Among the memories of childhood, perhaps few equal the excitement of ripping open a pack of “bubble gum” cards, folding the pink stick of gum into one’s mouth, and discovering which prized card would be added to one’s growing collection. While the hobby of buying and trading these colorful mementoes of favorite baseball, hockey, football, and basketball players is a relic of youth for most of us, the sport collectibles market has grown by leaps and bounds over the decades.
Industry sources estimate that roughly $12 to $24 billion was spent on sports memorabilia last year alone. Based on an expected 21% year-over-year growth, the market is projected to exceed $227 billion by 2032.
How hot is the sports collectibles market? Recently a new record was set when one of Michael Jordan’s game-worn jerseys sold for over $10 million during a Sotheby’s auction. Shortly afterward, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for $12.6 million. Collectors and market analysts say the public’s appetite for high-end, unique collectibles remains robust, with no signs of a slowdown. In similar fashion to precious metals, commodities, and bond futures, investors believe collectibles will remain a unique vehicle for sheltering wealth amid market and economic uncertainty.
However, despite the digital nature of the world we live in (over a hundred and sixty years after the first baseball cards were included in cigarette packages), the domain of card collecting has remained very much an analog pursuit. Few digital platforms were available to serious collectors looking to buy and sell, and even fewer provided reliable valuation and authentication capabilities.
The lack of a user-friendly marketplace for collectibles caught the attention of Andrew Medal, a lifelong memorabilia collector and angel investor. Envisioning a transparent platform which would offer real-time pricing data for novices and veteran collectors alike, Medal teamed up with friend and business associate Jeff Atkinson.
“We can build a computer vision-enabled application that provides real-time assessments based on the quality of the card, and provides instant pricing,” Medal recalled telling Atkinson.
Launched in 2019, this one-of-a-kind collectibles system debuted. Dubbed Due Dilly, the co-founders say it remains the leading platform which harnesses AI capabilities to provide instant, high quality assessments and real-time pricing for collectibles.
Over the last few years user adoption has grown, along with the new features added monthly. Both Medal and Atkinson credit the platform’s success on its easy to use interface and strict adherence to strong data.
“Collectors upload an image of their card, and the Due Dilly system completes a real-time analysis of the quality of edges, corners, centering, and surface,” Atkinson states.
Within minutes of the upload, users then receive a complimentary report showing what the raw card might be worth if sent to top grading companies such as PSA, BGS or SGC. Also fueling a strong reliance on the platform has been the explosive popularity of NFTs (non-fungible tokens). The team’s foray into digitized assets resulted in the adopting of the industry’s first online service for digitizing cards and other collectibles.
Despite the collectible industry’s historic lack of innovation, Medal says that Due Dilly is proof positive that with on-point branding, an intuitive interface, and unparalleled user experience, the power of entrepreneurial thinking can make a difference.
“We’ve solved challenges that had vexed the industry for years and the market rewarded us for achieving that,” Atkinson adds.
Late last year Due Dilly’s success stirred up interest in the executive suite of Beckett Collectibles, one of the world’s largest and most iconic collectibles companies. An acquisition was recently announced, and Beckett added Due Dilly to the collectibles group.
“The Due Dilly acquisition helps Beckett achieve its strategic vision: Using technology to create the best products and services for collectors,” said Kunal Chopra, newly installed CEO of Beckett Collectibles. “Computer vision is the future, and we’re going to integrate Due Dilly’s technology and their team to make sure we can provide the fastest and most efficient grading and authentication in the industry.”
With the sale of Due Dilly, Medal has brought his lengthy career as an angel investor full circle. Now serving as Chief Innovation Officer at the storied sports collectible company, Medal says he’s in a unique position to think big, test ideas, and drive tech initiatives that will transform the sports memorabilia industry.“I’ve always been a startup guy,” he says. “Startups win by moving fast, testing rigorously, and out-executing incumbents. Beckett has been the market leader for over 40 years, but even market leaders need to be maniacal about their results.”
In explaining the opportunities now available as a result of folding Due Dilly into Beckett, Medal emphasizes the company’s stature within the industry.
“Beckett remains the strongest and most recognized brand in our space,” he says “It’s the brand that got me into the hobby when I was a kid, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the new Beckett story. There has never been more opportunity in our space. We’re at a pivotal point in the hobby’s evolution, and we’re excited to take the hobby further than it’s ever been. I know how much potential there is for technology to improve the collector experience, create transparency, and help people collect more cards. With Beckett and the team, we’re excited to be building the tools and services that will define the hobby’s future.”
Medal says that he sees unlimited opportunities for Beckett due to its deep bench of sports collectible veterans which include Chopra and Scott Roskind, founder of Noxx, a collectibles portfolio management software that was also acquired by Beckett.
“I plan to bring the startup spirit to Beckett to empower the team and ensure we’re building products collectors love,” he adds. “I’m eager for the challenge and excited to transform the hobby’s future.”