Sotheby’s, Fanatics team up to offer rare sports trading card auctions

Sotheby’s, Fanatics team up to offer rare sports trading card auctions

A 1948 Leaf #79 Jackie Robinson card, which is the only true rookie card of the sports icon.


Fanatics wants to expand the sports trading card industry. Now it’s aiming to meet high-end collectors through a new partnership with Sotheby’s that will create a collection of auctions for trading cards valued at more than $100,000.

The first live auction, scheduled to be held in September in New York, will include a 1948 Leaf #79 Jackie Robinson card, which is the only true rookie card of the sports icon. The card is estimated to be sold for between $275,000 and $350,000.

Fanatics has quickly moved into the trading card space, acquiring Topps in 2022 and signing several exclusive card licensing deals across professional leagues, including the NBA, NFL and MLB. The company is also launching a new collectibles marketplace later this summer that will help to connect buyers and sellers of cards and memorabilia, as well as authenticate those items.

“We see a real opportunity to bring together people who are already passionate collectors of other categories to the world of sports cards as well,” said Nick Bell, CEO of Fanatics Collect. “It’s also an opportunity to really elevate sports trading cards, and create these moments with some of the most important and prestigious cards.”

Sotheby’s has increasingly leaned into sports, something that Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of Modern Collectables, said is one of the auction house’s fastest-growing categories.

Earlier this year, Sotheby’s had its first “Sports Week,” six live and online auctions with items from many of the biggest names in sports, including a pair of Muhammad Ali’s shorts from his legendary “Thrilla in Manila” match from 1975, and a Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers jersey from Game 1 of the 2009 NBA Finals.

Muhammad Ali’s trunks worn during the 1975 legendary match against Joe Frazier, ‘The Thrilla in Manila’ are on display during ‘Sports Week’ auctions at Sotheby’s in New York City on April 4, 2024.

Timothy A. Clary | Afp | Getty Images

Sotheby’s is also now the official game-worn source of the NBA, offering a collection of auctions and purchasable jerseys and other memorabilia from some of the league’s biggest names and events like the All-Star Game.

Wachter said that while sports items have helped bring in a new kind of client — a group that generally ranges between 20 and 40 years of age —  there are plenty of fine art collectors who also love Michael Jordan.

Sotheby’s has also looked to display sports memorabilia with the same “museum-quality setting” it would for a classic car or watch, telling the story of the item as well, something Wachter said has been missing when it comes to how these high-end sports products have often been auctioned off in the past.

“Those two things may seem on opposite sides of the planet, but if you love sports, it doesn’t really matter,” Wachter said. “So many people grew up collecting cards, and now they’re later in life and they never lost that interest.”

The goal is to have four auctions a year, Wachter said, with future auctions potentially lined up alongside big sports events on the calendar or fitting in thematically with what is happening in sports. Bell said Fanatics is looking to help curate important cards to fit into those themes, and that work has already begun. Both companies will use their collector networks to source products and share the fees as part of the agreement.

The popularity of trading cards exploded during the pandemic, but Bell said that momentum has remained, something Fanatics has looked to continue to grow through new product launches and efforts to reach new audiences, like this as well as an upcoming fan festival.

Wachter said he’s also seeing strength among Sotheby’s auctions, with particularly strong results in the collectibles category, an encouraging sign for this focus on high-end and extremely rare cards.

Fanatics is a three-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company, and ranked No. 21 in 2022.

Sign up for our weekly, original newsletter that goes beyond the annual Disruptor 50 list, offering a closer look at list-making companies and their innovative founders.

Original news source Credit:

You must be logged in to post a comment Login