Beckett is undergoing a fresh start by rebranding its image, adding a technology-first CEO and moving into a new, state-of-the-art building.
A lot is changing with one of the top third-party grading companies in the industry.
Kunal Chopra was hired as CEO of Dallas-based Beckett Collectibles and Beckett Group in early June and has jumped right into the job.
“Fresh start, fresh brand, fresh office, new products and services,” Chopra said. “Exciting times.”
Chopra’s background doesn’t stem from the hobby — far from it. He brings an entirely different element and perspective that Beckett has never had from its top leader.
“I’ve been in the tech space for pretty much all my career, computer science graduate when I started off,” Chopra said. “I’m excited to bring some of those technical jobs to an industry that has lagged in technology for a period of time to kind of beef it up.”
Most recently, Chopra was CEO of Kaspien Holdings Inc., a technical pioneer for retail marketplaces.
“At Kaspien, our mission was to accelerate the growth of brands into leading online marketplaces, and we provided a complete platform of software tech-enabled services to help brands grow,” Chopra said. “Pretty much my background has been at the intersection of both business and tech.”
Chopra, who earned his master of business administration at The University of Chicago, has also been a general manager at both Microsoft and Amazon. His resume is eye popping in the tech world.
“What’s been great about Kunal … he is truly taking a drink from a firehose,” said Jeromy Murray, President, Beckett Collectibles. “He’s getting blasted with hobby info and changes that are taking place in our industry and really leaning on a lot of the hobby-heavy guys that are in our business that have been here 10-, 15-, 20-plus years.
“He’s got just a different mindset than what Beckett’s had for the past 20-some-odd years, under the direction that we need to go. So it’s nice to have that type of perspective and hear that type of guy that’s going to sit back, listen to advice from people that know the industry and then take his knowledge and then say, ‘OK, what if we try this?’ That’s what’s really exciting about working with him.”
One of the biggest assets Chopra brings to Beckett is solving problems for consumers. It’s what he knows and loves to do.
“At the end of the day, I just love building products and services,” Chopra said. “As I researched this industry, I knew that there’s so much growth available out there, and the products and services available on the market are probably lacking at some level. I just got excited about the global nature of the opportunity, both in physical collectables, the rise of digital collectables and NFTs, the combination of the two. There’s tremendous growth, not only in the United States, but globally, and then there’s this gap in terms of the products and services that exist out there.
“Yes, I’m not a hobbyist. I don’t come from the industry, per se, but that’s what Beckett has. Beckett has the collectable knowledge — they’ve got some of the best in the industry. I’m just in the office right now looking down and guys are amazing at what they do. What they don’t have is tech jobs and that diversity of that tech experience, which is what I bring to the table.”
THE BECKETT FUTURE
Chopra has already formulated a plan and spread ideas to his co-workers on the direction he’d like to pursue with Beckett. Now it’s just diving in and executing those ideas.
“The experience for the collector as a whole has just been lacking from Beckett’s standpoint,” Chopra said. “If you go on our website, for example, it’s a little dated; it isn’t the right modern consumer experience out there, so we want to really focus on that. We want to really build out a strong collector consumer experience for collectors and become a platform for collectors to really be able to manage their entire portfolio of alternative investments. We look at cards, comics and other collectables just as investments at some level, so giving them a platform to really be able to manage that entire portfolio in a modern-like manner is number one.
“The second piece is just improving our existing products and services. Beckett has always been the original pricing company out there, and the pricing world has moved on to using artificial intelligence and big data and analytics and prediction models, so there’s a lot that can be done just within the pricing and the analytics world as well that still keeps the heritage of Beckett alive.”
Chopra wants to get Beckett up to speed from a technology standpoint to be able to compete on a more level playing field with its main competitor, Professional Sports Authentication (PSA).
Chopra has laid out Beckett’s three pillars of strategy to move forward.
“Our first pillar is to build what we call the Beckett 3.0 Platform,” he said. “And that’s a comprehensive platform providing collectors with a set of products and services to solve their needs at the end of the day. That includes giving them a consumer experience like I mentioned to be able to manage their portfolio investments, better pricing and analytics products, creating authentication services that are much better than what’s been done today in terms of using technology to be able to enhance those services, to speed up the backlog when it keeps coming in. We’re also launching … our wallet offering that ties both the physical and digital and you’ll see a lot more about that at The National. Just building up that platform, which is modern, which is fast, which can scale appropriately and all that with a refreshed Beckett brand is what we call this Beckett 3.0. Our logo has changed and some branding that is out there as well. We are building a new brand and a new platform.
“Pillar number two is going to go cross category. So right now we’re focused on cards, we’re focused on comics, but we have a number of other categories. So taking a platform and applying it to all the other collectable categories out there.
“Then our number three is our Go Global Strategy. We want to take this cross-category, one-stop-shop Beckett 3.0 Platform, refresh the brand, and then do it globally. If we can do that successfully, I think we’ll get back to challenging the PSAs and other folks of the world.”
For much of the past year to year and a half, Beckett had a lengthy backlog for its grading services. According to Chopra, Beckett Grading Services (BGS) is now caught up.
Getting backlogged by millions of cards isn’t something BGS wants to have happen again. The company is taking steps to ensure that.
“We can’t get to this level again,” Murray said. “We’ll act much, much quicker if we have a spike like we did in 2020.”
BGS is really pushing online submissions as opposed to collectors mailing in forms.
“That’s one of the things is, ‘Beckett is so archaic that they still allow paper forms to be submitted,’” Murray said. “Exactly right. We’ve got to streamline that to where when someone submits his order and it says, ‘OK, I’m doing 50 cards at the standard service level,’ we know it’s here, we track it, we scan it and that baby is sent to the customer much, much sooner.”
Murray said the goal is to get turnaround times for all service levels — Premium, Express, Standard and Economy — back to normal. When BGS states Economy level will be a 30- to 45-day turnaround, that’s what it will be.
UNVEILING AT THE NATIONAL
Beckett is heavily recruiting card graders to be added to its staff. A new program, Beckett Academy, was revealed to Sports Collectors Digest by Chopra.
The program will educate and train new card graders on the ins and outs of their profession. Beckett plans on launching the program around mid-third quarter this year.
“If people are interested in joining, learning from folks at Beckett, what it takes to grade a card, come join in,” Chopra said.
Beckett, which will be moving into its new building in Dallas during the week of the July 27-31 National Sports Collectors Convention, is planning to make some big announcements on product launches in the coming weeks.
“At The National, our goal is to unveil a few new changes that we’re working on, some things that we have coming later on in the year,” Murray said. “I really want to get out there and say, ‘Hey, we have this coming.’ But I don’t want to say anything until closer to The National or until we have something a little more concrete. But there will be some major changes, not just to help the grading business but all aspects of the Beckett business very, very soon.”