Bitcoin for Babe Ruth? Sports auction house will accept crypto

Goldin Auctions announced it will accept Bitcoin and Ether in its sports memorabilia auctions, becoming one of the first physical auction houses to embrace cryptocurrencies.

United States-based Goldin Auctions, which is known for dealing in high-value items including this 1914 Babe Ruth baseball card, announced it would accept Bitcoin and Ether based on 'demand from consumers' [File: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

On Tuesday, the sports memorabilia auction house Goldin Auctions announced that it would accept cryptocurrency, making it one of the first brick-and-mortar auction houses to follow the runaway success of auction house Christie’s, which accepted Ether for a onetime, $69 million sale earlier this month.

Goldin, which is known for high-value items, including a Lebron James rookie card that sold for $1.8 million last year, decided to accept Bitcoin and Ether based on “demand from consumers,” says Ross Hoffman, Goldin’s chief executive officer.

“Look, we think a big macro theme that we’re seeing is folks that are hedging,”  he continues. “One, against inflation, and two, there’s interest in alternative investing.” Crypto currency and sports collectibles, Hoffman concludes, have “a pretty large overlap.”

The auction house has already accepted two payments in crypto, most notably for a Jay-Z card that sold for $103,200 on March 20. “It’s pretty amazing how easy the tech is to integrate,” Hoffman says. “We had the idea [to accept crypto] two weeks ago, did the integration, and accepted our first payment in Bitcoin last week.”

This isn’t Goldin’s first foray into blockchain-based technologies.

Earlier this year, the auction house partnered with Youtube star Logan Paul to auction off a box of Pokemon cards; winning bidders also received holographic trading cards paired to digital certificates of authenticity known as NFTs. “It feels like a long time ago, but I think it was January or February,” says Hoffman. “We’ve been experimenting in the space pretty early on.”

Crypto Boom

While Goldin might be among the first brick-and-mortar sports memorabilia auction houses to accept crypto, it’s following in the well-trodden footsteps of the digital-only platform NBA Top Shot.

Goldin Auctions sells memorabilia like this 1932 Babe Ruth baseball, which was auctioned off in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s major league debut [File: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

NBA Top Shot’s main commodity—short licensed video clips (“moments”) that are also tied to NFTs—is often described as a kind of digital baseball card. The popularity of these clips has soared over the last few months, with prices topping more than $200,000 for a single moment.

When asked if (perceived) crypto riches were a motivation, Hoffman says that Goldin’s decision to accept Bitcoin and Ether “won’t lead to lower prices, but I don’t know if it will lead to higher prices either.”

The key, he says, is that it will be “merchandise specific,” meaning he imagines that a crypto-paying audience might be more interested in one category of collectible than another.

“I don’t think we have enough data points yet to give a clear answer, but we should over time,” he says. “You can imagine that certain sports with a more global audience, like soccer,” might attract crypto collectors from around the world.

Possible Downside

The decision to accept cryptocurrency isn’t without potential pitfalls.

Auction houses are intermediaries, meaning that they receive payment from a buyer and then pass that payment on to the consignor. (Goldin has partnered with Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange founded by the Winklevoss twins, to facilitate crypto payments.)

But given crypto currency’s rapid fluctuations, there’s a chance Goldin could lose money on the exchange.

“There’s some volatility there,” Hoffman acknowledges.

“But this is going to make us the easiest and most trusted marketplace to work with. And whatever risk there is [will] be offset by the benefit of bringing in more members.”

Source: Bloomberg