With no live sporting events to watch, sports fans have flocked to watch “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls. The series averaged more than five million views per episode as people re-live MJ’s basketball brilliance.
And that’s caused an interesting side effect. Jordan has not played an NBA game in 17 years, but his memorabilia is as hot as it’s ever been.
“There’s been an uptick on multiple levels. Obviously “The Last Dance” has been watched by more people than anyone (would have) thought because it is compelling and people are looking for sports content,” says Jason Masherah, President of Upper Deck. “It definitely has driven Michael Jordan sales.”
That’s just fine with Upper Deck, the sports memorabilia and trading card company in Carlsbad who’s had an exclusive memorabilia contract with MJ since 1992. The success of the documentary has rekindled the hunt for Jordan pieces but people aren’t just looking for autographs from the Dean of the Dunk. Upper Deck memorabilia sales are up all over the place.
“Our hypothesis is you have all these people now working from home and a lot of people on Zoom meetings and it’s almost becoming a contest to see who has the coolest background or the coolest things in the background,” says Masherah. “So, we are seeing an increase in memorabilia sales just in general as people spend more time in their house and they want to redecorate.”
Upper Deck works with some of the greatest athletes on earth, including Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and Serena Williams.
“Our whole kind of family of spokesmen is always about the greatest of all time,” says Masherah.
Fans love the G.O.A.T. in any sport, which is great. But it can also lead to problems with authenticity. When lots of people want to get their hands on a famous athlete’s autograph lots of other people will try to sell off a forgery. Upper Deck was on the ground floor of preventing that.
“We were the first ones to have a detailed authentication process,” says Masherah. “That meant a lot to MJ and all of our athletes, that we can guarantee their fans are getting authentic products. Those are big things to the athletes. People don’t realize that matters to them.”
The FBI estimates the sports memorabilia market is anywhere from 70% to 90% fake. The authentication process Upper Deck uses is exhaustive.
“We have to have an Upper Deck employee on-site to witness the autographs. Both the athlete and the employee sign affidavits verifying when and what types of items and how many they signed over the course of the day. The item itself is affixed with a serialized hologram. There’s a matching serialized hologram on the certificate of authenticity. Then we store all that information, take photos of all the items and enter it into a database so you can, at any time, log in on our website at www.upperdeck.com, enter that serial number, and verify your item is legitimate,” says Masherah.
Jordan’s memorabilia is flying off the shelves and now another G.O.A.T.’s gear is experiencing a similar surge.
“We’re seeing the same thing now. People are saying, hey, Michael Jordan was dominant at his sport; well Tiger Woods is dominant as his sport, too. We see a lot of comparisons with Michael and Tiger, especially with the anniversary of the 2019 Masters win and now the charity that they’re doing this weekend. We’ve seeing a ton of uptick in Tiger Woods, as well,” says Masherah.
That charity event is “The Match: Champions for Charity” where Woods is teaming up with Peyton Manning to face Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in a match that will raise at least $10 million for COVID-19 relief efforts. It starts at noon on Sunday. Then Sunday night at 5:00, the Golf Channel is airing its own documentary:
It’s a look back at when Woods owned all four Major championships at one time. If it has anything resembling the impact of the Jordan docuseries … well, you’d better order your Tiger stuff now. It’ll go fast.
If you'd like to dress up your Zoom background with some memorabilia you can also visit www.upperdeckstore.com.