It didn’t have the dark cloud of 2020 or the wild ride that followed as we moved into 2021 but the sports collecting hobby was still a pretty vibrant place in 2022 with some significant happenings on the business side.
In Part 1 of our annual hobby year in review, we look back at some of that news along with some notable events on the legal side.
The year started off with a blockbuster. Just a few days after the holiday season came to an end, Fanatics completed a deal to buy the Topps Company. It was the first in what’s expected to be a series of dominos that will fall in the coming years as the sports behemoth begins to take control of the lion’s share of the trading card market.
The reported $500 million deal allowed Fanatics to jump start its trading card business. “We wanted to start with a foundation that was in place,” CEO Michael Rubin told the Wall Street Journal. “That’s a much better approach than building this from scratch.”
Also in January, eBay launched its Authenticity Guarantee program for sports cards, which meant sellers sent ungraded cards over a certain dollar amount to a grading company for a look. If they passed, they were forwarded to the buyer within a short time frame. The company expanded the program to graded cards in May.
In February, PSA’s parent company began an anticipated geographic expansion with the lease of office space in the shadows of New York City. The move was aimed at expanding PSA’s authentication and grading services of trading cards, tickets, autographs and other items.
In March, Collectable hosted a first of its kind gathering in Las Vegas, with the fractional shares company partnering with IMG for an event called the Mint Collective that was part seminar/part marketplace, with presentations and discussions, many centered on the hobby as an investment vehicle. Peyton Manning put in an appearance.
Late in the spring, Beckett reached a deal to hire Kunal Chopra as its new CEO, with an eye on using his tech background to enhance the company’s services.
One of the big buzzwords in the industry this year was “vault.” It seemed everyone was opening a secure storage option. Goldin, PWCC and Alt had all launched them, then came eBay in March with Collectors, eBay and Beckett all jumping in before the year was out.
In June, Fanatics announced the hiring of Mike Mahan, a long-time collector and former head of Dick Clark Productions as the first CEO of Fanatics Collectibles.
As the year unfolded, PSA finally trimmed its backlog of submissions that had resulted in a multi-month shutdown of all but the highest level services and brought economy submission pricing back to a level that was at least in the neighborhood of what it had been a couple of years earlier.
A blast from the past arrived at midyear with the news that Starting Lineups were back, albeit in a much larger, 21st century style. NBA figures kicked off the new line with more sports expected to follow.
In early summer, PSA made the decision to resume grading 1984-85 Star Company basketball cards, notable, of course, because of Michael Jordan’s debut appearance on a standard trading card.
With the World Cup approaching, Panini scored an international coup by signing young superstar Kylian Mbappe to a card and memorabilia deal.
The National Sports Collectors Convention announced the cities that would be hosting the annual show through 2025.
In November Topps announced its MVP Buyback promotion, which allowed collectors to bring certain Chrome cards of Aaron Judge and Paul Goldschmidt into local shops or send them to selected online retailers in return for hefty store credits. What will become of the thousands of cards turned in is something we’ll learn in 2023.
Crime and Punishment
In April, federal charges were filed against two Michigan brothers and a man from Florida in connection with a large art and sports memorabilia fraud scheme.
The 34-page indictment says artist Donald Henkel created and sold a wide variety of phony items including autographed baseballs and game model bats. Prosecutors say Henkel and his brother Mark then used other people to concoct phony stories about the provenance and place them up for sale. The charges came nearly two years after the FBI raided his property in a rural area where agents believed the Henkels had built a “forgery factory” for artwork and sports memorabilia.
Another Michigan man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for repackaging and selling sports cards in resealed packs to a couple after he told them they were original and unopened. Bryan Alan Kennert of Muskegon, was indicted on eight counts of wire fraud in March.
Sports card shops and related businesses remained a popular target for thieves. In September, a break-in at GTS Distribution’s Anaheim, CA facility resulted in the theft of several high-end cases.
Law enforcement agencies did get the upper hand on thieves believed to be responsible for some earlier shop burglaries. One received a five-year sentence for a string of thefts at shops from Michigan to Georgia. Two other men were indicted in October for stealing from shops in the south and transporting the goods across state lines.
In part 2 tomorrow, we’ll remember some of the hobby’s biggest sales and a few great finds that emerged during the year.