Launched less than six months ago, Auction of Champions is already on its eighth online catalog and hoping to carve its own niche in the hobby. The family owned Arizona-based company has been holding bi-weekly events with an eye on a possible move to weekly auctions in the near future.
Each auction typically includes hundreds of items, with a heavy emphasis on autographed pieces from past and present athletes, entertainers and other celebrities. Jerseys, bats, balls, photos and other items are offered with authentication typically provided by major players in the field such as PSA/DNA, JSA, Beckett, Upper Deck, TriStar, Fanatics and Steiner Sports.
No lots carry a reserve price. Buyers currently pay whatever the high bid amount is—even if it’s well below what’s considered market value.
“We have four people working full-time to run the auction,” stated company owner Jeff Kranz. “We all love to see the different types of memorabilia that come across the office. We had a 1980 USA Miracle on Ice team signed photo including the late , Herb Brooks in a recent auction. We love seeing pieces like that which bring up conversations about great moments in sports. The owners have been in the industry since 1993 so we have a vast knowledge of sports memorabilia.”
The auction field is a crowded one but as a collector himself, Kranz says he drew on some of his own experiences when deciding what type of business he wanted to create.
“We decided to start Auction of Champions because we are buyers ourselves and realized that we can start an auction house and run it the way we want an auction house to be run as bidders. We try to have product that fits everyone’s needs. Having a variety will bring in more bidders and improve the shopping experience. Whether buying to give a gift or to collect, we have a product for you.”
Kranz says having a supply of fresh items is important but making sure bidders aren’t turned off by added expenses and wait times is also key to finding an audience that will keep coming back.
“We started with the idea that bidders do not like to pay a buyer’s premium,” he explained. “So we decided to give bidders their first year of bidding with no buyer’s premium. After their first year the buyer’s premium will still be the lowest in the industry at only ten percent.”
Kranz says another one of his goals was to offer a more airtight level of authenticity. “Auction House letters of authenticity, missing COA cards, only a player hologram. All of that we wanted to do away with. We want to put out a product that is one hundred percent fully authenticated. When you win an item from us, it is fully complete, you will not need to then spend more money getting your item authenticated or worry about its authenticity.
“Details were another thing that we wanted to focus on. Pictures, pictures, pictures. We show every little detail of every item. If there is something wrong with an item, you will know about it. No more receiving a signed jersey only to realize there is a small stain on it somewhere. We show pictures of everything and also mention everything in the description. Customer service- if you have a question, you can call or email us and we will respond to you quickly.”
Running events on a frequent basis allows Auction of Champions to respond to the sports news cycle and popular items can shift with the calendar.
“It really depends on the time of year. During baseball season, baseball items will be in more demand. When football season rolls around, the demand for football products is very high. Even when the Olympics are going on, you see some demand for Michael Phelps or Jim Craig. When a team wins a championship or a major feat happens such as a no- hitter, 500th home run or someone’s Hall of Fame election, demand for those products increases.”
With seven auctions completed and an eighth currently underway and set to close Wednesday night, Kranz says he’s happy he took the plunge and despite the heavy auction load, his staff aims to ship items quickly.
“We are happy with the first few months. Bidders are finding their way to the site and have been very happy with the final price they are paying. Every auction we get complimented on how our auctions are run, the quality of the products, shipping speed, number of pictures, etc.”
As long as consignments from sellers anxious to move items quickly continue to pour in, plans are in place to run even more auctions in a matter of months.
“We plan to move to weekly auctions in late 2018,” Kranz revealed. “Bidders want more auctions and moving to a weekly format will double the number of auctions each year. We plan on hiring a couple more employees and hope to continue to grow from there. More bidders equals more items which equals more work.”