Behind the window of an unpretentious venue in Greenwich Village, New York, a dozen men open their black suitcases: Inside are collectible sports cards, a passion and a pandemic-fueled market.
On this day, the excitement is greater than usual due to the news that an investment fund based in San Francisco announced that a letter with the image of the Golden State Warriors basketball player, Stephen Curry, reached a value of 5.9 million of dollars.
Michael Campobasso, a 38-year-old jeweler, is counting on this record to increase the value of another Curry card he owns, from the 2009-2010 season, when the triple NBA champion was still a rookie.
“I could sell it for $ 80,000,” enthuses Campobasso, who paid $ 25,000 for it last year.
The market for collectible sports cards has been on the rise in recent years, but confinement from the pandemic fueled the collecting spirit and many joined the hobby, while some investors pushed prices.
“That had a massive impact,” says Jacob Salter, 25, head of product for Bleecker Trading, the firm that hosted the event in Greenwich Village.
“People were bored at home. They recovered their childhood memories and started buying sports cards, ”he explained.
In the United States, baseball dominated the industry, but the 2020 success of the series “The Last Dance,” about Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls, put basketball at the center of the scene.
In February 2021, a letter dedicated by the Bulls legend sold at auction for $ 1.44 million. In April, a letter with the image of rookie LeBron James sold for 5.2 million.
In Greenwich Village, the cards in the room total $ 20 million, according to Jacob Salter.
– Passion to earn a living –
The letters are presented in laminated envelopes. The suitcases have security keys.
The authenticity of the letters is certified by specialized firms that rate them from 1 to 10, according to criteria such as their rarity and state of conservation.
For Vahe Hekimian, something that started as a hobby became his main source of income.
“It’s a passion. I love this. But I also do it to earn money ”, he explains to ..
He recently spent $ 50,000, part of it in cash, on a letter bearing the image of Dallas Mavericks rising star Luka Doncic, who will contest the Tokyo Olympics with Slovenia.
The highest transaction of the night is over $ 90,000.
– “Alternative” assets –
A 44-year-old collector who calls himself Cage Lawyer says that many people see cards “as an alternative category of assets, something akin to art and cryptocurrencies. They are looking for a place to put their money and protect themselves from inflation ”.
Business is a manna for many investment firms.
Alt, a fund specializing in non-traditional assets, which bought the Curry card, estimates that the sports card market is currently worth $ 15 billion.
Another firm, Collectable, specializes in shared or fractional ownership of collectibles and sports cards, a booming form of investment.
PWCC is a platform that organizes collector card auctions and manages a safe deposit box to store them. He expects to sell for a volume of about $ 500 million this year, triple the amount in 2020.
“We are convinced that our sector will continue to grow,” says its commercial director, Jesse Craig.