Goldin Auctions sells to billionaire Steve Cohen group in collectibles boom

Not only is sports memorabilia hot—sports memorabilia companies are on fire, too.

Sports collectibles auction pioneer Ken Goldin has sold Goldin Auctions to Collectors Holdings, a group owned by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, hedge fund billionaire Dan Sundheim and venture capital investor Nat Turner. Goldin, who founded his self-named auction house in 2012, remains with the firm and will operate Goldin Auctions as an independent business. Collectors Holdings will provide capital to expand Goldin Auctions’ capabilities in the red-hot memorabilia market.

“I want the opportunity to grow. I want access to a broader base of services. I want access to better technology. I want access to pricing data. I want access to everything possible, from my standpoint, to grow the business,” Goldin explained in a phone call. “Quite frankly, I’d rather own a smaller piece of a larger business that is better equipped to handle the ups and downs of the industry and be very competitive, especially if larger competitors come into the marketplace.”

Goldin is rolling all of his equity in the business into Collectors Holdings, and he has signed a multi-year contract to remain with the company. Collectors Holdings was formed by Turner to buy Collectors Universe, owner of trading card grader PSA and similar services for other collectibles. Collectors Universe was taken private at a valuation of $853 million earlier this year. Financial terms of the Goldin deal aren’t publicly disclosed.

“My belief as a collector is that one of the biggest things we ask for all the time is more transparency, and a more trusted and integrated approach to handling their collection,” Turner said in a phone call. The executive chairman of Collectors Holdings, Turner is a lifelong collector and venture capitalist who holds a venture stake in Alt, a collectibles vault business, among dozens of other companies. “We’re trying to answer that call for collectors, individuals out there who want to expand their collections. We believe getting a high-end auction platform is a very important part of collecting. Our goal with the holding company is to provide multiple services.”

Turner emphasized that PSA, the widely used card-grading system, will be kept arms-length from the auctions business and continue to serve all customers equally, with no preference given to Goldin Auctions. “We’re very mindful of the integrity of PSA and would never do anything to harm it,” Turner said.

The Goldin Auctions sale is another sign of the boom in collectibles, which has seen record trading card valuations and the emergence of a new category of memorabilia, the NFT, in the past year. In addition to the Collectors Universe deal, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner is bringing Topps public in a $1.3 billion deal to help capitalize on the collectibles boom.

On the auctions side, since all the major auction houses are privately owned, transaction data is difficult to come by. Based solely on the last publicly available information for Sothebys, it’s possible Goldin Auctions sold for more than $200 million. That assumes Goldin’s financial ratios are similar to the much-larger Sothebys, which sold in 2019. Goldin Auctions has sold $200 million in gross value at auction year-to-date, according to the company. The executives declined to comment on the price.

The merger will allow for the businesses to start building out capabilities driven by data and by offering a full slate of services to collectors, such as vaulting items after they get graded by PSA or purchased through Goldin Auctions, as well as providing detailed pricing guides, according to Turner.

Goldin said the deal allows the auction business to expand to verticals beyond just sports. The company’s first pop-culture auction is scheduled for August. “Collecting has become very geared toward alternative assets,” said Goldin. “It’s become similar in many ways to a commodity: Some people want to go buy art, some people gold, other people crypto—and some people want to go buy trading cards.”

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