Rare Pikachu, Kobe’s sneakers – a hidden safe guards everything

The ordinary brown brick building, tucked away on a nondescript block on a Delaware street, probably wouldn’t draw much attention if it weren’t for the barbed wire and armed guards outside – clues that something important, possibly even precious, is inside.

It’s not Fort Knox. But the stash of collectibles the building holds is undoubtedly worth guarding.

There’s a rare Pikachu card and a centuries-old card owned by baseball great Honus Wagner that recently sold for $7.25 million in a private sale. In addition to the trading cards, there are baseball bats and basketball shoes, including a pair of sneakers worn and autographed by the late NBA great Kobe Bryant.

A total of $200 million worth of collectibles are stored in two vaults inside the building, which are equipped with the latest technology to protect the valuable cache from damage or thieves.

“A lot of people don’t have jewelry in their house. They keep it in a safe deposit box,” maybe at a safe bank, said Ross Hoffman, CEO of industry giant Collectors, which operates the Vault, a high-security facility that specializes in protecting collectibles.

The building has no signage and the company asked that no indication of its location be given. Inside is a technologically advanced facility with a guarded vault equipped with seismic motion detectors that sound an alarm if anyone attempts to smash through walls.

To move from room to room, a guard will lead you through card-activated double doors and have the first door shut before moving through the next. There are surveillance cameras everywhere.

Behind one of two 7,500-pound (3,400-kilogram) vault doors, each more than a foot thick, are rows of shelves that extend to the building’s rafters. Rows and rows of boxes are filled with collectibles – including those with relatively little monetary value, but which hold sentimental value for their owners, or which could one day be worth much more.

Hoffman called the device a “painkiller.”

“It hurts when things get lost. It hurts when things get stolen,” Hoffman said.

Interest in sports collectibles and memorabilia has skyrocketed in recent years, not only in high profile items but also in rediscovered pieces hidden in attics or basements. In August, a mint condition Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $12.6 million, surpassing the $9.3 million paid for Diego Maradona’s jersey when he won the controversial “Hand of God” goal.

“Often people have collectibles for the bragging rights to show other people so they can go, ooh and ahh,” said Stephen Fishler, founder of ComicConnect, who has watched the growing rise — and profitability — of the collectibles trade over auction houses.

But some people don’t want the burden of being responsible for securing their properties, which they consider equity-type investments, Fishler said. These storage facilities help make collectibles more fluid by treating them as assets that can be bought and sold more easily.

Hoffman, whose company also operates one of the leading grading and authentication services, said his latest venture is a recognition of the big money now associated with collectibles.

Before the pandemic, the sports memorabilia market was valued at more than $5.4 billion, according to a 2018 Forbes interview with founder David Yoken.

By 2021, that market had grown to $26 billion, according to research firm Market Decipher, which predicts the market will grow astronomically to $227 billion within a decade – fueled in part by the rise of so-called NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. which are digital collectibles with unique data-encrypted fingerprints.

While digitized NFTs do not require vaults for safekeeping, trading in physical collectibles is expected to remain brisk and lucrative.

“For a lot of people who buy tickets they have the intention of selling them,” Hoffman said, “so keeping them liquid and safe is a great thing.” Rare Pikachu, Kobe’s sneakers – a hidden safe guards everything

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