Sports memorabilia and autograph memorabilia is a big deal these days. Such a big deal that memorabilia collectors are some the largest whales in any hobby – not just collectors from this type of an arena. If you think people spend a lot of money on cards, people spend 10-15 times that amount per capita in memorabilia. To capitalize on this huge group of people, companies have started to creep into the space slowly but surely, as we have seen with Upper Deck authentic and Panini authentic. They arent even the big dogs, and there might even be a new big dog in the game now that Fanatics has decided to go after a growing number of people who love to get signatures from their favorite teams and athletes. They are even getting extra creative at bringing collectors closer to the game.
Check out these awesome examples:
Companies like Fanatics, Tristar, CSA, GTS and others will take their connections and build entire conventions and shows around the high profile guests they schedule to attend. Its actually pretty impressive, having attended quite a few of them. One of the more recent shows had most of the living members of the 1985 Bears, all signing in one place at one time. That is awesome, no matter which way you slice it. The National Convention may have thousands of tables selling sports cards, but just as many people also go to meet the hundred or so players that are signing throughout the weekend. When attending, its fun to watch all the different items people bring to have signed.
Although these shows give people like me a great chance to meet their idols, its not going to come cheap in any way, shape or form. This isnt a place that anyone should go and bring some cheap cards to sign. That is just not cost effective. Shows like I am describing are for those people looking to get their collection centerpieces marked by the athlete with no questionable authenticity.
The market is not all about autographed photos and items either, as game used memorabilia is easily the tip of the top of the mountain. Collectors will go nuts trying to acquire rare items from their favorite players, eras and teams. Whether its jerseys or equipment, its all worth chasing to many of the people who live and die by these pieces. Some of the golden age memorabilia can sell for millions of dollars, especially for people like Babe Ruth and other titans of the game.
Just talking with some of these bigger collectors makes one feel like small potatoes. Cards are just not the thing that is worth anything compared to the absolutely stunning items that I have seen sold at the bigger gatherings over the last few years. Rarely does a card make news the way a signed piece of game used memorabilia can.
We always talk about the hobby thinning out, but the strength of the memorabilia industry should be a breath of fresh air. If I were the card companies, this is the market I would be chasing.