Thursday, August 8, 2013

Flooding the sports autograph memorabilia market

This past weekend was Meet the Sooners Day for the Oklahoma Sooners football team as the kicked off the start of fall practice. I would assume that this fairly common event throughout college football shares the same rules, which attempt to keep it child-focused. Those rules specify:
Each child may be accompanied by a maximum of one adult, but adults will not be permitted to submit items for autographs.
Each child may bring ONE item to be signed - no exceptions.
These rules are designed to keep Ernie eBay from having all the start players and coaches sign 15 items all to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. This leads me to some thoughts:

  1. Is the university or athletic department opposed to sports memorabilia? More specifically, opposed to a secondary market in sports memorabilia? Do they find it unhealthy, unwholesome, and this is a way to somewhat defund it? If so and setting aside the silly moralistic position, I think they are going about it the wrong way. I'll elaborate shortly but in another point because I find it unlikely this is the primary cause.
  2. I do think there is some highbrowishness supporting the motives, but I generally think it is a genuine and legitimate attempt to be mindful of the players' scarce time (minimally exploitative for a change) and direct the benefits to the most deserving group (children).
  3. Are the universities, athletic departments, and the NCAA missing a revenue opportunity while at the same time missing the best method to limit or control the secondary market? I think the answer here is a resounding yes. I think with two actions Meet the Sooners Day would be all about the kids without the rules needed to make it so. 
    • Organize a signing by the entire roster on a limited number of sports items to be sold through the athletic department. Johnny Manziel purportedly was paid $7,500 to sign 300 mini and regular-sized helmets. These would be "authentic, originally-signed" autographed items. 
    • At the same time take an electronic image of each player's signature. Use this to mass produce signed items. This essentially floods the market for signed goods taking away most of the impetus for others to duplicate these efforts.
  4. Of course these business actions might be a bridge too far making it obvious that a third action would be necessary to avoid charges of exploitation--give the players the proceeds of these sales.