You are probably familiar with hockey cards and the various sports cards. We are talking here about an old tradition dating back to the 19th century when we trace the first versions of baseball cards featuring MLB players. For around 150 years, sports cards have reached collectors from all angles. The cards have changed shapes and formats. We changed the characteristics with the rise of signatures and unique pieces to adorn the map. We started numbering the cards to make them rarer. A complete economy revolves around the production and, above all, the resale of these cards.
Name an athlete and I’ll find you a card with his likeness with different levels of rarities.
All that is not badly acquired and it is common. Sports cards fetch astronomical sums at auction and collectors have deep pockets when it comes time to acquire the rarest cards.
All this, by the band, also feeds an undeniable greed. You can feel it in the production of certain series of cards as you could feel it with the rise of NFTs and digital cards.
Where am I going with all this? I want to tell you about the fact that a collector acquired a card of former UFC Paige VanZant with her signature, a 1/1 mention and, above all, a lipstick kiss from the mouth of the fighter for the tidy sum of $13,200.
Paige VanZant’s unique card
Basically, I don’t have any real issues with Paige VanZant putting a unique card up for sale for collectors. It’s even the opposite. If someone wants to pay for it, she makes a very good deal by maximizing her earnings in relation to her image and popularity.
VanZant seems to understand it well since the former UFC and All Elite Wrestling has not earned a living in the rings for a few years. She has a few Bare Knuckles Boxing fights on her record, but her livelihood is to grow her image.
She does this with an OnlyFans account and a custom site. She also does it by going to meet her followers and, here, she does it to promote the online store of her husband, Ausin Vanderford, by creating a unique object.
Said object, on the other hand, is not a card in an approved series. It’s not associated with his career with the UFC and, in effect, it’s not even a product for sale to the general public.
It’s a one-of-a-kind creation, no different than gifting a paint-by-number canvas to her Instagram followers. Except that it uses the notoriety of sports cards to boost the value and create false inflation.
$13,200 for a beak on a card is expensive. Very expensive. Probably too expensive even.
Therein lies my problem.
The world of collecting has been healthy for a few years. Collectors are back in force and the offer is very varied. The prices are very high on the other hand, which could exclude the youngest from this resurgence. This kind of sale, for example, could give false speculation for this kind of cards.
The collector behind the $13,200 bet may not be a sports card fan. Maybe so, but one would assume he’s mostly excited about encouraging Paige VanZant’s ventures. His business is his image and his virtual presence in all its forms.
Except that the vehicle here is a sports collector’s card. This could then distort the situation for the rest of the market.
A retailer could think, for example, that if a collector pays $13,200 for a fighter who has never been a world champion, how high can he raise the bids for a Ronda Rousey card, for example. Rousey’s value, in the eyes of collectors, is already far greater than that of VanZant. That is not the question. But this $13,200 “kiss card” raises the floor for future card sales.
And that is not necessarily good news.
If the floor is too high, more opportunists will try to break into the market to scam collectors before the bubble bursts. It is the perverse effects of speculation and we see it more and more with cryptocurrency. The value rises to a critical mass of buyers, then the lemon is squeezed a little too hard and the last buyers are the first to end up with a dramatic loss when the bubble bursts.
Today, the previous one is $13,200 for a kiss on a card. Tomorrow, who knows, the bet will be $15,000 for another card and another kiss. Then $20,000, $30,000, etc.
What do we do when the last buyer ends up with a kiss for which he paid $50,000 and which no longer has any real value on the market since it is saturated?
Therein lies my problem with this card from Paige VanZant. His good idea for content marketing could create a bad snowball effect in the world of collecting.
And no, I don’t blame her. I would do the same in his position. If someone wants to give me thousands of dollars to get my kisses on paper, give me the lipstick right now and I’ll smear all the papers in front of me. My problem is that the speculative sports card market is showing us more and more the borders of its bubble and I fear the inevitable bursting of all that.
The 90s and overproduction practically killed this hobby. I’m afraid the one-upmanship will sharpen the blade of the guillotine for all sports card enthusiasts.