The sports collectible market has taken a hit in 2023, with sales declining across various segments, according to a report by Altan Insights. The report, which analyzed data from Card Ladder, revealed a downward trend that began about 18 months ago and continued throughout the year.
Notably, sales of ultra-modern cards, which are cards issued from 2009 to the present, plummeted by 34.8% from the previous year. Modern cards, defined as those from 1984 to 2008, also saw a significant decrease in sales, dropping by 30.8%. However, vintage cards managed to hold their ground better than their modern and ultra-modern counterparts.
In the fourth quarter of 2023, vintage and pre-war cards outperformed modern and ultra-modern cards, further strengthening their position in the collectible market for the year. This trend was particularly evident in segments such as football, soccer, racing, and basketball cards, which experienced substantial price declines.
The report pointed out that football cards, especially high-end quarterback cards, failed to recover their value, with injuries to popular quarterbacks in the latter half of the season exacerbating the situation. Additionally, the top 50 sales at most auction houses experienced a considerable dip from 2022 to 2023. Interestingly, the decline was less pronounced in the next tier of sales, indicating a slightly stronger demand in the mid-range market segment.
Key findings from Altan Insights’ comprehensive report on the fourth quarter and the year 2023 include a 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.
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, demonstrating the continued demand for these iconic players’ collectibles.
A stark contrast was observed in the basketball card market. In 2022, there were twelve seven-figure sales for basketball cards, while 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. However, eBay’s top-selling cards of currently active basketball players in the last four months of 2023 featured LeBron James, Victor Wembanyama, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The report also highlighted the performance of specific players’ cards. The market for LeBron James and Steph Curry cards across all platforms dipped by over 40% in 2023, while Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant cards remained relatively stable. Notably, Jordan cards from the late 1990s 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 compared to the previous year, the top 25 and top 50 sales in this category in 2023 more than doubled the levels achieved in 2021, indicating a growing interest in these unique collectibles.
Altan Insights’ report provides a comprehensive overview of the shifting dynamics in the sports collectible market. It sheds light on the fluctuations in different segments and highlights the evolving interests of collectors and investors in this domain. With the decline in sales of ultra-modern and modern cards, collectors may find value and stability in vintage cards and game-worn memorabilia.