Fanatics Adds Collectibles Auctions in Latest Business Expansion

·3 min read

Fanatics continues to rapidly expand the scope of its business—now moving into memorabilia auctions.

Michael Rubin’s company has launched Fanatics Auctions, a digital platform for selling trading cards, game-worn jerseys and autographed items. In addition to listing collectibles at fixed prices, Fanatics will now auction off more select items through the new marketplace.

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The move comes as sports collectibles experience a pandemic resurgence. Fanatics listed its first series of items last week, with many set to expire Monday. A 1986 Michael Jordan rookie card has been bid up to $240,000, and the jersey that MLB star Fernando Tatis Jr. wore in his MLB debut is now at $54,000.

That presents a new stream of revenue for the company, which in January estimated that its memorabilia arm would do $200 million in sales this year. Longer term, the company sees the division as a billion-dollar business.

The new platform differs from popular auction houses in that private collectors won’t be able to sell on the marketplace—it’s just for Fanatics-controlled products. Fanatics sales also won’t carry buyers premiums, a common fee at auction houses that can sometimes tack another 25% onto the hammer price.

The initiative is being driven by Fanatics Authentic, the company’s memorabilia arm, which has exclusive deals with more than 150 athletes, including Tom Brady, Zion Williamson, Shohei Ohtani and Sabrina Ionescu. Many of those athletes will have items available at auction—current listings include signed Williamson game-worn shoes and an Ohtani game-worn jersey.

Fanatics Auctions also includes products beyond the company’s exclusive rights, like the Jordan card. Those items are being acquired by the Fanatics through a variety of other channels, creating a unique speculation challenge for the team.

Already the world’s largest seller of licensed apparel, Fanatics is quickly expanding to occupy more of the digital economy around sports. The company has a database of more than 80 million sports fans, and Rubin has been public about his belief that it can leverage that information in new ways.

In June Fanatics launched a new NFT company, which later raised money at a $1.5 billion valuation. Its new trading card company, which shocked the industry by securing licenses with the NBA, NBPA, MLB, MLBPA and NFLPA, was recently valued at $10.4 billion. A sportsbook is in the works, with other verticals also being considered.

Collectibles auctions are a logical extension. Sports memorabilia has experienced a surge of interest in the past 18 months, with record valuations for items, such as trading cards, signed equipment and game-worn jerseys. That trend has been met with increased investment. Goldin Auctions, one of the biggest auction houses for sports items, recently sold to Collectors Holdings, a group whose backers include New York Mets owner Steve Cohen.

Online auctions were a significant part of the All In Challenge, a digital fundraiser launched by Rubin during the pandemic. It raised roughly $60 million for charities associated with feeding those in need.

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