2023 wasn’t a great year for sports cards according to Altan Insights, which tracks sales in a variety of collectible markets.
Using data from Card Ladder, Altan calculated sales for some of the most popular ultra-modern (2009-present) cards to be down 34.8% from 2022, continuing the dip that began some 18 months ago. Modern cards (1984-2008) were down 30.8%. As a whole, vintage cards were also down overall, but fared better than modern.
“Vintage and Pre-War cards outperformed Modern and Ultra-Modern in Q4, widening their 2023 advantage,” the report states.
Football, soccer, racing and basketball—in that order—saw the largest price declines. “Given the magnitude of football collecting during the boom, that sport has to be considered the biggest loser of 2023, as high-end cards of quarterbacks young and old could not establish firm footing to mount a recovery,” Altan wrote. Injuries to popular quarterbacks in the latter half of the season didn’t help.
The top 50 sales at most auction houses dipped considerably from 2022 to 2023 with Altan noting “the weakness was more muted in the next 50, indicative of slightly more appetite further down from the highest end of the market.”
Other notes from their 41-page report on the fourth quarter and 2023 as a whole:
*The quantity of six-figure auction sales in Q4 fell 40% year-over-year and 27% quarter-over-quarter to the lowest total of the last three years.
*In all, there were eleven $1 million—plus sales of baseball items recorded in 2023, eight of which featured cards or memorabilia of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. The sales were spread across five different auction houses.
*In 2022 there were 12 seven-figure basketball card sales. Last year there weren’t any. “The appetite for modern patch cards at that level effectively evaporated in late 2022 and did not return in 2023,” Altan stated.
*The list of top selling cards of currently active basketball players on eBay in the last four months of 2023 included LeBron James, Victor Wembanyama, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
*Overall, the market for James and Curry across all markets last year dipped by more than 40% while Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant cards remained fairly stable.
*Jordan cards from the late ‘90s comprised 5 of the top 10 Jordan card sales of the fourth quarter and three of the top five.
*While the game-worn and game-used market overall showed only modest growth from the year before, the top 25 and top 50 sales last year were both more than double the levels achieved in 2021.