For collectors who have big dreams of owning an expensive sports card or piece of memorabilia but have a small wallet, fractional ownership is aiming to scratch that itch. The latest entry into the market and the first to be devoted only to sports, Collectable resembles the stock market, allowing investors to buy shares of high-end sports cards and memorabilia. The platform will go live as a mobile app Thursday and is available on IOS and Android devices.
“We’re offering some items that are some of the best of the best,” said Collectable CEO Ezra Levine, 34, a former portfolio manager for a sports, media, consumer and entertainment hedge fund in New York City. “Items that the average collector, or most people, who never be able to sniff, or own physically. So, it’s not necessarily a substitute for physical ownership, but it’s offering the ability to own things in a different way.”
The first item Collectable will offer is one of only two 1953 Topps card of Mickey Mantle graded PSA 10 Gem Mint. The card will open at $2.5 million, with the cost per share fixed at $25. There will be 40,000 available shares for the public to buy.
Levine said future listings will include vintage and modern sports cards, game-used items, championship rings and historic sports documents.
Future “stock” possibilities include Stephen Curry signed rookie cards, a 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card, a Prizm rookie card of Kawhi Leonard, a LeBron James rookie card, and a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The company has over $30 million in collectibles in its inventory.
Collectors can buy shares by linking a bank account or a credit card to the app. The app can be downloaded on iOS or Google Play.
The original owner will retain 60 percent of the shares.
So, what is the lure? Why buy a piece of a collectible that you won’t be able to physically handle?
“It’s another opportunity for people to engage with the hobby, to own items and to grow the pie, together,” Levine said, “and to bring in people who otherwise would never be able to sniff the type of quality that we’re going to be able to offer.”
After an investor buy shares, there is a 90-day lockup period once the item is fully funded. That means once a user buys a share, he or she will not have access to the money they invested for three months.
Collectable will partner with Templum Markets, LLC, to provide a secondary market for its offerings once they become available for resale.
“Quite honestly, I heard about the opportunity to combine memorabilia, my love of sports, my background in the financial markets, and I really fell in love with it,” Levine said.
Collectable’s concept is similar to the one used by Rally (formerly Rally Rd.), which was formed in 2016 by Chris Bruno, Rob Petrozzo and Max Niederste-Ostholt. The difference is that Rally also sells shares in expensive automobiles, for example, while Collectable will keep its focus on sports items.
“Look, I love the guys at Rally Rd., I’ve got nothing bad to say about them,” Levine said. “I actually think they’ve done a tremendous job — we’re just focused on sports.”
Levine was very focused on sports — “a huge sports fan, huge baseball fan” — when he was a kid growing up in Manhattan.
“I grew up a diehard Yankees fan,” he said, also noting he rooted for other New York teams like the Giants, Rangers and Knicks.
“I collected baseball cards and basketball cards when I was a kid,” Levine said. “I was definitely prone to have a lot of useless cards that are still sitting in my parents’ apartment.”
Levine’s father, Robert N. Levine, enjoyed collecting memorabilia. He also was the 58th president of the New York Board of Rabbis from 2006 to 2008, and wrote the 2005 book, There is No Messiah and You’re It. The elder Levine enjoyed the hobby and collected Sandy Koufax items.
“I’ve grown up in and around the hobby,” said Ezra Levine, who has attended the National “numerous times” with his father.
Levine maintained his love for sports when he attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies in 2010. While at Michigan, Levine cut his teeth in various media internships. He helped with Wolverines’ coverage for CBS Sports and ESPN from 2006 to 2010. He also interned with ABC World News during the summer of 2008.
Next, Levine earned his master’s degree in business administration at New York University in 2016. In the meantime, he managed hedge funds for Bloomberg (2010-2012) and then for Hilltop Park Associates (2012-2017).
And before getting involved with Collectable, Levine was the chief financial officer for The Spring League, a professional football scouting events developmental league.
“I got a lot of my operational background and my entrepreneurial background from that,” Levine said. “It’s a very tough business. We’ve been able to survive in very impressive fashion.
“We’ve flown under the radar, but it’s a nice little business, and it’s fun.”
Levine said what will set Collectable apart will be partnerships with athletes selling their memorabilia. Sellers will be allowed to retain equity in offerings sold through Collectable but must offer a minimum of 40% of the total asset value at IPO.
“We are striking up partnerships with pretty prominent pro athletes,” Levine said.
The first partnership is with retired running back Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time rushing leader.
“(He’s) very big into memorabilia. Very big into authentication,” Levine said of Smith, who founded PROVA Group. “His angle here is, he wanted to go directly to the fans and share his accomplishments, his memorabilia.
“He didn’t think that going through auction platforms was as intimate as he’d like it to be.”
“I’ve seen the memorabilia space both as a player and through my authentication company,” the former Dallas Cowboys great said. “Collectable is on the verge of creating something truly unique.”
Collectable is also planning shareholder-type events. For example, Smith can communicate exclusively with people who own shares of his memorabilia.
“There will be lots of unique access points,” Levine said.
For now, Levine said the app will remain mobile, but there are plans to roll out a web-based program.
“We will have a web-based platform in short order,” Levine said. “Some of the trading will probably be done on the website in addition to the app, only because it’s a larger screen size.”
Levine also envisions expansion outside the United States in the future. Collectable could have future platforms for sports like soccer and rugby.
“We could expand tomorrow if we wanted to,” Levine said. “Our approach is, ‘Let’s just nail sports, let’s just nail being here in the States,’ but I think this is a global opportunity. Sports is global, sports is populist, and we think our company is incredibly well-capitalized to be able to do large things in this space.”
The Collectable staff, which includes former NFL running back Michael Haddix as head of player relationships and author Alan Goldsher as head of content, has been working to prepare Collectable for its debut.
Levine has reason to be excited about Collectable’s chances. The coronavirus pandemic has kept collectors at home, and many of them have been searching the internet for ways to continue enjoying their passion.
“The hobby is reaching new heights and new levels,” Levine said. “And we hope to be a major part of this, and to really open up access to the hobby for people who have been priced out in a lot of ways.
“We’re going to grow the hobby together. It’s a digital alternative, it’s not a substitute or trying to undercut (anyone), it’s just a way to open this up and provide another opportunity.”