Derek Jeter has an endorsement/autograph deal with Topps. Now he has his own grading company. The Hall of Fame shortstop is listed as a founding partner of Arena Club, the latest entry in a suddenly crowded field of upstart grading firms. It’s offering grading and authentication services as well as personal showrooms where collectors and buy, sell, trade and display their cards, even those not graded by other firms.
The co-founder and CEO of Arena Club is Brian Lee, who served in the same role at The Honest Co., and also started LegalZoom.com. He is the Managing Partner of BAM Ventures, an early stages venture capital firm based in Los Angeles.
Arena Club is offering two levels of service: a $25 fee to grade, vault and list cards for sale on the site or $35 to have a card graded and returned. Turnaround time is 30 business days.
Collectors can also place cards on the Arena Club’s vault platform at no charge—at least for now. Arena Club charges a 5% marketplace fee to the seller based on the cash value of each transaction. Trades not involving cash components are free.
Every card graded on the platform will be given a report to the customer, explaining in detail why it received that particular grade. Arena Club says it will use “computer vision and machine learning.” The process is being overseen by Jia Li, formerly Head of Research & Development at Google Cloud. Before joining Google, she was the Head of Research at Snap and led the Visual Computing and Learning Group at Yahoo! Labs.
“Arena Club was built by a team of trading card enthusiasts who created the platform with the hobby community in mind,” Lee stated in a news release. “From top to bottom, our team is honest, ethical and fair. Arena Club will transform the collectible world through transparency, authenticity and technology.”
“I am proud to be part of the team at Arena Club and to work closely with Brian to bring this innovative platform to life,” Jeter stated. “We recognize that there is a real need in the grading industry for clarity, speed and trust, and Brian has put together a team that is committed to providing that to the marketplace.”
Jeter appeared on the Today Show Thursday to discuss the new venture.
They’re not saying where the company’s vault is located. Similar storage vaults for cards operated by eBay and Collectors, parent company of PSA, are located in Delaware.
The company’s management team is a mix of entrepreneurs, business executives and those with a background in sports collectibles.
Arena Club’s Co-Founder, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer is Jesse Glass, the former CFO and operating partner at BAM Labs. Vice President of Business Development Warren Laufer is also a Partner at Mint 10, a VC fund that invests solely in the sports collectible ecosystem.
In addition to Glass and Laufer, Arena Club is joined by Board Members Jeremy Liew (venture capital firm Lightspeed Ventures), Neil Sequeira (another venture capitalist), David Nathanson (Former Head of Business Operations Fox Sports), and Board Advisor Ryan O’Hara (Former CEO of Topps).
According to Bloomberg, Arena Club received $9 million in funding.
The company’s grading scale will include “Perfect 10”, “Gem Mint 10” and “Mint Plus 9.5” in addition to the traditional 1-9.
UltraPro is making Arena Club’s slabs and custom inner penny sleeves.