I get emails and calls from reporters, authors and other information seekers on a fairly regular basis. Probably the most popular question is “do you know how big the sports memorabilia industry/hobby is with regard to annual sales?”
Hey, it beats the most popular question from circa 2008 which was “how come baseball cards aren’t worth anything anymore?”
I’d rather answer a legitimate question than an uninformed supposition.
My answer has always been that while there have been a few revenue figures tossed around from time to time, those doing the tossing didn’t seem to have a grasp on what the “sports memorabilia industry” really is and where stuff gets sold. Most of those studies weren’t done by people familiar with the hobby, either. In short, I didn’t really trust any of them enough to quote their numbers to folks who asked me for them.
Now, maybe we finally have a decent answer.
In a story published Wednesday on Forbes.com, collector Dave Yoken, who created the Collectable app, revealed the results of some research conducted by his company that pegs the market conservatively at $5.4 billion per year.
A smart guy and a collector who understands the market, Yoken is not one to throw darts at a dartboard just to answer a question. The primary elements of his calculation include eBay (by far the bulk of the overall estimate at $4.7 billion), sales through major auction houses (over $350 million between standard auctions and private sales) and a figure for what’s spent at card shows and online.
As Yoken notes in his comments to Forbes’ David Seideman, though, it’s still a bit of a guessing game. Not every transaction is recorded. A lot of money changes hands in person and in places where figures are hard to know.
Many COMC sellers have their cards listed on eBay and Amazon but the company still facilitates massive numbers of transactions directly through its website. We don’t know the bottom line of the major online trading card retailers. Large private sales between advanced collectors happen regularly. Big deals sometimes happen at regional card shows and hobby shops. Millions of dollars worth of cards and other memorabilia are sold via social media each year. Even local and regional auction companies conduct sports memorabilia sales that are hard to factor.
No one could rightfully say they calculated all of it. Many of the figures will simply never be made available and/or are impossible to know. Any estimate is just that.
However, that $5.4 billion is a more digestible number than the industry has had before and you can bet they’ll be trying to refine the process going forward.
For now, it’s another testament that our little hobby is a pretty big deal.