Will NFT’s Spell The End Of Sports Memorabilia Collecting?

If you are an avid sports memorabilia collector, you are probably wondering how the ever-increasing NFT market will impact your collection, as it gains more and more momentum.

Thankfully for you, this article will answer all of your questions about NFTs and memorabilia. Read on to learn more. 

The Current Collectables Craze

Sports memorabilia collectors have always been very dedicated to their hobby, but in recent years, there has been a massive boom in the industry – particularly when it comes to trading cards.

In the past 24 months, the memorabilia business has had a bit of a ‘gold rush moment’, with record-breaking prices, and never before seen scarcity. 

There was a time when memorabilia were a niche market that was dominated by people who wanted to collect something just for their love of the sport.

Now, the industry is booming because there is a huge demand for items that were once considered worthless. The memorabilia industry is now worth billions of dollars and has become a huge part of sporting culture.

Skeptics about sports memorabilia aren’t just outsiders. Even insiders scratch their heads, at both the insanely high prices, and the rapid boom that the market has gone through in the last few years.

It is generally assumed that the pandemic played a big part in the market’s growth.

Digital purchases surged by $200 billion in 2020, and eBay, the biggest site for selling sports memorabilia, saw a 142% increase in sales between 2019 and 2020. 

But is this market momentum continuing? Not exactly. The market is slowing down, and isn’t seeing the same volume and quality of sales – big-hitting trading cards aren’t hitting the same sale prices as they used to.

The hype seems to be dying back a little bit and returning to levels that were normal before the COVID outbreak. With the market slowing down, experts say that the market’s top tier will continue to sell well.

But the middle-level market will struggle. People will still pay millions for top-quality, rare cards, but are less likely to pay a few hundred dollars for more common cards.

This market downturn will probably cause many collectors to slow or halt their collecting.

What Is An NFT? 

This is the question on everyone’s lips at the moment – the world and his wife seem to be confused about what an NFT (which stands for Non-Fungible Tokens) really is.

And, unfortunately, in line with other kinds of cryptocurrencies, it is pretty confusing if you are not familiar with the world of crypto.

Our very simplified explanation is that an NFT is essentially a digital certificate (which is secured using blockchain technology – the same thing that is involved with verifying cryptocurrency).

Which proves an item’s provenance, i.e, showing that it is a limited edition or one of a kind. You can’t touch, hold or feel NFTs. 

So, an NFT is the opposite of something that is fungible. Something is fungible when it is easy to replace with another thing, of the same caliber.

An NFT provides a scarcity of digital content that can be relatively easily copied – a photo of Indian cricket great Sachin Tendulkar making a world-record score, for example, or a video of tennis No. 1 Ash Barty winning at Wimbledon.

This makes it rare (and therefore valuable). You can see how this could impact trading card and sports memorabilia collecting – and a lot of collectors are currently of the belief that NFT might be the end of collections. 

NFTs In The Sports Memorabilia World

The very essence of the sports memorabilia world is changing. Historically, sports collecting has been a physical hobby – you are paying to purchase a real-life object, which you can see, hold, and touch.

But, with the increasing prevalence of NFTs, this is shifting. In the midst of a memorabilia collectible’s ‘gold rush’, which is mainly centered around paper trading cards, NFT sports collectibles are as real as they are virtual. 

There are more and more NFTs that are linked to the professional sports world cropping up. The original was NBA TopShot, which was endorsed by a major pro league and licensed NFT platform.

One of the NFTs on this platform is a short clip of an NBA or WNBA player making an impressive play, with a  few additional graphic bells and whistles stitched to it to pimp it up a bit.

The blockchain guarantees that it is yours and that everything you own is authentic and unique.

On the TopShot NFT site, you can both buy and resell your moments – much like how traditional trading cards are bought and sold on eBay and other dedicated sites. 

Often, these sporting NFTs are thought of less as fun, collectible items for an avid sports fan to own, and more like a new kind of stock, share, or even just cash in your bank account.

But, it is still a massive industry, with TopShot NFT making half a billion dollars in sales in the six months of industry. a single TopShot (of star LeBron James) sold for a whopping $230,023.

The popularity of TopShot, and other sports-based NFTs, is probably due to their immense star power, their proven authenticity (which you can’t always get when it comes to sports memorabilia), and their scarcity. 

To Conclude

NFT sports trading is the direct byproduct of the pandemic-era boom in the popularity of traditional cardboard trading cards. Now, the NFT market is booming, whilst the traditional card one is shrinking.

But, we cannot totally blame this shrink on the NFT venture – rather, it is probably mostly attributed to a natural shrink after a collecting fad. 

NFTs provide an alternative collecting item for those that were after incredibly rare cardboard cards,  but have morphed into an investment item now.

And are seen as a business investment or financial choice, rather than a sports fan’s collector item.

It is unlikely that the NFT market will spell the end of the sports memorabilia market – as they operate on different wavelengths. Though one may grow whilst the other peters out a little, it will not be the direct cause. 

Bruno Breen
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