A new startup is making it easier to make sure your mother doesn’t throw away your old baseball cards.
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Alt, which allows people to buy, sell and store sports cards, officially launched after raising $31 million combined in a seed and Series A financing.
The Series A round was led by Seven Seven Six, along with other investors including First Round Capital, Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures, Addition Ventures, SV Angel1 , BoxGroup, Chapter One, Nat Friedman, John Collison, Patrick Collison, Darren Rovell, Sue Wagner, Fred Ehrsam, Eric Wu, JD Ross, Laura Behrens Wu, Larry Fitzgerald, Tobias Harris and others.
The platform is the brainchild of founder and CEO Leore Avidar, who sees an untapped market for transparency and liquidity of alternative assets.
“It’s just like stocks and bonds,” he said. “It’s a market at the end of the day.”
Searching for Kobe
The idea of improving liquidity and investment ability in sports cards came to Avidar about four years ago. He started feeling nostalgic and started searching for a rare Kobe Bryant card — the Skybox 1996 E-X200. However, as he became a sports card investor and not just a collector, the industry’s lack of infrastructure and transparency around prices caused concerns, as did issues such as fraud and high fees.
Alt only sells cards it already has in its possession and that have been professionally graded by a third-party source such as Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA). Alt also provides the ability to store cards with them for a fee, but allows users to track the value of their collection for free, and says it will add other services in the future.
The platform currently is selling cards for between $50 and $100,000-plus. It is free to use, with transaction fees of 1.5 percent, lower than eBay’s and other large auction houses’ fees, which can range from 12.5 percent to 25 percent.
Alt already has been working several months with about 1,000 beta users, and will use the new money to invest in research and development, Avidar said.
Exploring alternative assets has started to explode — notice the high interest in “non-fungible tokens,” or NFTs — where people own a token on the blockchain for art, music, video clips and memes.
Alexis Ohanian, founder of Seven Seven Six, said he has been energized by the alternative asset market for some time now, and was drawn to Alt’s ability to make buying and trading alternative assets more structured, efficient and transparent.
“The marketplace for alternative assets is growing exponentially, considering everything from the rising popularity of NFTs to the trading card boom we’ve witnessed in recent months,” he said.
While Alt — which is co-headquartered in San Francisco and New York and has 30 employees — is currently focusing on sports cards, Avidar said the platform could easily expand into other alternative asset categories — like art — in the future.
For now, Avidar is happy to stick with cards, especially as the market has seen an unbelievable amount of interest and money in the last several years. Just earlier this year, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle sold for $5.2 million, and last month a 2018-19 National Treasures 1-of-1 autographed Logoman rookie card of NBA star Luka Doncic sold for $4.6 million.
Avidar attributes that to people his age who started collecting in the late 1990s — when card companies built scarcity into their product — and are now adults looking for a piece of their childhood.
“Now those kids are adults,” he said. “And now, for the first time in their lives, they have disposable income.”
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.
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