Sports collectors dream about owning a T206 Honus Wagner or a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. Most of us can’t afford one. But what if you could invest in a piece of one of these treasures?
That is the concept behind Rally Rd., a mobile platform that allows collectors to obtain shares of valuable memorabilia — like buying stock — for a fraction of what it would cost.
Just a piece of cardboard, right?
— Rally Rd. (@OnRallyRd) October 18, 2019
Mantle and Mays Lead Off
The ’52 Mantle — No. 311 in the Topps set and the gem of post-World War II baseball cards — was the first initial offering for a sports item, an SGC 7 (near mint). With a goal of $132,000, 264 investors gobbled up the available Mantle “stock” at $132 per share in a matter of minutes. The Mantle is now “closed” to new investors until the first trading window, which generally occurs 30 to 90 days after the close of the initial offering.
“The stock market is open five days a week. What we are offering is continuous,” Rally Rd. co-founder Chris Bruno said. “We are creating trading windows, a fully transparent auction.”
Offering No. 2 opened Friday at noon Eastern time. Rally Rd. offered a 1971 game model autographed jersey from Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays during his final season with the San Francisco Giants. There is an autograph on each side of the stained uniform front.
The initial offering was 2,000 shares available for the jersey, with the price set at $28.50 per share. Rally Rd. estimated the opening total value of the size 42 jersey at $57,000. Again, the offering was totally funded within minutes.
Investors who sign up at the Rally Rd. website can view their stock through their phones, and when the trading window opens, the app will replace its “invest” button with “buy” and “sell” buttons.
Up and Running
Rally Rd. was started nearly three years ago by boyhood friends Bruno and Rob Petrozzo, and Max Niederste-Ostholt. According to Bloomberg, they got $2.9 million in seed money from Rev Ventures, plus some help from plus help from Social Leverage and other investors. The company has raised an additional $7 million, according to TechCrunch, and now has 30 employees.
They were right.
“We wanted to democratize the process of collecting classic cars,” Bruno told Hagerty.com, a website run by an insurance company specializing in classic car insurance, in a February 2019 interview. “This way, anyone can participate.”
Baseball Card Background
Bruno and Petrozzo’s baseball card-collecting experiences as youths in Brooklyn, New York, got them thinking about dabbling in sports memorabilia.
“What we’ve developed is a platform for anyone to become an equity owner,” Bruno told Sports Collectors Daily.
The concept of buying and selling shares in sports memorabilia is a simple as card-flipping was for kids.
“Growing up we were trading baseball cards,” Petrozzo told Sports Collectors Daily. “Tangible things.
“Now, it’s a different collecting world. Everything is digital. We’re trying to go back to reality and away from the digital world.”
Are there risks involved? Of course there are, since all investments — whether stock, automobiles or sports memorabilia — can fluctuate in value. On the Rally Rd. website’s FAQ page, the company warns potential investors, “there’s no guarantee that there will be a buyer offering your desired price when you want to sell.”
So, how does one buy and sell these shares at Rally Rd.? The company recommends a potential investor should link his or her banking account — preferably a checking account — to the Rally Rd. app. All transfers to and from an investor’s account are done by an automated clearing house (ACH) process. The idea is similar to linking your account to PayPal, Square or a ride-sharing service. Click a button and the transaction is made.
As a security precaution, Rally Rd. requires the investor to verify the bank account as yours by securely logging into his or her online banking account. There are other methods — including “two small micro-deposits” — that are explained in the fine print on the FAQ page.
Investors can view their balances — created by selling shares or by earning dividends — by clicking the “$” icon at the top right-hand corner of the app. Whatever is available can be used for more investments or can be transferred back to the investor’s personal bank account.
Honus on Deck?
According to the Rally Rd. website, future offerings include a Wagner T-206 card and a contract signed by Muhammad Ali for his1971 “Fight of the Century” bout against Joe Frazier.
The Wagner card was one the Rally Rd. owners originally tried to secure first, but it has not happened, although the website lists it as “coming soon.” If the number listed on the graded card the correct card for sale — the card, which was shellacked, tabbed “authentic” by SGC and given serial number 1277779-001— then this card has a wonderful story.
It was bequeathed to the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore by Thomas V. Callahan, whose sister — Sr. Mary Vincent Callahan — had been a nun at the facility until her death in October 1999. Thomas Callahan visited his sister and moved closer to her when she became sick in the late 1990s. After her death, he still visited the Roman Catholic-based order of nuns. When Thomas Callahan died in York, Pennsylvania, in February 2010, he left the Wagner card to the nuns.
The nuns sold the card nine months later for $220,000 to Philadelphia cardiologist Nicholas DePace. The Rally Rd. website lists the value of the card at $495,000.
“I personally had never seen a Honus Wagner card,” Petrozzo told Sports Collectors Daily in July. “Being able to bring it to life and have a piece of it …”
Petrozzo did not have to complete the sentence.
That wonderful story will be explained in more detail if the card comes into the possession of Rally Rd. For now, Bruno and Petrozzo are focused on the items they do have for sale. They believe their mobile app will offer a simple, convenient way to invest in the collectibles market.
“We think it will be a very effective way to invest in the (memorabilia) market,” Bruno said.
“For around $100 or more, you can buy a meaningful amount of shares,” Petrozzo said. “You can get a substantial piece of history without breaking the bank.”