Zooming Out: The Goldin Summer Premium Auction One Year Later

Under the siege of an unrelenting deluge of social media posts, e-mail blasts, and phone notifications, it's easy to develop a strong recency bias. What did that card sell for at auction last week? How quickly did that offering fill? How did that asset trade today?

Information flows so quickly that yesterday's news begins to feel like last year's news, and we often lose sight of longer term trends and how we got to today. This is as true in the alternative asset landscape as it is anywhere else. But with so many playing this game for the long term, it's our duty to zoom out on occasion to better understand the way the market is developing.

Given that summer 2020 was, for many, an introduction or reintroduction to boom-times in the hobby or in alternative assets more broadly, we wanted to better understand how far we've come in a year's time. One way to do that is to take a closer look at an area that all of us look to as a barometer for market health: the auction world. Goldin Auctions hosted its last Summer Premium Auction in mid July 2020, about a year ago, and while it doesn't sound like that long ago,  the market today looks markedly different. With Goldin recently releasing their catalog for this summer's Premium Auction, we dug into the lots from both auctions to better understand how things have changed over thelast twelve months.

Allow yourself to think back to summer 2020 for a moment. COVID vaccines still in the works, which of course meant lockdowns, masks, social distancing, the works. Fractional markets still in their relative infancy; Collectable had yet to even launch an asset. Collectible asset classes of all sorts heating up to different degrees. Oh, and Michael Jordan. People were still talking about the Last Dance, digging Jordan cards and memorabilia out of closets and attics, paying huge resale prices for Air Jordans, and forking over even larger sums of money for anything Jordan at auction.

The 2020 Summer Premium Auction at Goldin was, fittingly, headlined by Jordan. And for so many, Michael Jordan in that moment was both a perfect reminder of the joys of collecting and a gateway to more involved participation. Sure, Jordan fever may have faded, and that pesky recency bias would have some thinking that the collecting and alternative asset fever had passed this spring as the market softened, but when you zoom out, you might say that the spring and summer of 2020 were merely a short stretch on a longer runway to much bigger things ahead.

Before diving deeper into the auction lot composition, just look at Goldin itself. Since summer 2020, the company announced a $40 million funding round (February) before being acquired outright by Collectors Holdings (earlier this month). Things are moving fast, and they're moving on an upward trajectory.

The absolute numbers themselves are fairly staggering. The 2020 Summer Premium Auction had 3,234 lots. This summer? 8,946 (thus far). That's a 177% increase. Oh yeah, and this time last year, Goldin had closed two previous auctions in 2020. This year? Eleven. So despite having nine more auctions already this year, this year's Summer Premium still has well in excess of double the lots of 2020.

Now, you might be inclined to furrow a brow and question whether or not such an increase in supply bodes well, but as we'll explore in greater detail, the increase in supply isn't simply pro-rata across categories. There are new assets, catering to new audiences, inviting new collectors of differing demographics into the fold. Seasoned collectors are discovering and rediscovering different stars, both old and new. Simply put, this isn't 2020's market. Not to mention, through June, the average hammer price of Goldin lots is up 55% relative to 2020....so there's that.

On to the trends!

The Jordan Fleer Rookie Gets a Bad Rap

With last year's auction being headlined by Jordan, we felt it fitting to begin with an update on the GOAT. If you got too caught up in the headlines and discourse this spring and early this summer, you might have thought it's been a crappy 12 months for Jordan cards and memorabilia. But consider this: the top selling PSA 10 Jordan Fleer rookie in the 2020 summer auction sold for $81,180. Just a year ago. Well under half of the low price in 2021. Things escalated very quickly as we entered the new year, with two such cards selling for $720,000 apiece in a Goldin auction ending in late January. Since, it had been a steady march lower to the $200s, until we saw a new record this month at the PWCC Premium auction, as a card with superior eye appeal drew $840,000. Whether you view that result as an outlier or not, there are signs of stabilization following that meteoric rise and prolonged consolidation. There has been a seemingly endless parade of supply to market over the last 12 months, but as Ken Goldin noted, that's coming to an end. And when these aren't available at auction weekly (as has seemingly been the case), the march upwards might resume. With weeks to go until the conclusion of the 2021 Summer Premium, a PSA 10 Jordan Fleer Rookie sits at $240,000. Year over year, that's effectively 3x. Not bad for what many have considered a brutal year; it also points to just why supply continued to come to market despite declining results - don't get numb to the power of a six figure gain, even when it seems like it could be higher. It seems somewhat likely that we'll see an uptick on the chart below when this auction closes in early August, and if that persists, the trajectory begins to look more natural.

This year, the number of lots categorized as Michael Jordan auction lots falls from 316 to 86, but as we'll touch on, Jordan served as a gateway to other GOAT hunting, reflected in the offerings available this year.

Modern Card Record Doesn't Last Long

The highlight of the 2020 Summer Premium was the $1.8 million sale of a 2003-2004 Exquisite Collection LeBron James Rookie Patch Parallel. At the time, that was a Goldin record for the highest price paid for a modern card. The King's reign, however, was quite short, as a month later, the 2009 Bowman Trout Superfractor set a new, vastly higher mark of $3,840,000. That mark has not yet been eclipsed. That LeBron Exquisite Rookie Patch though? One of those sold privately in April for $5.2 million. That's another ~3x in well under a year's time. Big money continues to chase blue chip assets. For example, in the 2020 Summer Premium, 12 lots sold for in excess of $100,000. At the time of writing, 14 assets in the 2021 auction have already broken six figures, and bidding isn't even approaching the crucial moments yet.

Offerings Grow More Diverse by Sport

As new collectors have entered the space and seasoned collectors have widened the scope of their searches for hidden gems, the demand for offerings off the beaten path of baseball, basketball, and football has increased. The composition of the 2021 Summer Premium is evidence of that shift, both in terms of proportionate allocation and absolute numbers. For each auction, Goldin offers some categorization by sport, and we analyzed the changes.

Unsurprisingly given that 2020 was highlighted by Jordan, basketball makes up a much lower proportion of this year's categorized auction lots, going from 45% to 37% of those lots, and growing at a rate of 110% year-over-year, which is slower than the pace of overall growth. Baseball also takes a small step back, from 41% to 39%, growing 140% y/y. Interestingly, football is a significant beneficiary from those declines, rising from 10% to 13%, with the absolute number of lots increasing 223% y/y. We mentioned GOAT hunting - while there were only 9 lots with titles or descriptions mentioning Tom Brady last year, this year there are 78. Almost 9x. And what about the man many see as the heir to the throne? Patrick Mahomes lots are up to 25 from just 3 last year.

The number of hockey lots is up 231% year-over-year, even if the proportional difference isn't gigantic. Speaking of GOATs, Wayne Gretzky commands 25 lots in this auction, as compared to 6 last year. A PSA 8 Topps Gretzky rookie card sold for $2,583 in July 2020. This year, the minimum bid for such a card is $2,500 (which has been hit with weeks remaining). Gretzky accounts for nearly half of the hockey lots.

The interest in golf and tennis has increased considerably, with the number of lots for both sports up over 250%. Tiger, Serena, Federer, Nadal - plenty of all time greats to choose from there.

But most staggering by far is the massive increase in soccer offerings. Last year, there were a mere 14 soccer lots. No Messi. No Ronaldo. No Pele or Maradona. Certainly no Haaland or Mbappe. This year? There are 261 lots, up 1764%. Perhaps even more impressive, the proportion of lots is up from just under 1% to over 6%. Three lots (Haaland, Messi, and Ronaldo cards) are included in the first 25 of the auction, and the total soccer sales from the 2020 auction will be easily eclipsed by any one of those cards. It's no secret that there is massive potential for growth in soccer cards and memorabilia, bolstered by incredible demographic tailwinds and an unrivaled international audience. Expect growth in this space to continue.

Next year, Formula 1?

Offerings Growing More Diverse by Gender

As broader collecting interest has grown, so too has the interest in collecting cards and memorabilia of female athletic icons, which had been largely overlooked to date. We've started to see more representation in the fractional world as well, with Serena Williams card assets on Otis and Collectable debuting this spring and summer. This story plays out in the composition of the 2021 auction vs 2020. For example, there were two Serena Williams lots in the 2020 edition. In 2021, there are 15 lots associated with the GOAT. In fact, there are 17 women's tennis lots this time around, as compared to 3 last time, with Naomi Osaka also featuring twice. Mia Hamm features twice in 2021 after not appearing in 2020. A Hamm card set the record for the most expensive female sports card of all time when it sold in June with Goldin for $34,440, nearly twice the prior record. Finally, the undisputed GOAT herself (seriously she has a signature Twitter emoji in goat form), Simone Biles has four lots on offer ahead of impending Olympic domination. This is another space we'd watch closely for growth as collecting audiences new and old embrace iconic female athletes with greater passion, a long term process that has really just begun in earnest this spring.

Rising Stars Edge Towards Center Stage

Around this time in 2020, Shohei Ohtani was set to be shut down for the remainder of the shortened season due to a flexor strain. In the 2020 Summer Premium, he was associated with just six lots. Things are different in just about every way this time around, with Ohtani catapulted into superstardom. In the 2021 Summer Premium, he has 23 lots, up 283%, and this comes on the back of some major results in the July card auction, where a collection of Ohtani Superfractors sold for $290k and an Orange Refractor sold for $149k. In total, Ohtani was good for over $500k in sales in that auction.

In the NFL, there is clear indication of firming interest in the next generation of quarterbacks. Last year, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, and Josh Allen combined for just one lot. This year, that number is 53, and Herbert leads the way with 25.

And how about the stars of this year's NBA Finals? Have they played their way to greater collecting prominence? Last year, there was just one Giannis lot in a basketball-heavy Summer Premium. This year? 34 (fittingly). It comes as little surprise that Devin Booker didn't appear in last year's auction, but this year he commands a respectable 7 lot haul.

Entertainment Not Keeping Pace (....with good reason)

We mentioned earlier that the total number of lots increased 177% from last summer. It stands out, then, that lots categorized as "Entertainment" focused are up only 37%. In relative terms, that 37% pickup might as well be a drop. What gives? Well, so popular have comic books, video games, and trading card games become since last summer that Goldin is now running its first standalone auction for those items later this summer. So don't be fooled by the relative absence of these items at the Summer Premium; they'll have their own moment very shortly as the heat of those markets, particularly comics and video games, persists. That auction will mark Goldin's first foray into the video game space.

Ticket Collecting on the Rise

Last year a search for "Full Ticket" drew just 15 lot results, while "Ticket Stub" drew only 5 lots. This year, the combined total is 46 lots, with full tickets lagging at 60% year-over-year growth, but stubs soaring ahead at 340% year-over-year. Benefitting from a spillover in card demand, tickets have found a growing and adoring audience over the last twelve months, and the hunt for underappreciated ticket gems is on in a big way. On offer in this year's auction are debut tickets for some pretty decent athletes: Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo among them. A year ago, if you guessed that not just soccer and not just tickets, but soccer tickets would be a draw in summer 2021....well done. Oh, there's also a stub from Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game - there are just 14 graded copies of those in existence, and 10 are PSA authentic like the one on offer here.

Digital Collecting Not Going Away

In the 2020 Summer Premium, there were no sales of digital collectibles. Real shocker, I know. The peak of NBA TopShot mania feels like decades ago, but it's easy to forget it was just a few months back, in February. In July of 2020, total sales on the platform were $8,352 per CryptoSlam. That's it. Just 35 buyers. To date this month, there's been over $16 million in sales among over 52,000 unique buyers. Those numbers are down massively from the February peaks of approximately $224 million and 81,000 buyers. But 52,000 people is still a hearty audience, and few would have thought $224 million a month was sustainable.

This Summer Premium option features 25 NFTs at present. Just three are TopShots, however. One consignor is set to offload an entire collection, while a LeBron dunk in the Finals and the first bucket of Anthony Edwards are also up for sale. Where the future of TopShot lies is anybody's guess, but interest persists even if not at the astronomical levels of this winter. TopShots worth hundreds of thousands a few months ago are now consolidating in the tens of thousands of dollars. Certainly, the trends don't look pretty (understatement of the year), particularly viewed against the backdrop of the February peak, but if you zoom out to summer 2020 for more context, the progress of digital collectibles is undeniable.

Okay, so what about the other 22 NFTs? Sorare. For those unfamiliar, Sorare is a fantasy football (soccer) game in which users collect digital cards that vary in scarcity from common (issued when a player begins playing) to unique (1 of 1), with rare (1 of 100), and super rare (1 of 10) in between. Players then compose a five-a-side team to compete in tournaments for prizes. The added utility of in game use is interesting here, and the cards also derive value from a collectible standpoint from the same factors as physical cards: scarcity, player, serial number etc. While Sorare experienced a similar peak earlier this year, with $15 million in sales in March, monthly sales look set to return to growth in July, with July sales nearly eclipsing June's with a week remaining, and it's heartening to see that unique buyers have already begun to tick upwards. On offer at Goldin are 11 cards from the Belgian national team and 11 cards from the French national team of varying rarity. The standout is a Unique Kevin De Bruyne card, which has a minimum bid of $50,000 (already hit). It's not uncommon, even in recent weeks, for Unique sales to approach and breach those levels.

Seriously, if in summer 2020, you predicted that soccer NFTs would make an appearance at the 2021 Goldin Summer Premium auction and that one would go for more than $50,000, I hope you've made yourself very wealthy over the past year.

Hope You Saved Those Magazines

A fun one to wrap up with. For those 90s kids out there, I bet you remember carefully and surgically removing those perforated card sheets from Sports Illustrated for Kids magazines. Or opening one in your dentist or doctor's office only to disappointingly find the treasure already gone. I bet you also remember an older sibling or adult scoffing at your careful preservation, suggesting that they wouldn't be worth anything because kids around the country were doing the same. Well the joke is on them! Kids did not save them, at least not for long, and the vast majority found their way to garbage cans or otherwise met their demise. As a result, many of those cards are now revered as rookie cards of athletic icons and command sums in the tens of thousands of dollars. That Mia Hamm record we mentioned earlier? Yeah, that was an SI for Kids card! They were a bit slower to catch fire, and as a result, none appeared in the 2020 Summer Premium. This time around, there are ten SI for Kids related offerings, including graded cards, full card sheets, and entire magazines. Athletes represented include Tiger, Hamm, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Shaun White, and Usain Bolt. The crown jewel is unquestionably 20 uncut sheets from 1996 featuring the Tiger Woods rookie. Just a really cool moment for the 90s kids to recognize it might have all been worthwhile after all.

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The 2021 Goldin Summer Premium auction closes on August 7th and 8th. We'll be back with our usual preview and follow up content before and after the final hammer.

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