fb-pixel Skip to main content

Modern card collecting goes high-tech with fractional ownership, secure vaults, and an online marketplace

Gregory Bouchard of Seekonk displayed an array of Tom Brady cards at a recent card show in Woburn.
Gregory Bouchard of Seekonk displayed an array of Tom Brady cards at a recent card show in Woburn.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Go ahead and keep stashing your cards in the sock drawer and dealing them on eBay, sports trading card collectors.

The Tesla generation of collectors is gaining on you and your horse-and-buggy.

New app-based companies allow collectors to not only own fractional shares of expensive cards previously out of your price range but also to store (whole) cards in a secure vault, buy and sell from that vault’s collection and, if your collection is worth enough, use your collection as collateral to take out a mortgage.

“We have a bunch of people who buy and sell cards on our platform just like they do on eBay except they don’t take possession of it and they can grasp that, because they know there’s a card at the end of the day and, if they need to, they can click ‘ship to me’ and they can get the card,” said Leore Avidar, founder and CEO of Alt. “Then you get some Gen Z and even some young millennials who are like, ‘You know what, I don’t need the physical thing, I just want to be able to trade the rights to it at any point in time.”

Serious or casual, collectors can ship their cards to Alt, where, depending on what service you want to pay for, the cards can be shipped out for grading, digitized, and put on the marketplace, which, because Alt’s actual vault is located in sales-tax-free Delaware, strips away that commerce layer.

Advertisement



There is a parallel in Alt’s system to NFTs (non-fungible tokens, a cryptographically secured digital asset) in that the transfer of ownership takes place virtually, with the card staying in the vault when the sale is transacted.

Eventually, Avidar said, Alt will shift to the blockchain technology that supports NFTs, yet there will be a real card at Alt.

Advertisement



“At any point, someone who owns an NFT can come to Alt and say ‘Hey, I have the NFT of this Michael Jordan card,’ and we actually will ship it to you and you can actually redeem the physical asset at any point in time, it’s combining the physical and digital world in a very different way,” said Avidar.

Then there’s Alt Lending, which is Alt’s stab at turning collectibles into an asset class just as valid to borrow against as any other.

“We don’t use the word bank but if you can imagine, if you have something valuable like a stock or a property, you can go to a bank and get a loan,” said Avidar. “But imagine if you have a very valuable Charizard (Pokemon card) or Michael Jordan, how can you get a mortgage with that? That’s what Alt’s really here to do, to give you the resources and tools just like a bank does but for those assets where the world is moving towards.”

Perhaps your card collection has more Mike Greenwells than Mike Trouts and your financial wherewithal means you just cannot even entertain the thought of owning a rookie Trout, Jordan, LeBron James, or some vintage Mickey Mantle or Honus Wagner card with a big price tag.

A service such as Rally or Collectable allows you to bid on fractional ownership shares of such rarities.

As the card grows or drops in value, so does the worth of your share.

Advertisement



It’s similar to the stock market, where share owners don’t actually have their stock shares in hand (or their sock drawers).

The thrill of gazing upon your own cards held in your own hands or printing out your eBay shipping label cannot be replicated.

It also can’t be forced upon the next generation of collectors.


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.