Honus Wagner and Michael Jordan have new company: Zion Williamson.
Along with a T206 Wagner and a 1986 Fleer MJ, Dallas-based Heritage Auctions is currently offering a Top Shot Williamson, a digital collectible that could sell for more than $100,000.
“I’ve worked at Heritage for 15 years, and I can definitely say this is the first time a totally new collectible has come along and just skyrocketed immediately,” Heritage sports operations supervisor Mike Provenzale said.
Competitor Goldin Auctions, meanwhile, has a rare Giannis Antetokounmpo on offer.
The Zion was consigned by something of a celebrity in the digital asset—or non-fungible token (NFT)—space, who goes by Pranksy. With more than 27,000 Top Shot cards, called moments, Pranksy’s collection is worth more than $10 million, according to analytics site evaluate.market.
A number of moments have gone for six figures already, including a different Williamson moment and a LeBron James moment, each serialized No. 1 like the one Heritage is putting up. In an online message, Pransky said he expects to make less at auction than he could have made by selling the moment on Top Shot, as the current record-setters were, but he believed the extra exposure would be worth it for the space at large. “I took one for the team,” he wrote.
So far, the Williamson has attracted more viewers than the Wagner or anything else currently on auction, according to Provenzale. “We have very savvy investors and collectors,” he said. “Once we launched this, a lot of them were reaching out saying, essentially, ‘What is this?’”
The NBA and NBPA first started talking to Dapper Labs, owner of NBA Top Shot, in 2018. Josh Goodstadt, the EVP for licensing at THINK450, which owns NBA players’ group licensing rights, said three things helped convince his team to partner with Dapper. The company had experience in the space, with its successful CryptoKitties offering. It had developed a straightforward way for people to access its products without having to understand the intricacies of cryptocurrency wallets. And lastly, it had creative ideas about a basketball-specific product. “That’s where we started to get excited,” Goodstadt said.
Top Shot, along with its basketball partners, identifies highlights and mints a certain number of each of them, offering them in packs that range from $9 to $999. The concept combines the elements of traditional trading cards, fantasy sports, .gifs, and blockchain technology. Every moment is ‘minted’ with a unique identifier on the blockchain.
Because users buy and sell their moments on Top Shot’s site, Dapper and the NBA generate revenue off of the secondary market in a way that was more difficult to capture for real-world collectibles.
While that model is disrupted when someone like Pranksy deals a moment through Heritage, Top Shot gets a new dose of credibility. “If we’re offering something,” Provenzale said, “we trust it. We believe in it. We think it’s valuable.”
Meanwhile, Top Shot has set records with its first-party marketplace, hosting more than $20 million in transactions Sunday.