Sports Memorabilia Heats Up on Amazon
By Greg Holden
Amazon.com may not be a household name as an antiques and collectibles marketplace. But its sports collectibles category is well-known among avid collectors of sports cards and other memorabilia, and big dealers are flocking to the site and putting up millions of items for sale.
This morning, Amazon and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) announced the launch of Prize Authentics, which will offer memorabilia from prominent stars in sports, movies, television, music such as NBA star Chris Bosh, major league baseball star Matt Garza, and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, JR. Prize Authentics will offer authenticated and limited-edition, autographed memorabilia in Amazon Sports Collectibles Store at Amazon.com/prizeauthentics .
The Sports Collectibles area launched in early 2012. Sellers must apply to and be approved in order to sell in the Sports Collectibles category. They must sell as an Amazon Pro Merchant and have an order defect rate lower than 0.75%, and all products must be authentic.
Last year, I wrote an article about the Sports Collectibles category in which I quoted two sports card sellers. One reported so-so sales on the site, but the other, Mike MacDonald of White Ball Autographs, was enthusiastic about the opportunity. When I checked in with him today, he was just as happy to sell in Sports Collectibles despite increased competition from Prize Authentics and other large-scale sellers, some of whom offer thousands or even millions of items being in the category.
"I'm pleased," says MacDonald, who currently has about 2500 items for sale on Amazon. "Amazon's customer service gets five stars; it's far and away better than anything eBay had." MacDonald sold on eBay until a fee increase in 2010.
MacDonald added that the items sold by bigger sellers help bring "eyeballs" to his own listings, even though many of those items aren't particularly rare.
"Amazon is not only growing by leaps and bounds and they are taking business away from eBay. I have a good time with it," he commented.
Amazon spokesperson Erik Fairleigh explained that Prize Authentics is one of hundreds of sellers in the Sports Collectibles "store" within Amazon, and that this part of Amazon's marketplace is growing steadily. "Customer traffic year-over-year to the store has nearly tripled, and selection year-over-year in the Sports Collectibles store has nearly doubled," he said.
Along with the sports store, Amazon has opened an Amazon Entertainment Collectibles store and most recently, Amazon Art, he added.
In an article last month, I quoted several veteran appraisers and authorities in the antiques and collectibles field as saying that Amazon needs to improve general awareness that it is a venue for such merchandise. I asked Fairleigh whether Amazon is well-known for antiques and collectibles and what it's doing to improve awareness.
"It's early for the Amazon Sports Collectibles store. We are seeing growing awareness for the store and excited that customer traffic is steadily growing," he said.
One of the experts I interviewed for the earlier article, Harry Rinker, said that Amazon's foray into antiques and collectibles is an effort to enter the primary rather than secondary (resale) market. Items such as those sold by Prize Authentics, which are signed by currently active athletes, need to be purchased only after careful consideration by the buyer. Prize Authentics' collection currently includes more than 500 items, sourced directly from the athletes.
"This business of selling authenticated autographs of current players, whether they are on uniforms or jackets, or whatever, is fine, but people have to understand what it is they are buying," he explained. "They are buying speculative material. These are still active players in all their sports. Mariano Rivera, for instance, will certainly go into the baseball Hall of Fame. In the final analysis it comes down to who will be in the Hall of Fame and who is not. Those athletes who are Rookie of the Year Cy Young award winners or MVP winners now may not end up in the Hall of Fame."
As an investment, buyers need to realize that it can take 30 years for an object to move from what Rinker described as a "desirable" item to a "collectible."
"Over and over again you find that the secondary market is not going to pay you 20 cents on the dollar for something you considered to be valuable," he adds. "According to Rinker's "30-Year Rule," things are bought and sold in order to stand the test of time. There has to be a steady and predictable secondary market. Amazon is in the primary market selling "desirables" as opposed to antiques and collectibles. There is not a predictable secondary market for them."
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About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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