By Karli Vezina
One business that hasn't suffered but blossomed since the pandemic is the sports memorabilia industry. While arenas sat empty and sports teams have been losing money at a steady pace, the sports memorabilia market has shot through the roof. What gives?
Author Sheena Rossiter reported that in recent years, the sports card market has outdone the stock market. The PWCC index that tracks top-selling sports cards, recently saw a better return on investment than the S&P 500. As one super Gretzky fan Shawn Chaulk said, this bump in interest has "all been because of the availability of time."
Sports fans stuck at home with nothing to watch and no games to attend found like-minded folks online. With this, many discovered a world of memorabilia that goes far beyond trading cards to things like trophies, rings, autographs, and used equipment. In this new collector's wonderland, Chaulk told Rossiter, "people are rediscovering their youth" and with games cancelled these fans have cash burning a hole in their pockets.
Some fans have moved past the tangible memorabilia into the realm of NFTs, non-fungible tokens. These are the digital versions of trading cards with some upgrades. They’re not static pictures with stats on the back but electronic video highlights with added music or commentary from the athlete. NFTs live online and when you buy one you have the digital proof and an electronic signature that says you are the rightful owner. This new way of collecting doesn't appeal to everyone, but it's a thing.
For collectors like Chaulk, there’s no appeal to the NFT market. He told Rossiter, “I get the economics. I just don’t get the attraction.” For him, his collection has become a lifestyle. His vast assortment of Gretzky memorabilia has turned him into a bit of a celebrity among other sports fans. It even got him to the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 when director Kevin Smith flew him in on a private jet just so he could borrow Gretzky's stick from the 1988 Stanley Cup game. For Chaulk, he says his memories are still his most valuable collection.