Ken Goldin: making a million from a child’s hobby

Ken Goldin’s career began when, aged 12, he swapped his toy cars for a baseball-card collection. He turned the hobby into a multimillion-dollar business – and now the market is going wild.

Ken Goldin has been selling sports trading cards and other memorabilia for four decades and his company, Goldin Auctions, is known by some as “the Sotheby’s of sports”. But even he has been taken aback by the sector’s red-hot boom this year. “There’s never been a time like this in the history of the business,” he told CNN Business in February, shortly after a card of basketball star Michael Jordan, as a rookie player, sold for a record $738,000, having more than tripled in price in a matter of weeks. Since then, things have become even crazier. Goldin reckons his “little company running on 2002 software” is on course to make $500m in sales this year. “I would bet that for every person who wanted a Jordan rookie card in 2019, there’s 100 [now].”

Rummaging around in the loft

The trading-card renaissance has its roots in the pandemic. “Stuck at home without live sports games, people began raiding their attics and basements and digging up old cards,” says CNN. Many had been children during the last big craze in the 1980s. Celebrities got in on the act and then things just mushroomed. The same “speculative forces” that sent prices of cryptocurrencies, meme stocks, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), music rights and other alternatives assets through the roof homed in on cards. “For the first time in his career, Goldin has been fielding calls from hedge funds.” In February, he sold a majority stake in his firm to LA-based investment firm Chernin.

A new career beckons, says Bloomberg. Goldin, 55, is already one of the most recognisable faces of the sports collectables industry – a regular on news shows  and the like. Now, having been approached by a well-known producer in the field, the New York-born impresario is “getting the reality-TV treatment”. Goldin, an “outsized personality”, seems tailor-made for the role. 

The “Babe Ruth of sports memorabilia” got into card-collecting early, says NJ.com. Goldin can trace his empire back to 1978 when, as a 12-year-old, he “fleeced a buddy out of his baseball-card collection” by swapping it for $50 worth of miniature racing cars. He insists neither of them knew the value of what they were trading. Goldin’s father, an executive in a medical equipment company, caught the bug and together they went to a flea market and bought “six or seven trash bags filled with cards – 70,000 in all”, says Bloomberg. Goldin spent months sorting them, keeping the best to sell on. 

Floating on Nasdaq

By the mid-1980s, the hobby had evolved into a business, Score Board, says fundinguniverse.com. Riding the coat-tails of the 1980s memorabilia boom, it enjoyed an extraordinary trajectory – becoming the first of its kind to float on Nasdaq in 1987. The Goldins branched out into “exclusive autograph contracts” – getting baseball legends such as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio on their roster – and later moved into entertainment memorabilia, signing contracts with Elvis Presley Enterprises and Paramount. At its peak in 1994, Score Board made $100m in sales. But the death of Goldin’s father that year coincided with an industry downturn. Goldin left the company in 1997; the following year it went bankrupt.

Is he concerned that history will repeat itself? Not a bit of it, says CNN. Prices might fluctuate, but, however wild the market, Goldin reckons something has shifted. “The difference between cards and stock [is] nobody loves a stock,” he says. Asking an avid card collector to sell “is like getting them to take off an arm”.

Recommended

Energy transition is easier said than done
Renewables

Energy transition is easier said than done

We are on a path to “net zero” carbon emissions, says Edward Chancellor, but fossil fuels will be with us for some time yet.
4 Jul 2022
Changpeng Zhao: Binance founder undaunted by the crypto winter
Bitcoin & crypto

Changpeng Zhao: Binance founder undaunted by the crypto winter

Changpeng Zhao, the founder of controversial cryptocurrency exchange Binance, has been severely battered by carnage in the sector. But the future is b…
3 Jul 2022
Ray Dalio’s shrewd $10bn bet on the collapse of European stocks
European stockmarkets

Ray Dalio’s shrewd $10bn bet on the collapse of European stocks

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater hedge fund is putting its money on a collapse in European stocks. It’s likely to pay off, says Matthew Lynn.
3 Jul 2022
Just how powerful is artificial intelligence becoming?
Tech stocks

Just how powerful is artificial intelligence becoming?

An uncannily human response from an artificial intelligence program sparked a minor panic last month. But just how powerful are machines getting – and…
2 Jul 2022

Most Popular

UK house prices are definitely cooling off – but are they heading for a fall?
House prices

UK house prices are definitely cooling off – but are they heading for a fall?

UK house prices hit a fresh high in June, but as interest rates start to rise, the market is cooling John Stepek assesses just how much of an effect h…
30 Jun 2022
How to invest in copper, the most important metal in the world
Industrial metals

How to invest in copper, the most important metal in the world

As the world looks to electrify and try to move away from fossil fuels, copper looks set to be the biggest beneficiary. But how can you invest? Rupert…
30 Jun 2022
Don’t try to time the bottom – start buying good companies now
Investment strategy

Don’t try to time the bottom – start buying good companies now

Markets are having a rough time, so you may be tempted to wait to try to call the bottom and pick up some bargains. But that would be a mistake, says …
1 Jul 2022