The sports card market encompasses a lot of different elements. Vintage. Modern. Ultra modern. Different sports. Graded and ungraded. The list goes on. Toss in memorabilia–like game-worn and game-used items and getting a handle on what’s happening from a “market” perspective becomes broader still.
The hobby is far from dead. In fact, there’s not much doubt the card market is a much bigger arena than it was just 3-4 years ago, but it’s safe to say that things aren’t quite as robust overall as they were at this time last year.
Altan Insights, which tracks activity in the alternative investment space and provides a wealth of data, has released its sports collectibles report for the 4th quarter of 2022. It wasn’t a great three months for the hobby as a whole.
A few nuggets from their 64-page report:
- “If the third quarter represented a market walking a tightrope between stability and more pain, the fourth quarter saw the market plunge definitively towards the ‘more pain’ side of the equation.”
- Modern and Ultra Modern era had a rocky ride. “Those categories were of course host to the rampant speculation of younger generations and risk-seeking buyers, and over the course of 2022, many high-end, ever available cards in those eras have reverted back to early 2020 levels.”
- “In most categories and sports, Q4 was a quarter to forget, and that’s especially the case in basketball, where stars retired, active, and rising all saw values soundly pummeled.”
- “The World Cup began on November 20th. From that date through the end of the year, the Lionel Messi Index tracked by CardLadder actually fell 12.4%. For the full quarter, it was down 16.9%. The best possible outcome happened for the most important player on the world’s biggest stage, and the market could scarcely have cared less.”
- PSA graded over 3.1 million items in Q4—the first time the company topped the 3 million mark in a quarter.
- “For much of 2022, despite markets in decline, auction house volume remained resilient, even offering fairly consistent year-over-year growth.”:
- Six of the eight highest sales of sports memorabilia items occurred in 2022. “Ultra high-end activity remained relatively robust. The fourth quarter saw 12 seven-figure sales, bringing the 2022 total to 48. The 4Q number was up 20% over the same quarter in 2021, while the 2022 total was up 12% over 2021.”
- On the game-used market: “For the full year of 2022, six-figure sales in the category climbed 43% over 2021. It will take truly special items of incredible caliber to sustain overall growth and likely to stimulate interest at lower tiers. The latter point is particularly important, as available supply of a lower caliber continues to grow and collectors become more discerning.”
- “While golf cards tumbled, the record-breaking year for golf memorabilia continued in Q4.”
- Fractional sports cards and sports memorabilia finished the year down 35.9% and 26.7% respectively.
While the overall tone of the last few months isn’t great, the hope is that a push in the right direction from an overall economic standpoint might stem the tide at some point in 2023.
“Though data suggests we’re potentially turning the corner on inflation in a relatively healthy manner so far, the holding pattern may persist until the Fed is prepared to publicly declare victory,” Altan stated. “The hope is that there’s comfort in doing so before economic health has been further sacrificed.”