Honesty, integrity, and authenticity are of utmost importance to both the Carlsbad, Calif.-based Upper Deck Co. and Hunt Auctions of Exton, Pa. In sharing that philosophy, the two industry giants have decided to lock arms in order to provide “the ultimate marketplace for high-end vintage sports memorabilia,” according to Dan Schmidt, Upper Deck’s auctions manager.
Peace of mind for their customers has long been the focus of the pair of sports memorabilia companies. Both have cemented their longstanding reputations selling autographed and game-used articles that are guaranteed authentic. Schmidt describes the partnership as a perfect match for the two companies.
“When we started talking with David Hunt (president of Hunt Auctions), the opportunities and synergies were so abundantly clear that we had to make the deal,” said Schmidt. “It’s a really good match and it is going to help the industry as a whole.”
With nearly 20 years in the sports card market and 16 years in the sports memorabilia business, Upper Deck boasts a solid track record of producing innovative collectibles. Hunt Auctions has been engaged in the vintage memorabilia market for more than 17 years, having sold such historical pieces as Babe Ruth’s inaugural 1933 All-Star Game home run baseball ($805,000); Lou Gehrig’s game-worn Yankees uniform from the 1938 World Series ($402,000); Joe DiMaggio’s 1947 AL Most Valuable Player Award plaque ($281,750) and Ty Cobb’s 1928 Philadelphia Athletics autographed game-worn home jersey ($236,000).
“We are very much looking forward to this incredible union of two industry leaders,” said Hunt. “I feel confident that the synergy between the Upper Deck brand, with its reputation for excellence, and the Hunt Auctions tradition of integrity and quality, is a natural fit. There is no question that this unique combination will create an unequalled presence within the industry.”
By partnering with Hunt Auctions and gaining access to its inventory of vintage sports pieces, Upper Deck will be able to offer an even wider assortment of memorabilia items to its customer base. According to Schmidt, he anticipates an instant bump in revenue to Hunt’s current auction business.
“Just taking the exact same auction that Hunt currently offers, and marketing it to a wider audience should yield better results, period,” said Schmidt. “Any other innovation that Upper Deck can then bring to the mix, in terms of making operations more efficient and improving the website are going to continue to fuel the growth.”
According to Schmidt, the merging of the two companies will also deliver better results to consignors using Hunt Auctions to sell their items. While Upper Deck has explored many different ways to enter the sports auction marketplace, it believes that Hunt’s already established platform is the best strategy to round out an already impressive distribution model. This marriage includes the fact that vintage items will be available at Upper Deck’s retail sites throughout the year in addition to the traditional, orchestrated auction efforts.
“We want to be the top auction house out there, no question,” said Schmidt.
When asked if collectors can start expecting to see game-worn material from Upper Deck’s long list of exclusive athletes offered through Hunt Auctions, such as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Lebron James, Schmidt said “long term, absolutely. The idea is to offer our exclusive athletes a service that allows them to protect their game-used materials in the same way we protect the integrity of their autograph. By adding an auction mechanism to our fold, we now are better equipped to provide that service to the athlete. We’re doing the legwork for the consumer. What we’re selling is real and you can trust us. The same way collectors have trusted Upper Deck trading cards and Upper Deck Authenticated memorabilia for the past two decades.”
By combining its expertise in product launches with the experience and longstanding distinction that Hunt Auctions brings to the table, Upper Deck officials are excited about what the future can bring. While particulars of the arrangement are still being finessed, the assortment of vintage sports memorabilia pieces that will be available at Upper Deck’s online retail store (www.uppedeckstore.com) and its recently-opened storefront location in Huntington Beach, Calif., will expand. Auction services (live and online) will remain with Hunt Auctions.