look at some of the more fascinating card assets in the REA event, including a look .

Enjoyed this article? Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more like it in your inbox weekly!

Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

Auction Action: REA Spring 2024 Preview (Part 1)
Auctions

Auction Action: REA Spring 2024 Preview (Part 1)

REA’s first major auction event of 2024, the Spring 2024 event, closes this Sunday, offering a formidable assortment of vintage and modern card grails, as well as some unique memorabilia pieces. In partnership with REA, we’ll be previewing the action throughout the week to highlight some eye-catching lots with insightful market context. Today, we kick it off with a look at three unique, vintage baseball lots that will no doubt capture collectors’ attention.

Lot # 5: Signed 1933 R319 Goudey #92 Lou Gehrig PSA/DNA MINT 9 - Highest Graded!

Photo: REA

While Lou Gehrig’s playing career and statistics are often compared to other mid-twentieth century New York legends like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, one area where the three are incomparable can be found through the rarity of their autographs. While Mantle and Ruth signed well after their playing days were over, Gehrig’s early passing means that anything bearing his signature came from his playing days.

The rarity and history behind Gehrig’s signature have led to not only consistent appreciation on a value basis but have also made his autograph one of the most forged. This has led authenticators to offer an additional level of scrutiny to any Gehrig auto that comes across their desk and in turn, leads to a significant number of rejections by agencies like PSA, Beckett, and JSA.

It’s known that examples of Gehrig’s autograph, when signed in a more relaxed setting such as on a check or legal document, feature ‘Lou’ and ‘Gehrig’ separated by a distinct space. This Goudey card carries a Gehrig auto known as his “ballpark signature”. In layman's terms, the “Lou” and “Gehrig” are connected, something found on specimens that were signed at a baseball game, presumably when Gehrig was rushed or surrounded by a throng of young fans.

The signature displayed on this card was granted an impressive grade of PSA/DNA 9 and it’s easy to see why. For an on-card-autograph enthusiast, the placement couldn’t be better. With the pen ink angled across the center of the card, it creates a visually appealing effect that almost gives the impression that it’s a facsimile. The autograph itself features a defined outward-facing point on the “L”, something commonly missed by forgers, and also nearly perfectly matches the loop height of both the L and G. One could say that you would be hard-pressed to find a better Gehrig auto on a 1933 Goudey, but thanks to the PSA database, we know that none exist. Not only is the autograph graded by PSA, but it comes with additional papers from JSA to provide a level of authenticity that is rare even for a signature that is so commonly faked.

The 1933 Goudey set combined the golden era of pre-war baseball with the newfound hobby of card collecting. The 1930s marked the sunsetting of tobacco cards and the dawn of the chewing gum card. As collectors opened packs from the 240-card Goudey set, they found, for the first time, sticks of bubble gum. With more than a dozen bids already pushing this Gehrig Goudey into six-figures, the card is set to become the most expensive Gehrig card or memorabilia sold in 2024. According to our data, two Gehrig cards have sold for at least $100,000 through the first 100 days of the year. The total sum of all Gehrig card and memorabilia sales is already nearly $800,000, a strong pace when compared to last year’s total sales of nearly $4 million.

Lot # 17: Circa 1913 Joe Jackson Original Charles Conlon Photograph PSA/DNA Type I

Photo: REA

The rise of Type I photography is no secret, or at least it isn’t anymore after we detailed it in our recent Q1 report on the Sports Collectibles Market. Sports photographs have become a popular collector’s item, and like many collector’s items, they require authentication and grading, because not all photos are created equal. PSA grades photographs on a scale ranging from Type I to Type IV based on when it was developed and whether it was developed from the original negative. A Type I photograph carries the distinction of being developed from the original negative within approximately two years of the photo’s capture, while a Type IV photograph comes from a duplicate negative or wire transmission and was developed more than two years after the photo was taken.

Interest in Type I photography has sparked a wave of auction activity over the last year. For instance, our data shows that four auction houses (REA, Goldin, Heritage, and Memory Lane) sold 115% more Type I photo lots in 2023 than in 2022, generating 85% more sales volume. In just the first quarter of 2024, sales activity exploded at a rate that would see another 73% annual increase in lot count if maintained for the full year. While average prices are falling with the increase in supply, interest is trickling up-market to the most rare and desirable photographs; the number of five-figure Type I photo sales at those houses was up 122% in 2023 and is on pace to increase a further 15% in 2024 based on Q1 results. 

While overall activity is way up in the Type I photography space, activity for Joe Jackson photos is decidedly not, because supply is limited. Over 1,900 Type I lots sold at the aforementioned houses in 2023 and through Q1 of this year. Just ten of them were Joe Jackson photographs, and two of those were actually team photos. Of those ten, five sold for five-figure sums. Even rarer still, though, are Type I photos from the lens of one of the great baseball photographers of all time, Charles Conlon, making this a Jackson grail. To put the admiration for Conlon in perspective, an archive of 7,492 of his original negatives sold for $1,792,500 in 2016. 

This exact iconic photo, taken of Jackson during his Cleveland days, has sold several times since 2012, each time reaching new heights:

  • May 2012 - $32,587.50 (REA)
  • March 2019 - $66,000 (REA)
  • March 2021 - $105,888 (Memory Lane)
  • April 2023 - $132,000 (REA)

The opportunity to acquire it is here once again, but this time it comes against a backdrop of a market clamorous for Type I photography. One final thought: it bears noting that the record for a sports photograph stands at $1,470,000 for a signed photo of, you guessed it, Joe Jackson.

Lot # 18: Exceptional Circa 1920 Babe Ruth Single-Signed Baseball PSA/DNA NM/MT+ 8.5 with MINT 9 Signature! 

Photo: REA

Babe Ruth was a particularly generous autograph signer, and thanks to his mythical status in pop culture (with a special nod to The Sandlot for further emphasizing the sentimental value of a Ruth-signed ball), his single-signed baseballs are popular among collectors. However, his generosity means that the population is not quite as lean as you might expect for a player that enjoyed his heyday in the 1920s and ‘30s. However, there are two distinguishing factors that help some Ruth balls stand out from the pack: 1) when it was signed, and 2) the quality of the ball and signature, as graded by PSA/DNA. 

There have been more than 200 sales of single-signed Ruth baseballs since the start of 2020. Of those sales, only eight commanded auto grades of 9 or higher, and only two achieved a 10, with 7s and 8s proving more common. There is additionally a difference in supply based on era. Of those balls that have sold for more than $20,000 since the start of 2020, fewer than a quarter of them (about 21%) date to a period before 1930. As you can imagine, when these factors - top condition and early era - are combined, the population gets quite small. While there are a handful of balls graded 8 that were signed pre-1930, we were unable to find any others to achieve a higher grade that have sold in recent years, which brings us to this example. 

The ball for sale at REA is graded an 8, while the autograph is graded a 9 by PSA/DNA, yielding an overall grade of 8.5. Based on the “Thos E. Wilson & Co.” print on the ball, it dates between 1916 and 1925, a range confirmed by Ruth’s placement of “Babe” in quotation marks, which is a practice he discontinued in the late-1920s. Examples with a quotation-laden “Babe” possessing similar eye appeal are scant. A glance at the Ruth balls that have achieved the highest prices underscores the importance of eye appeal, and relative to balls from a similar era, there is minimal fading of the signature present here.  

This particular ball last sold in 2018 for $144,000. It attracted 15 bids last year, ultimately falling short of its reserve price. Can it become the first six-figure Ruth ball of 2024? The highest price achieved last year was $137,620, set by a PSA 8 ball dating to the final two years of Ruth’s life.

Stay tuned for the next edition of our preview - on Wednesday, we'll share a primer on game-worn memorabilia as REA brings a significant collection of sneakers to the block.

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Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

Headlines and Highlights: Week of April 12th
Market Commentary

Headlines and Highlights: Week of April 12th

eBay Trades Vault for Goldin, in deal with Collectors

eBay, global e-commerce leader, and Collectors, the parent company of PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator), have announced a partnership through a series of transactions. These transactions include a commercial agreement, the sale of Goldin, from Collectors to eBay, and eBay's sale of its vault services to PSA. 

With this collaboration, both parties intend to streamline the buying, selling, grading, and storage experiences for collectors, leveraging the strengths of both companies to foster innovation and provide comprehensive services to hobbyists. eBay's acquisition of Goldin gives them access to the auction house’s high-end collector network, while PSA's purchase of the eBay vault will give the grading company a new angle to approach the vaulting business.

With plans to roll out a full suite of customer-centric product experiences, eBay and PSA are aiming to remove friction from the collecting process and empower collectors with tools and services that enhance their collecting journey. This includes extending grading services to US customers through a simplified process and introducing a new service that allows customers to list and sell trading cards directly on eBay after grading. Both companies are committed to driving innovation in the collectibles industry, with the ultimate goal of benefiting collectors and enriching the hobby. EBAY

Fanatics Plans Collectibles Event This Summer in NY

Fanatics is set to launch its first self-produced sports collecting event, Fanatics Fest NYC, this summer at the Javits Center in New York City, scheduled for August 16-18. Promising a blend of sports fandom, culture, and collecting, the event aims to redefine traditional card shows with interactive features, live podcasts, exclusive merchandise, and participation from major sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and more. 

The event, described as a larger iteration of the Mint Collective, will offer a vast show floor, a 2,500-seat main stage, and appearances by sports legends such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Kevin Durant. Attractions for attendees include an all-day trading pit, educational content for new collectors, and a museum display showcasing rare sports memorabilia.

Lance Fensterman, CEO of Fanatics Events, emphasizes that Fanatics Fest NYC will serve as a unique gathering spot for sports enthusiasts to celebrate their passion and engage with the sports community in a dynamic environment. With admission prices ranging from $20 to $400, the event is part of Fanatics' broader initiative to host collecting-oriented events across the country, marking the beginning of what the company envisions as a yearlong calendar of premium live experiences. Fanatics Events, which previously produced the highly successful WWE World at WrestleMania, plans to announce additional fan and collector events later in the year, further expanding its footprint in the realm of sports collecting and fandom. SCDAILY   MICHAEL RUBIN

Collectible Happenings

Dallas collectors Howard and Cindy Rachofsky are auctioning Lucio Fontana's cadmium yellow canvas, Concetto Spaziale, La fine di Dio (1964), at Sotheby's New York with an estimated price of $20m to $30m, potentially setting a new auction record for the Italian post-war artist. The piece, part of a series of 38 punctured works by Fontana, was previously acquired for a record $2.3m in 2003 and has been part of the Rachofskys' leading collection of post-war European art, now pledged to the Dallas Museum of Art. ARTNEWSPAPER

Ippei Mizuhara, interpreter for baseball star Shohei Ohtani, is charged with bank fraud for allegedly stealing over $16 million from Ohtani, primarily to cover gambling debts, but also spent $325,000 of Ohtani's money on around 1,000 baseball cards. Federal prosecutors and IRS investigators reveal Mizuhara made these purchases using an alias and had the packages delivered to him, planning to sell the cards later. SCDAILY

Check out this week’s Alts & Ends where we dive into a $6 million Superman comic and everything The Masters + Golf memorabilia. ALTS&ENDS

Angel Reese has signed a multi-year autograph and memorabilia deal with Panini America, including trading cards and autographed items. Reese, anticipated to be a top pick in the WNBA Draft, will feature in Panini's WNBA products like Origins, Select Basketball, and Prizm, with her first card launched via Panini's Instant platform. SCDAILY

Puck has acquired the Substack newsletter Artelligence, authored by Marion Maneker, with plans to integrate and rebrand it as "Wall Power" within its portfolio. The deal, aimed at expanding Puck's coverage into the global art market, involves acquiring the 32,000 subscriber email list and launching a marketing campaign to convert Artelligence's paid subscribers, signaling Puck's strategy to invest in verticals for high-net-worth individuals. AXIOS

Sotheby's successfully navigated a soft art market in Hong Kong, generating HK$673 million ($86 million) in a combined modern and contemporary art sale, selling works including Yoshitomo Nara's ‘I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight’. Despite a smaller scale and the integration of a new ultra-contemporary sale format titled "The Now," which performed below expectations, the auction maintained a high sell-through rate with significant sales from artists like Pablo Picasso, while marking its final evening auctions at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. ARTNET

Check out Altan Insights’ most recent report: “Sports Collectibles Market 1Q24

Feel free to reach out to Keenan@Altaninsights.com for any questions/comments.

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Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

Headlines and Highlights: Week of April 5th
Market Commentary

Headlines and Highlights: Week of April 5th

80 Year-Old Marlborough Gallery Will Close its Doors This Year

Marlborough Gallery, a stalwart in the contemporary art scene for nearly 80 years with locations in New York, London, Madrid, and Barcelona, has announced it will cease operations by June 2024. This decision marks the end of an era for a gallery that played a pivotal role in the art world, representing major artists and estates across the globe. 

The closure involves the sale of the gallery's inventory over the coming years, with a portion of the proceeds going to support contemporary artists through donations to not-for-profit cultural institutions. The gallery aims for a smooth transition, with some staff staying on to manage the sales and return consignments to their owners, while expressing gratitude towards the artists and dedicated employees who have contributed to Marlborough's legacy.

The gallery's decision to wind down follows financial struggles exacerbated since 2020, leading to the loss of significant artists like Paula Rego and Frank Auerbach. Founded in 1946, Marlborough Fine Art gained prominence through its representation of French Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters, and later, key figures in German expressionism and British post-war contemporary art. Expansion to New York in the 1960s positioned Marlborough as one of the first mega-galleries. 

Recent years saw turmoil, including a family dispute that threatened its continuity and legal battles between board members and the gallery’s then president, Max Levai, over allegations of mismanagement. These disputes have since been settled, marking a conclusive end to the gallery’s long-standing influence and operations in the art world. ARTNET

Mascot and Whatnot partner up for a deal on cross-listing trading cards

Mascot, a platform designed for trading card sellers to list items across multiple selling platforms simultaneously, has announced a new partnership with Whatnot, the largest live-streaming collectibles sales platform in the United States. 

This collaboration enables Mascot users to seamlessly integrate their listings with Whatnot, thereby accessing a vast audience of potential buyers interested in live-streamed box breaks, live auctions, and fixed-price sales of sports cards. Whatnot's sports card category, launched in October 2020, has gained significant traction for its year-round, around-the-clock live auctions and sales, presenting Mascot users with an exciting new venue for their listings.

Mascot, which debuted in 2023, aims to increase liquidity for hobby shops, dealers, and collectors by providing a platform that supports listing on various channels, including eBay, Shopify, TikTok Shop, and MyCardPost. The platform's ability to automatically delist sold items from all channels helps prevent double selling, ensuring a smooth selling experience. With the addition of Whatnot to its integration list, Mascot offers its users the flexibility to sell trading cards through live auctions or fixed-price listings, expanding the potential for sales across both sports and non-sports card categories. This partnership reflects a growing trend of leveraging digital platforms and live streaming to reach wider audiences in the collectibles market. SCDAILY

Collectible Happenings

Altan Insights has launched our ‘Collectibles Record Board’, made up of 100 of the most expensive assets in the world. Categories include art, sports cards, Pokémon cards, musical instruments, comic books and much much more! ALTAN

Daps is a direct-to-consumer platform that enhances the connection between fans and athletes, allowing the latter to profit from their name, image, and likenesses with products like autographed trading cards and game-worn items. As the men’s Final Four approaches, Daps has collaborated with players from Purdue, Alabama, UConn, and N.C. State, aiming to expand its services across all sports while adapting to the evolving dynamics of fan engagement. SPORTICO

Sportico profiles Alexis Ohanian in his crusade to increase the value of his wife’s, tennis GOAT Serena Williams, trading cards. He has reportedly submitted 7,000 items to PSA for grading. SPORTICO

Grading numbers for the month of March were record breaking for PSA. GemRate released their numbers which saw PSA grade 1.33 million cards, an all time high for the company. Check out our analysis in our most recent newsletter here ALTANINSIGHTS

After serving less than four years of a seven-year sentence for a massive art fraud costing victims $86 million, disgraced art dealer Inigo Philbrick is out of prison and plans to re-establish himself in the art world. Philbrick, who committed one of the most significant art market frauds, has been featured in Vanity Fair, expressing his intentions to return to art dealing despite the extensive legal and financial consequences of his actions. ARTNET

Heritage auctions sells a $6 million copy of ‘Action Comics #1”, setting a record sale for a comic book at auction. The previous record was held by ‘Amazing Fantasy #15’ which sold for $3,600,000 at Heritage in 2021. Check out our analysis of the top sales in comic books here. ALTAN

Panini America announced the exclusive signing of six top high school basketball recruits to trading card and memorabilia deals as Caitlin Clark's trading card rights transition from Fanatics/Topps to Panini. These signings come as NIL rules enable high school athletes to profit from endorsements, with Clark, after scoring 41 points in a recent NCAA tournament game, beginning her new exclusive deal with Panini, including sold-out autographed memorabilia. SCDAILY

Altan Insights partnered with hobbyDB to release a blog post diving into the market for Funko Pops. Check out what makes a Pop worth well into the six-figures. ALTAN

Golden Age Auctions has begun their 2024 Masters week auction. Lots features several high-value golf memorabilia items as well as a Andy Warhol’s portrait of Golf legends Jack Nicklaus. GOLDENAGE

Feel free to reach out to Keenan@Altaninsights.com for any questions/comments.

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Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

What Makes Funko Pops so Valuable?
Asset Class Insights

What Makes Funko Pops so Valuable?

This is a blog post produced in partnership with hobbyDB , an invaluable free resource for collectors interested in collectibles across categories like toys, diecast cars, and vinyl art, among many others!

What is Funko?

In 1998 a small toy company headquartered in Snohomish, Washington was struggling to sell coin banks depicting the mascot of Big Boy Restaurants. Following a licensing deal that allowed them to manufacture and sell bobble-heads of Austin Powers, the company sold tens of thousands of these toys and used this model to grow a massive fanbase of collectors.

As nerd culture grew over the next twenty years, so did Funko. Since 2010, ‘Pops’, as their flagship toys are so adorably termed, derive their characters from over 1,100 properties licensed by the company. From cultural heavy weights like Star Wars, Marvel, and Game of Thrones to properties whose fandoms have a smaller, but still passionate fanbase like Sailor Moon or Team Fortress 2., to individual superstars like Lebron James, Shohei Ohtani, Michael Jackson, the list goes on and on, and on; if there is someone or something you are a fan of, chances are you can get a Funko Pop of it.

Fans might begin collecting Funko Pops via one of their favorite movies or television shows, but many of them go much further than that, purchasing more and more collectibles due to their love of everything Funko, an appetite evidenced by the success of maybe the most beloved character in the Funko universe, Freddy Funko.

hobbyDB allows its users to track several variables about each unique Funko Pop including Estimated Value, Calculated Average Rating, Number on Wishlists, Collectibles Quantity Count, Release Date, and Number Produced. Can any of these metrics help us understand why some Pops are more valuable than others? Are older Pops more valuable than more recent releases? Let’s look at the data behind Funko Pops and try to better understand the market for these popular collectibles.

As mentioned, the company has been releasing their signature Pops since 2010, nearly fourteen years of releases should tell us something about how collectors value the vintage of their Pops.

data from hobbyDB

The first thing that pops out when we track Estimated Value against Release Year is the first three years of releases being significantly more valuable than any of the following years.

data from hobbyDB

If we dive into the individual titles of Funko Pops released in those years, we see that one character is driving much of the value. And this value can be attributed to simple supply and demand dynamics; Freddy is usually released in very limited-edition sets. Many Funko Pops depicting popular characters for sale in retail are released in what are called “Open Editions”, meaning the company can and will print as many as they think will be purchased by their customers. Freddy Funko Pops, as well as several other highly desirable Pops, come in print runs of as few as 10 figures.

As with many top-tier collectibles, there is always someone willing to pay a hefty fee for a piece in low supply with a story behind it. There is the Rocket Copy ‘Action Comics #1’ , the Mickey Mantle rookie cards at the bottom of the Hudson, and then there are Clockwork Orange Funko Pops.

In 2012, Funko intended to release a Pop in partnership with a licensing firm named “Radio Days." Just before the Pops were released into the wild, Funko was threatened with legal action by the rights holders of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, and then CEO Brian Mariotti elected to destroy all but 24 of them; 12 chase and 12 non-chase. In February of 2023, one of these figures sold for a whopping $60,000, making it the second priciest sale at the time in Funko history and the most ever paid for an individual Funko.

At the time of the Clockwork Orange sale, the overall record stood at $100,000, set by a ‘Willy Wonka Golden Ticket 2-Pack’ purchased in May of 2022 by Funko super-collector and hobbyDB user GrailMonster; only for him to turn around and sell it for an astonishing $210,000 in 2023. Locking in the all time record price for a Funko Pop.

In fact, if you scroll through the top 20 estimated values on hobbyDB you will only see a single Pop with a supply above 24 figures; the top 5 Pops, estimated between $30,650 and $163,440, all came in editions of 12 or less.

data from hobbyDB

Those first three years of low production runs gave way to an era of Pops that are far more sought-after than more recent editions. When production jumped up in 2013, the company released more than double the number of Pops (58,334) compared to the prior three years put together (27,282).

This massive increase in production over the next years might have caused some to predict a decline in the quality of their brand. Average Ratings over time seem to show stability in ratings across years, implying that the Funko collecting community is appreciative of both the high and low end of their market.

data from hobbyDB

These averages are slightly skewed by the far greater quantity of high-supply editions, so it is worth pointing out that Pops with price estimates below $1,000 see an average rating of 3.53, compared to an average of 3.3 for those estimated above $1,000. It would stand to reason that a collector would more highly rate a Pop they have the chance to acquire for themselves, and it goes without saying that not all of us have the funds for a $10,000 Funko Pop.

In exploring what drives Funko Pop values, hobbyDB’s data reveals a fascinating intersection of supply and demand dynamics, collector behavior, and the undying allure of limited editions. From the meteoric rise of a small toy company to the clout of a global phenomenon, a Funko Pop's value hinges not just on the rarity of the items but also on the broad and inclusive appeal to collectors across numerous fandoms. The initial years have shown that scarcity and desirability go hand in hand, creating a lucrative market for certain collectibles. The continuing affection for Funko Pops, regardless of price, underscores a community that values connection to culture just as much as the monetary value of their collection.

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Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

Foul Play in the Taylor Swift Memorabilia Market: Shake it Off or Bow Out?

Foul Play in the Taylor Swift Memorabilia Market: Shake it Off or Bow Out?

This is the latest edition of a multi-part blog series produced in partnership with The Realest on the key events and factors shaping the music memorabilia market. The Realest is the first dedicated authentication standard and marketplace for entertainment memorabilia.

There's no following more loyal than Taylor Swift fans on Reddit. When questions of authenticity emerged about a Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce dual-signed jersey donated to a charity auction, the Swifties on Reddit scrambled to defend their queen, eager to believe in another demonstration of her already thoroughly demonstrated generosity.

“I don’t think people realize that her real signature is vastly different from her signed merch signature. She uses a very simplified version on CDs and Vinyls because she has to sign 50k of them. For one-of-a-kind items like this that are for a good cause, she can take her time and make a more pretty signature that’s true to what her real one is,” a user named Flubby Starfish offered.

Anhuys chimed in: “Tbh I think it's possibly due to the material of the jersey. Look closely at the fabric on the numbers on a HQ photo of this jersey. That kind of texture will affect the way the marker glides and it's possible for her normal, muscle memory swoops to get warped when she goes over a fabric like that instead of something smooth like a CD/vinyl case.” 

That’s it. The fabric warped her muscle memory swoops, of course.

When items lack a high standard of authenticity, fans are forced to perform mental gymnastics to either think the very best of their hero or convince themselves the artist interacted with an item. In the case above, the gymnastics were unnecessary - it was never alleged that Swift and Kelce directly donated the item. Nonetheless, as internet sleuths quickly raised suspicions about its authenticity - from the signatures being fake to the jersey itself being a knock-off - the jersey’s existence sewed unease in a community hopeful that its star had performed yet another good deed in a very long line of them. 

The jersey eventually sold for $21,000 at the Linamar Curling for Kids event in support of the Guelph Wish Fund. It was accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Jerzey Sports Memorabilia, an organization run by the man who donated the item. However, once the winning bidder became aware of the suspicions, she enlisted the assistance of Beckett Authentication Services for a second opinion on the signature. The verdict? A heart-sinking thumbs down.

Even though Swift herself had nothing to do with the inauthentic jersey, events like these taint the market for associated memorabilia and merchandise, introducing doubt into a broader population of transactions. And it’s never good to be mentioned in relation to a tainted charity sale, regardless of involvement. In a space governed primarily by letters and certificates of authenticity, it’s a jarring reminder that a letter itself is often not an ironclad confirmation of an item’s integrity. Many letters are produced after an item is signed, lacking witness-based support. Even the most reputable ones are mostly opinion-based, albeit grounded in rigorous professional analysis. In a Taylor Swift market held back at the high end by a lack of authentication rigor, letters tend to form the shaky foundation upon which the market is built.

Take some of the top Taylor Swift auction lots of 2024 to date as examples:

2014 Glamour Magazine Photo Shoot Used Gibson Les Paul Guitar With Magazine

  • Price: $15,875 (Julien’s)
  • Authentication: Photo evidence but not photo-match documentation

Signed Signature Baby Taylor Model Guitar

  • Price: $12,700 (Julien’s)
  • Authentication: Provenance from Taylor Swift donation (no letter advertised)

Signed Epiphone Acoustic Guitar

  • Price: $12,438 (Iconic)
  • Authentication: LOA from Beckett Authentication Services

Signed Taylor 3/4 Scale Acoustic Guitar

  • Price: $9,340.62 (Iconic)
  • Authentication: LOAs from Beckett Authentication Services and James Spence Authentication

Baby Taylor Signed Guitar

  • Price: $8,501.76 (Iconic)
  • Authentication: None, but guaranteed to pass Third Party Authentication

Signed Epiphone Guitar

  • Price: $8,499.99 (eBay)
  • Authentication: LOA from James Spence Authentication

They mostly cluster in the high-four, low-five-figure range, which are no small sums considering most are unused items. The other commonality: they're often supported by letters, in many cases from reputable outfits like Beckett Authentication Services and James Spence Authentication. The presence of those authenticators in the best-performing lots is not a surprise, and collectors recognize the incremental value of their sign-off versus a less reputable LOA. But do Taylor Swift fans know enough to recognize that difference? Or is a letter just a letter? 

The jersey incident suggests that the latter is often the case, but as events like those become more prevalent and well-known, fans who don’t know the difference may avoid the memorabilia market altogether rather than parsing the merit of various authenticators. 

Even material sourced directly from the artist doesn’t achieve higher prices without additional support. Consider the signed Baby Taylor model acoustic guitar, advertised by Julien's as being directly donated by Taylor Swift to the Musicares Charity Relief Auction. It sold for $12,700. That’s by no means a weak result, outperforming a conservative $1,000 - $1,500 estimate and landing right in line with similar letter-supported lots, but the novice collector might expect direct provenance to outperform LOA-based support. 

However, that direct provenance means little without associated documentation, and the lack of it may scuttle the interest of otherwise willing buyers who are skeptical of their ability to one day sell the item on at a sturdy price. Similarly, fans and collectors would love to see the artist acknowledge that they’ve donated the item as a confirmation of sorts to supplement the credibility of the auction house’s description. 

The shakiness of a memorabilia market may not matter much to an already wealthy artist, but if it weighs on items donated directly from them, perhaps that’s a matter worth taking notice of. Taylor Swift herself doesn’t need the additional funds from memorabilia sales, but it could be another tool used in an already extensive charitable effort to direct funds to dear causes. Raising top dollar for those causes requires top-tier authenticity in a market where direct provenance is a strong tool, but a much stronger tool when demonstrably supported by the artist and by documentation that will extend beyond the winning bidder to future owners.

Those offerings are strengthened on a go-forward basis by tools and services like photo-matching (for used or worn items) and witness-based authentication (meaning a representative personally witnesses the signing or use), in addition to state-of-the-art, tamper-proof marking, hologram, and tagging technologies.  Digital ledgers associated with those technologies can then more effectively trace ownership from the artist to the current owner. 

To the extent an artist or athlete is known to use these methods in releasing product to the market, a credible brand develops and strengthens, ultimately leaving the products that lack the same backing in an inferior state of market acceptance. Parallels can be drawn to athletes signed with Upper Deck, for example. Items without Upper Deck certification that are marketed as being from a time after the athlete was known to sign with the company raise an instant red flag. 

For modern music memorabilia to better resonate with existing collectors and protect fans-turned-novice-collectors, artists will have to lead the way, putting the necessary guardrails in place to make the jersey incident a less common occurrence. Until then, Redditors will continue to contort themselves into mental pretzels to protect the honor of their queen.

Enjoyed this article? Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more like it in your inbox weekly!

Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

Headlines and Highlights: Week of March 29th
Market Commentary

Headlines and Highlights: Week of March 29th

Action Comics #1 on Track to Set New Record Price

A highly sought-after Action Comics #1, known as the Kansas City Pedigree, is positioned to become the most expensive public sale of a comic book to date. With the current bid standing at $4,250,000, and reaching $5,100,000 after fees, it's already on track to best the current record set by a $3.6M copy of “Amazing Fantasy #15”. This particular issue is notable for being one of only four pedigreed copies of Action Comics #1, which features the first appearance and origin story of Superman, marking a significant moment in both publishing and pop culture history.

The Kansas City Pedigree copy is distinguished by its remarkable condition, rated VF+ 8.5 by CGC, making it the highest-graded unrestored copy among the pedigreed versions known. Its rich colors, sharp corners, and almost pristine cover, despite being 85 years old, set it apart as a breathtaking example of comic book history. The importance of this comic extends beyond its physical condition; it represents the birth of the superhero genre and the cultural impact of Superman. HERITAGE

The current record for an Action Comics #1 stands at $3,250,000 sold at Comic Connect in 2021. 

Formula 1 and Topps Renew Licensing Deal

Formula 1 has renewed its exclusive trading card and sticker partnership with the Fanatics-owned Topps, ensuring that Topps remains the official licensee for the renowned global racing series. The relationship began in 2020, covering the production of trading card and sticker collections for the F1, F2, and F3 series. This deal will allow Topps to feature prominently at multiple Grand Prix events throughout the 2024 FIA Formula One World Championship, starting with the Austrian Grand Prix in late June, where exclusive cards will be available on-site.

Both entities expressed enthusiasm about the renewal, highlighting the importance of creative partnerships in attracting and engaging diverse audiences. Emily Prazer, Chief Commercial Officer for F1, emphasized the role of innovative partners like Topps in the sport's growth, while Kelvin Smith, Senior Vice President of Global Licensing and Partner Development at Fanatics Collectibles, mentioned the mutual benefits of the partnership in bringing fans and collectors closer to their favorite teams and drivers. SCDAILY

Collectible Happenings

Rally is IPOing the suit worn by Tony Montana worn during the wedding scene in ‘Scarface’. Shares are priced at $10 imputing a market cap of $20,000. RALLY

Bloomberg put out an article detailing Michael Rubin’s growing control of the trading card market. One interesting quote: “MLB wouldn’t share sales numbers, but a person familiar with its business says the league’s card sales have doubled in the two years since Topps’ ownership changed.” BLOOMBERG

Sothebys announces “Moutai Extravaganza| The Inaugural Live Sale” In which they will sell 274 lots of the Chinese Liquor. SOTHEBYS

Topps/Fanatics is concluding its exclusive deal with Caitlin Clark by releasing a high-end, online exclusive trading card product dedicated to the Iowa Hawkeyes star, priced at $850, making it the priciest trading card product for a female athlete. The "Collegiate Campaign" boxed set offers a career retrospective of Clark, including an autograph or autograph relic card, a relic card, and a pack of base and parallel cards, with shipping to begin 40-45 business days post-order receipt. SCDAILY

Beloved minimalist artist, Richard Serra, dies at 85. He is best known for his monumental steel sculptures that have been exhibited in museums worldwide. ARTNET

An untitled 1984 painting by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat is set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s this May, with an estimated value of $18 million, marking a significant increase from its last sale price of $2.65 million in 2010. This piece, part of a polarizing series created by the duo between 1984 and 1985, is highlighted as the apex of their collaboration and is expected to perform well, following a record $11.3 million sale for a Basquiat-Warhol painting in 2014. ARTNEWS

The Donald Judd Foundation is suing Kim Kardashian for mistakenly claiming a set of tables in her Skkn by Kim company offices were designed by Donald Judd, as revealed in a 2022 promotional video. The lawsuit alleges trademark and copyright infringement by the West Hollywood firm Clements Design, which created the tables, and stresses the Judd Foundation's strict policy against using Judd's furniture for marketing, amidst failed negotiations for an amicable resolution between the parties involved. ARTNEWS

A Steve Jobs signed business card has set the record for the most expensive signed Jobs card. It sold for a stunning $181,183 at RR Auction in a sale made up of 120 Jobs and Apple lots. RRAUCTION

Darren Rovell announces the forthcoming launch of his new collectibles media enterprise, CLLCT. The new venture intends to cover collectibles and memorabilia as an asset class starting April 8th. CLLCT

Check out this week’s Alts and Ends where we cover the results from Heritage’s Planet Hollywood sale and the RR Apple sale! ALTS & ENDS

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