You're only as good as your last auction and for companies that produce catalogs full of sports memorabilia and cards, that means consignments. He who has the best consignments usually wins, but so far there's been room for a lot of different companies in the marketplace. They handle a wide variety of items to meet the diversity of their clientele, some of which is new to the market.
The more popular an item is, the more they make for their client--and for themselves. Premiums to buyers and sellers go up and everyone is happy. It's not easy, though.
In the third of our ten-part Q&A with sports memorabilia auction company representatives, we asked: What part of the market is hottest right now? What specific type of items do you hope are on the other end of the line when people call with consignments?
Steve Bloedow, Collect Auctions: Vintage cards and vintage autographs are the most desirable items, especially players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Christy Mathewson, etc. From an auction house standpoint, single graded cards are the easiest to work with, but we look forward to singles, sets and any high-end autographs whether they are from sports or politics, entertainment, astronauts, etc.
Rob Lifson, Robert Edward Auctions: All quality items in every segment of the marketplace are hot. We are particularly geared towards cards, and in that field, there is an incredible demand for all vintage cards. In some ways, what’s hot doesn’t change all that much over the years. The best items are always the best items. But there can be major sudden price swings among the hot items (usually up) due to timing and pent up demand. A 1916 M101-4 Babe Ruth card has always been a hot commodity. It’s just gone up in value a lot during the past couple years.
What we ideally hope to hear about when people call is either a fresh collection of vintage cards that has been in the family for a hundred years, or, even more so, a collection assembled by a longtime serious collector over a period of many years. The true collectors have an eye for what is great. If they are knowledgeable and have been carefully buying at auctions over the years, it can be pretty amazing what they can have. After all, all those great finds over the years have to go somewhere. They tend to go into great collections!
J.P. Cohen, Memory Lane: The hottest items that we are witnessing that collectors are demanding are rare high grade Hall of Fame rookie cards as well as high grade game used equipment.
David Kohler, SCP Auctions: Definitely vintage game worn items. They’re in high demand. Whether it’s a bat or jersey or basketball, if it's a great piece, it will have interested buyers. If a call came in and it was a real Johnny Unitas jersey from the ‘60s, that’s something we know is going to bring big money. The market is very strong and deep for authentic items. It’s the same thing for cards. If it’s graded or popular, we know it’s going to sell in our auction."
David Hunt, Hunt Auctions: The higher end pieces of quality are especially strong currently with emphasis on pieces relating to the icons in baseball history such as Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, and DiMaggio. We obviously never know what to expect when a potential consignor contacts us but often times the “lead” that you expect the least results out of ends up being the most productive.
Leighton Sheldon, Just Collect: Vintage cards and high-end memorabilia. We want to find that next “M116 Set” that comes from the printer’s family!
Next: What vintage sports cards or sets are hot right now?