Collectibles Vault Draws Backers From Durant to BlackRock’s Wagner

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Brendan Coffey
·3 min read
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Alt, a new platform to buy, sell, track and store sports collectibles, launches today with venture capital from a series of sports and technology backers, including NBA player Kevin Durant, NFLer Larry Fitzgerald and sports business analyst Darren Rovell.

“Alt is a place where you can invest in sports cards as easily as stocks,” Alt founder Leore Avidar said in a video call. “There’s never really been infrastructure in this space, comparable to stocks, bonds—what people see as traditional assets.”

The crux of Alt’s business is providing a trustworthy go-between for collectible buyers and sellers to make deals, according to Avidar. As part of that, Alt can physically store items in a vault at an undisclosed location. In many cases, items may be traded and never leave the vault, simply switching custody, similar to how rare wine and precious metals are often traded.

“Everything is pre-authenticated, so it’s graded by either PSA or Beckett. We want it to be really easy for you to think about buying and selling and not have to worry about the fraud or shadiness that occurs with different exchanges,” Avidar added. The business also will take a lot smaller cut of deals than other outlets, 1.5% including payment processing, compared to 12.5% on eBay and the 12-20% buyer/seller premiums auction houses can charge. For all collectors, whether or not they sell on Alt, the site offers a portfolio tracking system, where you can see up-to-date prices based on actual sales and Alt’s proprietary price algorithm.

Avidar started Alt last May and gathered in $31 million in seed- and A-round venture capital money from at least 19 investors. Joining Durant, Fitzgerald and Rovell are NBA veteran Tobias Harris, BlackRock co-founder Sue Wagner, Coinbase founder Fred Ehrsam, Stripe founders Patrick and John Collinson and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, among others. Avidar also runs Lob, a tech company that seeks to modernize direct mail techniques for businesses. He previously worked in business development for startups and VC at Amazon and was a derivatives trader.

The launch of Alt is another step in the surging interest in sports collectibles over the past year. The market for investable sports cards is perhaps up four-fold, Avidar broadly estimated. The three largest card sales ever have taken place in the past eight months, while volume for all collectible cards is up more than 140% over the past year, according to eBay. With sports cards, Avidar explained that the market is taking off in part because about 25 years ago card makers started controlling production and making limited editions of cards. Since cards tend to be collected by teens, the scarcity caused by the production reforms is now coinciding with the greater wealth the now-middle aged collectors have to put toward their youthful passion.

Other factors include the contention that sports cards are a proxy for investing in a player’s future, as a vehicle to buy and profit from if the player’s career evolves successfully, plus the community aspect of buying and selling cherished objects, the executive said.

While Alt is focused primarily on trading cards at its launch today, it likely will expand into brokering deals for other collectibles such as sneakers, watches and artworks over time.

“If we’re doing our job, not only will the transparency and the liquidity of collectibles be a lot better, but I’d love to see Millennials and Gen-Zers buy a home using alternative assets. We want to help enable that,” Avidar said.

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