In a previous article, I covered the world of fractional card investing.
Much of the piece centered around the biggest player in the space, Collectable.
Following the article, we heard from Ezra Levine, the CEO of Collectable.
We spoke at length about Collectable and the future of the industry.
As follows is our interview with Ezra Levine. I hope you enjoy it.
So, as I understand, you came in as CEO for Collectable, which formerly helped aggregate sports card auction data. (I was a former Collectable user)
Could you maybe discuss the idea of fractional card investing and how that evolved from the original business?
Levine: The previous management company was run by David Yoken and Jason Epstein. They were the first ones to recognize the advent of fractionalization and how it could be applied to sports assets like sports cards and memorabilia.
I was working on Wall Street and have a background in collectibles – my dad is in the market and I have been collecting since I was a kid. We met by chance really and after a few conversations, I became the CEO at Collectable. That was in early 2020. My background in the capital markets was key to landing the role.
I’ve read some of the SEC documents for your offerings. For our readers, could you help explain in layman’s terms how a very valuable card (such as a 52 Topps Mantle) evolves to one that is divided into many thousands of shares?
So we set out to create mini-companies for each card or piece of memorabilia and it is qualified by the SEC. Imagine each asset on Collectable as its own unique company with its own capital structure and unique asset characteristics. By qualifying with the SEC we’re allowed to offer shares in this new company backed by the asset itself. It allows investors of all stripes and wealth brackets to participate.
We create these shares with an entry price of $5 or $10 and try to make the barrier to entry as easy as possible. Now, you can buy real equity ownership shares in collectibles the same way that you can own shares in a private or public company.
From what I understand, many of your deals come to you via those looking to consign a card. Do you also acquire collectibles to fractionalize?
We have not bought many assets yet, everything listed on our platform is mostly via consignment. We are inundated with opportunities on the supply side. Many collectors are coming to us with great items or big collections, intrigued by the optionality.
This optionality involves the flexibility to be able to sell partial stakes in their collectibles. So, we haven’t really had the need to buy items to fractionalize.
Any big snafus to speak of along the way, either from a legal, trading, or consignment perspective?
There are always bumps along the way when launching a new concept. The biggest hurdle for us on a regular basis is the regulatory environment to get consignments qualified before we can offer them on the platform.
There is often a lag period – sometimes months – from when we take in a consignment to when we can begin to offer it to our community. Your guess is as good as ours often, and the SEC provides little visibility into the timing.
We are working with regulators and advisors to reduce this delay as much as possible, and believe this will become a far smoother process in the next year or so.
Let’s talk about fees. It appears that there is an inherent 7% fee involved. I know your work involves time and cost, but that appears high, even compared to other alternative investments. What are your thoughts on fees?
If you look at other avenues of acquiring these sorts of high-caliber collectibles, it’s typically via a big auction house. Sometimes, they have fees as high as 25% on the buyer’s side. Our process has allowed for the democratization of an entire category, allowing people who under no other circumstance would be able to participate or get exposure.
And, actually to be able to do it (on Collectable) with half the fees as compared to auction houses or where other high-end stuff is transacting. I think it’s a hell of a deal.
Right now you have daily trading in line with the hours for the US stock market. Do you think you’ll get to a point where there is 24 hour trading?
We certainly could go to 24/7 trading, if we’d like to. For now, we are committed to US stock market hours trading and increasing liquidity during those hours.
I noticed a wide spread between the bid and the ask for your listings on the secondary market. Has there been any thought to help provide more liquidity to improve the spreads?
The illiquidity of the secondary market is something we are very focused on and trying to improve. It is so niche and so new and our business is still new. Fractionalization is also quite new.
Liquidity will improve. Driven by the pure function of user growth on our platform. As more users come on, spreads should be reduced. There are restrictions on collectibles in terms of being a market maker, so we have very limited ability in being able to participate in the secondary market.
This is purely a peer-to-peer market. So, how can we improve liquidity? I think spreads will get tighter over time as volume improves. Right now the secondary market is actually a convenience in order to get liquidity.
We are working on education to help inform collectors as much as possible so they have context on whether they are getting in and out at the right prices.
We are also very transparent on liquidity and provide all sorts of disclosures in our filings. I also believe that institutions will eventually come to this market, adding to volumes and continued user growth.
I noticed competitor Rally offers a lot of other unique items outside of sports, like whiskeys, rare books and NFTs. Are Collectable’s plans to stick to sports memorabilia or are there any plans to branch out at all?
Today we are focused on sports. I think there is a real advantage to having a focus. We also have the ability and optionality to expand at some point, but there are no immediate plans to expand beyond the sports market in the short term.
How big do you think Fractional Sports Card investing can become?
I think it could be massive. Look at the top-line revenues for auction houses – Sotheby’s at over $7 Billion, Heritage at over $1.4 billion in revenues, Goldin at over $400 million. eBay sold over $2 Billion worth of sports cards in 2021. Digital collectibles are booming – OpenSea did $14 Billion in transaction volumes.
There’s no telling how big it could get – especially once you open up an entire world in a trillion-plus addressable market. Technology and regulation are allowing for widespread involvement. I’m biased of course, but bullish on the size and scale of where this could go. Still, there is a massive amount of work and education to be done.
Any other thoughts on the hobby? Things that collectors might want to know about putting money into the Collectable app?
We’re excited about the continued growth in the hobby, and our role in it. We believe fractional ownership will be pivotal to the hobby’s growth, in terms of new participants and to support rising prices of blue-chip items over time. We highly encourage people to do their own due diligence and research before participating or to reach out directly should they have questions.
My pleasure, happy to spread the word to your followers.