There’s something deeply satisfying with owning something both special and unique. Special in that it represents a key person, event, or item. Unique in that it is one of a kind, or even one of few. For sports enthusiasts, this has been a celebrated passion, with cards and collectibles a mainstay of sports for many years. That said, it’s not just passion driving the search for collectibles: over a dozen 1 million USD sports card sales have occurred since 2020 alone. There is real money to be made, and collectibles range far and wide. In U.S. football, items that have been auctioned off for large sums include the Green Bay Packers 1921 franchise certificate (20K USD), William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry’s Super Bowl XX Ring (203K USD), and ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger’s Gear from his whopping 27 seconds of playtime with Notre Dame (241K USD).
Now with NFTs on the rise, with over 1.5 Billion USD in trading volume in Q1 2021 alone, combining sports collectibles with NFTs seems like the most obvious mashup ever. That doesn’t change how innovative and exciting it is for fans, enthusiasts, and collectors, however. As more and more sports organizations are joining the NFT wave, NFL fans have all but demanded that U.S. football start developing high quality collectibles for their favorite teams and players.
Curiously, the NFL has been largely silent about their plans for NFT lineups. Other sports organizations in the US and abroad—most notably the NBA—have been creating a variety of limited edition or one-of-one NFTs for collectors, such as the Top Shot digital packs.
The leading NFT marketplace innovators have not been standing idly by waiting for the sports organizations to decide on a strategy. Rather, they have been partnering with top athletes to drop individualized NFT lines for their fans and for savvy collectors. For instance, the WWE’s Undertaker now has a line of lower cost (between 200 USD and 2,000 USD) bronze/silver NFT tokens. There were single gold and platinum NFTs up for auction, in video form, that sold for 30K USD and 100K USD respectively, and came with extra perks such as signed physical memorabilia and VIP tickets.
While that may seem like a massive sale for an NFT, it’s small change compared to Ethernity’s jaw-dropping Lionel Messi one-of-one NFT sale of 1 Million USD on the platform. Ethernity is currently hosting an official line of Messi NFTs—dubbed the “Messiverse”—with various prices and quantities of each.
It’s clear that NFTs are storming the collectors markets across all sports. But where is the NFL in all this?
The official answer isn’t clear yet, but the same platform that collaborated with Messi’s NFT line (Ethernity) has been working directly with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and is teasing a major NFT drop to coincide with the upcoming season opener on September 9, 2021. The excitement around crypto enthusiasts, football fans, and memorabilia collectors of all types is palpable. Social media is blowing up with questions and guesses as to what will be included in the NFT line for Prescott, but if prior drops are any indication, this one is going to sell out fast as well.
What Does This Mean for Collectibles?
For the few of you still reading but somehow not yet jumping up and down for this and future sports NFT drops—especially the nearly untouched NFL market—let’s take a look at the broader implications of what NFTs mean for the collectibles industry.
First, why should we care about NFTs? What are they in a sports collectibles context, and why should I care? NFT’s (non-fungible tokens, meaning they can’t be duplicated), solve a key problem for any collectible: Authenticity. Any time you have a collectible, especially some type of memorabilia, its entire worth is determined on whether you can prove it is authentic. Given that collectibles are held for years and decades, it’s not hard to see the risk of losing the proof of authenticity, or what proof you have simply not being accepted. With NFTs, the authenticity is imprinted on the NFT through the blockchain, and is both permanent and immutable. The biggest risk of collecting is essentially solved. In addition, having guaranteed quantities minted of a given NFT prevents market dilution and can cause major value growth over time.
The only other risk is finding the price you are expecting, which right now and in the foreseeable future doesn’t look like an issue. The Messi NFT is already listed at a 9 Million USD price tag from its initial 1 Million USD purchase price and could find a buyer at any moment. For the Dak Prescott NFT line, which represents one of the very first NFL NFT lines and will be handled by a top NFT marketplace, it is reasonable to expect a lot of competition for initial purchases, and even more activity in the secondary market. Having one of the first ever NFL NFTs means having an asset with several value-growing attributes. While nothing in life is guaranteed, having the first of any new innovation, especially in a field like collectables, is exciting and could be very lucrative.
What Happens Now?
There is always uncertainty in the future, but looking at repeating trends can at least be informative. If we base our knowledge on what we’ve seen with other collectible markets we see:
The combination of innovation and cool-factor of a new technologyPackaged with the blockchain aspects of NFTs that eliminate the biggest risk of collectibles (authenticity)The resale values already experienced by other sports-related NFT drops
This all points to a large growth ahead.
While the NFL may be only days or weeks away from announcing their NFT plans, getting in on the first few football-driven NFT drops is going to be a goal of many a crypto investor, NFL fan, and sports collector.