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Decline in Sports Card Sales in 2023, Highlights from Altan Insights' Market Report

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Altan Insights, a firm specializing in the analysis of various collectible markets, has reported a downturn in the sports card market for the year 2023. The report, drawing data from Card Ladder, indicates a continued decline in the market that began around 18 months prior.

According to the report, ultra-modern sports cards, those released from 2009 onwards, experienced a substantial 34.8% drop in sales compared to the previous year, 2022. Modern sports cards, categorized as those from the years 1984 to 2008, also saw a decline, with sales dropping by 30.8%. While vintage sports cards did see a decrease in overall sales, they showed more resilience than their modern and ultra-modern counterparts.

The report pointed out that in the fourth quarter of 2023, vintage and pre-war cards outperformed modern and ultra-modern cards, further extending their advantage in the market for that year.

Specific sports categories such as football, soccer, racing, and basketball experienced the most significant declines in card values. Football card values, in particular, were severely impacted, with Altan Insights attributing this to the extensive collecting that occurred during the market boom. Injuries to key quarterbacks towards the end of the season further dampened the market’s recovery.

The report also noted a considerable reduction in the top 50 sales at most auction houses from 2022 to 2023. However, the next 50 sales saw a less pronounced decrease, suggesting a more robust demand in the middle tier of the market.

Other key findings from Altan Insights' extensive 41-page report on the fourth quarter and the entire year of 2023 include:

  • A significant 40% year-over-year and 27% quarter-over-quarter reduction in six-figure auction sales in the fourth quarter, the lowest in the last three years.
  • Eleven sales of baseball items surpassed the $1 million mark in 2023, with Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle memorabilia featuring prominently in these high-value transactions, spread across five different auction houses.
  • In contrast to 2022's twelve seven-figure basketball card sales, 2023 saw no sales at this level, reflecting a diminished interest in modern patch cards at high prices.
  • The top-selling cards of currently active basketball players on eBay in the final four months of 2023 included names like LeBron James, Victor Wembanyama, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • The market for Steph Curry and Lebron James cards witnessed a decline of over 40% in 2023, whereas Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant cards maintained relative stability.
  • Late 1990s Michael Jordan cards dominated the top 10 Jordan card sales in the fourth quarter, including three of the top five.
  • The game-worn and game-used memorabilia market showed modest year-over-year growth, with the top 25 and top 50 sales in 2023 more than doubling the figures from 2021.
This detailed report by Altan Insights sheds light on the changing trends in the sports collectibles market, underscoring the shifts in collector interest and market dynamics across various sports and time periods.

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