top of page

Navigating the Sports Memorabilia Market

Updated: Apr 11, 2023


Everyone has different reasons for collecting, but one thing they all have in common is their love for the game.

Collectors may have a range of items they have collected over the years; all have meaning for the collector, but not all items will have a monetary value. Many start out with a ball they caught at a game or the jersey of their favorite player and become interested in more serious investments later on.

The sports memorabilia market has quickly grown over the years from a niche interest into a multi-billion dollar industry. In the US alone, the market is valued at $5.4 billion annually, with the bulk of it coming from eBay sales. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of memorabilia is counterfeit.

For those wanting to invest in their first serious purchase, it can be hard to know where to start and how to know if the item they are purchasing is authentic. After all, if you’re willing to spend a lot of money on an item, you want to make sure it’s worth it.

At Sportafi, we’re committed to bringing authenticity and transparency to the industry. Our platform allows you to view authentic collectibles from reliable sellers.

Unless you are a trained professional, it’s nearly impossible to avoid counterfeits when shopping online. We’ll take you through the world of fake memorabilia to show you just how prevalent it has become on the market, and the avenues you can take to avoid it.

Sports Memorabilia Makes a Comeback

Being stuck at home due to the worldwide pandemic reignited many people's interest in their long-forgotten hobbies as they dug out dusty binders of cards and jerseys meant to be framed from the back of their closets.

Collectibles as a whole, including art, toys, games, sports memorabilia, coins, etc., are experiencing an explosion of newfound interest. The market size for collectibles was estimated at $412 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $628 billion by 2031.

eBay reported a 142% increase in the sports card category alone during 2020, and the rise of NFTs has only increased the public’s (and scammers’) interest in sports memorabilia. The possibilities are seemingly endless in the applications of this technology and the sports industry.

No longer is the sports memorabilia industry just a couple of guys trading baseball cards, but a multi-million, even a billion-dollar industry. Combining that with the enormous growth NFTs are currently seeing--some product segments, like art pieces, are witnessing as high as 1,400% growth in just a quarter--and you truly have a unique opportunity as an investor and fan.

But Fraud Runs Rampant

Unfortunately, just as investors have seen the opportunity, so too have scammers.

In early March, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced that they seized 80 fake Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl rings, including some with Patrick Mahomes' name engraved on them, as well as 30 fake Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl rings, 10 fake Atlanta Braves World Series rings, and 10 fake Milwaukee Bucks NBA Championship rings. The haul, if real, would have been worth $345,000.

CBP Chicago operations director LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke commented on the situation, saying that counterfeit jewelry continues to flood the e-commerce market. These scammers are preying on fans hoping to get a piece of sports history and a good deal.

The same article stated that counterfeit memorabilia seizures were becoming more common. In January, 56 shipments containing fake sports championship trophies and memorabilia were intercepted that, if assumed to be authentic, would be worth around one million dollars.

Even though much of the fake memorabilia has been confiscated, there’s no telling how many counterfeit items are still out there.

Unfortunately, if you go out on your own, more often than not you’ll end up with--at best--a well-made replica that isn’t worth nearly as much as you paid for it.

Tips for Navigating the Sports Memorabilia Marketplace

While there are a lot of counterfeit items on the market, there are a couple of ways you can ensure that the memorabilia you purchase is authentic.

Check Credentials

First and foremost, the most important thing to do is to check the credentials of the person or business offering up the item for sale. This is especially important if you are on a site like eBay, where sellers aren’t always verified. Check reviews and look for any red flags in their bio. Remember to trust your gut--if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Visit a Reputable Auction House

One of the best ways to make sure the item you are purchasing is authentic is to go to a business or auction house with a good reputation. Look for places that have their own authenticators that are knowledgeable about the industry. Your chances of purchasing an authentic item from a place that has both go up exponentially, but so too can the prices.

Examine the Authentication Papers

At the very least, authentic memorabilia should come with a certificate, but beware that these papers can be faked. Many businesses are turning to other methods to ensure authentication beyond certificates. All of the signed memorabilia from now comes with a tamper-evident hologram to trace back purchases.

The Future of the Sports Memorabilia Market

Sportafi’s patented software and hardware platform pairs sports memorabilia and collectibles with a digital asset, creating an immutable digital asset that becomes the "token" or key for the verification of the object. The token and the physical object are then inextricably linked. Sellers must have both in order to complete a transaction, one without the other nullifying the transaction.

Unique, tamper-proof identifiers, like the RFIDs already found in NFL footballs, act as the link between real-world objects and the blockchain. This pairing makes it easier to verify a collectible’s authenticity and harder to create fake memorabilia, benefiting both the fans and the leagues/teams/players behind it.

These security features will all but eliminate fraud in the marketplace. It’s nearly impossible to create a duplicate digital asset due to the requirements of time, location, and biometrics from when the item was authenticated or registered. Time is immutably recorded on the blockchain with the kiosk acting as the GPS anchor, in addition, the biometrics of the owner, official, authenticator, and/or player are all recorded.

Because of this, owners are able to maintain ownership even if an item is stolen or lost. The physical item cannot be sold without the authenticating token (NFT), and vice versa.

To further prevent fraud, authenticating companies and sports leagues' officials stake their reputations on the verification of these items. Once an individual is found to be authenticating fake items, all of their credibility is lost. In addition, a database of all authenticators and items will be accessible to all prospective buyers, bringing a level of transparency never before seen in the sports memorabilia world.

the Future of the Sports Memorabilia Market-black-ink-tech

How it Works

Whether you just caught a ball at a baseball game or you have a collection of baseball cards passed down from your grandfather, you can register and pair an item anywhere there is a Sportafi kiosk.

New memorabilia

Any new piece of memorabilia can be paired at any event with a Sportafi kiosk. Any fan would be able to register an item using the kiosk with the supervision of an official to pair the physical item with a digital asset.

This "pairing" creates an immutable record of the physical asset, logging the time, location (the stadium), and biometrics of the owner, league official, and/or player.

Additionally, a unique, tamper-proof token, like the RFID found in NFL footballs, is recorded by the kiosk, becoming a part of the immutable record.

Any transactions or exchanges that happen after that can be done through the Sportafi app or through the Digital Wallet on our website.

When sold, a percentage of the profits goes to the league, players, and manufacturer of the memorabilia.

Existing memorabilia

Any owner that has a piece of memorabilia they would like to authenticate may go to any authenticating agent with a Sportafi kiosk. In addition to registering the item, it will also be authenticated by an expert.

The item is then paired, creating an immutable record of the physical asset, logging the time, location (business office of agent), and biometrics of the owner, authenticator, as well as a representative of the business.

If a unique, tamper-proof token is not already attached to the item, one will be added and it will become a part of the record.

Any transactions or exchanges that happen after that can be done through the Sportafi app or through the Digital Wallet on our website.

When sold, a percentage of the profits go to the league, players' association, and authentication agency.

Everything you may need to know about any collectible can be found on our platform, including verification of an item's authenticity, appraisals, audits, records, and transactions throughout the life of the item, eliminating fraud by creating a tamper-proof audit trail.

A Better Way to Collect

No matter if you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, anyone can be fooled by a scammer. The best way to make sure you are adding authentic pieces to your collection is to make sure that the sellers are verified and have the appropriate documentation (physical or digital).

If you want to take the question out of the authenticity of any sports memorabilia item, Sportafi’s patented technology can help. Visit for more information about the process, the platform, and other businesses that use this type of technology.

58 views0 comments


bottom of page