The sports collectible market took a hit in 2023, according to a report released by Altan Insights, a company that monitors sales across various collectible markets. Drawing from data provided by Card Ladder, Altan Insights observed a downward trend that began about 18 months ago and continued throughout the year.
The analysis revealed that sales for ultra-modern cards, those issued from 2009 to the present, plummeted by 34.8% compared to the previous year. Modern cards, spanning from 1984 to 2008, also saw a decrease in sales, dropping by 30.8%. While vintage cards also experienced a decline in overall sales, they fared somewhat better than their modern and ultra-modern counterparts.
In a surprising turn of events, the fourth quarter of 2023 saw vintage and pre-war cards outperforming modern and ultra-modern ones, widening their advantage in the collectible market for the entire year, as highlighted in Altan’s report.
Specifically, the segments of football, soccer, racing, and basketball cards witnessed the most substantial price declines. Altan Insights pointed out that football, particularly high-end cards of quarterbacks, both young and veteran, failed to recover their value, with injuries to popular quarterbacks in the latter half of the season further exacerbating the situation.
Another interesting revelation in Altan’s report was the considerable dip in the top 50 sales at most auction houses from 2022 to 2023. However, the decline was less pronounced in the next tier of sales, suggesting a slightly stronger demand in the mid-range market segment.
Here are some key findings from Altan’s comprehensive 41-page report on the fourth quarter and the year 2023 as a whole:
1. A staggering 40% year-over-year and 27% quarter-over-quarter drop in the number of six-figure auction sales in the fourth quarter, marking the lowest total in the past three years.
2. In 2023, there were eleven recorded sales of baseball items exceeding $1 million, with eight of them involving cards or memorabilia of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. These sales were spread across five different auction houses.
3. A striking contrast from 2022, where there were twelve seven-figure basketball card sales, whereas in 2023, there were none. Altan Insights noted a disappearance in the demand for modern patch cards at high price points, which did not return throughout the year.
4. The list of top-selling cards of currently active basketball players on eBay in the last four months of 2023 featured LeBron James, Victor Wembanyama, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
5. The market for LeBron James and Steph Curry cards across all platforms dipped by over 40% last year, whereas Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant cards remained relatively stable.
Of particular note were the Jordan cards from the late 1990s, which accounted for five of the top ten Jordan card sales in the fourth quarter, including three of the top five.
While the market for game-worn and game-used memorabilia showed only modest growth from the previous year, the top 25 and top 50 sales in this category in 2023 were more than double the levels achieved in 2021.
Altan Insights’ report provides a comprehensive picture of the shifting dynamics in the sports collectible market, showcasing the fluctuations in different segments and the evolving interests of collectors and investors in this domain.