As a longtime baseball card and sports memorabilia collector, Michael Eckstein has stood in long lines to get autographs of famous athletes. He knows how that signature can impact the value of a collectible.
“I have always known when you have something signed, it says that the athlete has seen it, they have affixed their autograph to it, and that clearly increases its worth,” Eckstein says.
Having spent most of his career working in technology and software development, Eckstein was intrigued by the latest blockchain technology that allows company’s like Topps and NBA Top Shot to create digital NFT cards and collectibles. When a LeBron James Top Shot “moment” recently sold for a record $230,000, he knew he had to jump into the game.
“It occurred to me, you know something, autographs are important, autographs add value, so how about coming up with the technology where an athlete can digitally affix their autograph to an NFT,” Eckstein said.
His new company, AllCertified Inc., is an NFT toolkit developer that uses blockchain technology to create “autograph stickers,” which allow athletes, performers and celebrities to digitally sign and personalize any digital NFT or video. With a patent pending, the company hopes to begin onboarding athletes and celebrities soon, allowing them to affix their autographs to digital trading cards, sports memorabilia and other products.
“Once we onboard an athlete and when we get their profile, an athlete will then start receiving NFTs. It may be a baseball card or it may be a highlight reel or it may be an image of a physical item, and when someone asks, can you digitally sign this, our technology allows an athlete to look at these requests and decide which ones they want to sign,” said Eckstein, the company’s founder and CEO.
AllCertified has spent the past few months working on potential partnerships with card companies Topps, Panini and Upper Deck as well as sports leagues and other content creators who own copyrights for trading card and memorabilia images. Eckstein said the card companies have been very receptive.
His company is also working with sports agents and player associations to sign athletes and onboard them into the AllCertified database. Once the company acquires an athlete’s autograph and uploads it onto its platform, it has the technology to affix the autograph to any digital trading card or sports collectible, with the athlete’s approval. Athletes and celebrities will get paid for their autographs, set their own prices and also receive royalties when a signed NFT is resold on the secondary market. The technology includes an app that allows them to approve whether or not they want their autograph affixed to a specific NFT.
“He owns the signature. It is always his,” Eckstein said. “The athlete will always own and he will always control and maintain his own account.”
The company plans to make its technology available to all sorts of celebrities and influencers, including actors, artists and musicians. Eckstein envisions artists affixing autographs to album covers, videos and even social media posts.
“Wherever there is the ability to have an NFT and the individual involved in it, we are actually having those conversations,” Eckstein said.
Athletes will also have the ability to create their own NFTs, which they can distribute or sell through card or memorabilia companies or auction houses.
“He has the ultimate control of that NFT and his signature,” Eckstein said.
Once the company has acquired all the necessary approvals and partnerships, card and memorabilia collectors, dealers and companies would go through AllCertified to have autographs affixed to their collectibles. They also would have the ability to turn their physical trading cards into autographed NFTs.
The NFT market has taken off since it was launched last year with NBA Top Shot. Topps recently released its 2021 MLB Inception NFT Collection at ToppsNFTs.com.
The newest trend in collectibles continues to attract national attention. HBO’s Real Sports recently profiled NFT collector Michael Levy, who turned his $200,000 NBA Top Shot investment into a $20 million collection.
Levy believes the collectible world is trending away from traditional cardboard collectibles and toward digital NFTs.
“The world is moving more toward digital and what I am hopeful for is that these sort of digital assets are seen as a new-age version of sports cards,” he said on the HBO “Card Craze” documentary
Eckstein presented the AllCertified technology to collectors and dealers at the Capital Cities Sports Card Convention in Des Moines, IA in July and is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at an NFT convention in November. He believes NFTs and digital collectibles are the future of sports collecting.
“When it comes to collectibles, we have a new generation that doesn’t really care about hanging things on their wall or keeping things in their safety deposit box. They want to carry it on their phones,” he said. “You now have NFT wallets that you can have bragging rights that you have an NFT signed by [Shohei] Ohtani and you can now put that on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. That’s the technology where we are today, that’s the mindset of the new wave of collectors.”
Eckstein said he has been inundated with dealers and collectors interested in the new technology.
“They’re saying, how quickly can we get on board, what’s the process? Because clearly, the National notwithstanding, traffic flow into physical locations is not what it was five, 10 or 20 years ago into dealers’ stores,” he said. “… We are getting away from the physical and we are now moving to digital.”