New York (AFP)
Inside an unassuming store in New York’s Greenwich Village, a dozen men unlock black briefcases, pull out sports cards, and start redeeming them – a growing hobby and industry that has exploded during the pandemic.
The excitement is high after a San Francisco-based investment fund announced earlier today that it had purchased a card from Golden State Warriors basketball star Stephen Curry for $ 5.9 million. dollars, setting a new record.
Michael Campobasso, a 38-year-old jewelry dealer, is hoping the sale will spark interest in his highly rated 2009-10 rookie Curry card from the three-time NBA champion.
“After this card, this is probably one of his most coveted cards. I would sell it for $ 80,000, ”says Campobasso, who paid it $ 25,000 last year.
# photo1 The sports trading card industry has been growing for several years, but coronavirus lockdowns have invigorated enthusiasts and attracted new ones, with investors helping to spike prices.
“It had a huge impact,” said Jacob Salter, product manager at Bleecker Trading which hosted the trade night in New York City, of the pandemic.
“People were at home, they were bored, locked in their house, reliving their childhood. They started buying sports cards, ”added the 25-year-old.
The early days of the lockdown coincided with the April 2020 release of the hit Netflix series “The Last Dance,” about Michael Jordan’s famed Chicago Bulls team in the 1990s.
This skyrocketed the demand for Jordanian memorabilia and helped make basketball cards a central place in the world of sports trading cards, which had long been dominated by baseball.
In February of this year, a rare Jordan card signed by the six-time NBA champion himself sold for $ 1.44 million at auction, breaking the previous record for one of his $ 500,000 cards.
# photo2 A LeBron James rookie card grossed $ 5.2 million in April.
Basketball cards dominate trading at the Bleecker Trading event, where host Salter estimates the total value of the cards in the room overnight at $ 20 million.
The cards have all been authenticated by rating companies, which rate them on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest. Assessment factors include rarity and condition.
All cards are packaged in clear plastic “plates” that merchants proudly display on shelves inside hard suitcases with combination locks due to the high value of their contents.
For 28-year-old Vahe Hekimian, collecting sports cards began as a hobby that became his main source of income.
” It’s a passion. I love that. But I also sell to continue, ”he confided to AFP, explaining that the performances of sports stars impact the value of their cards.
– ‘Assets’ –
He’s already paid $ 50,000 in a partial cash transaction for rising NBA star Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks who will represent Slovenia at this summer’s Olympics.
The night’s most valuable trade is over $ 90,000 and involves multiple cards, including baseball champion Shohei Ohtani and young NFL quarterback Justin Herbert. The people involved want to remain anonymous.
Campobasso does not sell his curry card, but he makes a deal worth $ 11,000.
A 44-year-old collector calling himself Cage Lawyer, who owns a Jordan card worth half a million dollars, says collectible cards are now increasingly seen as smart investments.
“People now see them as an alternative asset class, something akin to art and cryptocurrency. People are looking for something to invest their money in to protect against inflation, ”he explains.
The frenzy is a boon to the growing number of investment groups now trading sports cards.
Alt, which invests in non-traditional assets, estimates the collectible card market is currently worth $ 15 billion. He spent the $ 5.9 million on the autographed Curry card.
Collectable is another company that engages in fractional ownership where investors buy shares in cards.
PWCC is a collectible card marketplace that holds auctions and maintains a secure vault where owners can store their cards.
He expects to make more than $ 500 million in sales this year, about three times what he did in 2020, according to business development director Jesse Craig.
“We are very confident in the continued growth of our industry,” he told AFP.
© 2021 AFP