Boardroom speaks with the former President of Collectors Universe about his next chapter with the sports collectibles investment platform
Joe Orlando brings decades of not only professional experience around the trading card hobby, but experience as a collector.
Prior to Collectable, Orlando was the President MJ & CEO of Collectors Universe, the parent company of PSA. Orlando helped make PSA the hobby’s first choice when it comes to authentication and grading during his nearly 22 years with the company.
Orlando has been a sports card and memorabilia collector for over three decades. He sees Collectable as another avenue of providing access to collectors alike.
“Collectable has quickly established itself as the leading fractional platform in the sports collectibles industry,” Orlando said. “While their results speak for themselves, this is just the beginning. The hobby is evolving quickly, with a large number of new participants and innovations. Collectable is in a leading position to facilitate growth for the market by serving as a crucial first entry point for many new to the hobby, while also providing additional and alternative opportunities for long-time collectors. I look forward to helping Collectable expand their service offerings, content resources, and improving the collector experience — an endeavor I have enjoyed my entire life.”
Ezra Levine, CEO of Collectable, met Orlando’s arrival with excitement. As he said in an official statement:
“Joe is renowned and respected throughout the collectibles industry. He has taught me a lot over the years and I am confident that he is going to do the same for Collectable users and collectors and investors all over the world. Joe’s knowledge and experience will put Collectable in a position to marry the traditional model of collecting with our innovative approach — an important bridge to bring the industry to the next level. With Joe on board, Collectable will expand our product offerings and educational and content initiatives as we seek to deliver a top notch experience for both buyers and sellers on our leading platform.”
Ahead of the big announcement, Boardroom connected with Orlando to speak about his experience not only as an industry professional, but a collector. He explored the growth of Collectable as a company and the skyrocketing interest in sports trading cards and memorabilia over the past two years.
BRETT PICKERT: Can you go in detail about your background as an executive and collector?
JOE ORLANDO: In my previous professional life, I spent 22 years at Collector’s Universe, mainly at PSA. Started in the summer of 1999. Spent 16-plus years running PSA, continuing almost full decades. Then in October 2017, became CEO of Collectors Universe. While still being very involved in the PSA-side of the business.
BP: What were some of your biggest achievements?
JO: Biggest and noteworthy achievement was being able to bring an offer of $92 per share to the shareholders; $850 million purchase to bring the company to private. Satisfying for a CEO, considering the primary goal is delivering shareholder value.
I’m proud of the team we had at Collector’s Universe. We were able to build the brand the right way over time. A lot of flyby nights of the market in 22 years. For those new to the hobby, there were a lot of new competitors that came in during the early 2000s. We played the long game the right way and the end result, we established ourselves as the No. 1 brand in both trading card authentication and grading in PSA and coin authentication and grading in PCGS.
BP: What attracted you to Collectable?
JO: Ezra Levine, the team, and myself had a real meeting of the minds on evergreen content and the impact it can have on the hobby. When you look at the market and where it’s headed, with all the new money coming into the space. It’s imperative they’re presented with high-quality content that can help guide them as buyers, as an informed collector is a confident buyer.
We want to produce that kind of content, that can be used as a resource for years to come. Assist these new buyers. We’ve experienced that six-, seven-figure sales are now routine. With all of this money changing hands it’s extremely important that new buyers become educated on what they’re buying.
There’s a lot of attributes of collectibles that can affect values over time beyond authentication and grading. That’s something I look to help produce when it comes to evergreen content. I want to provide all the essential information they will need.
BP: How do you see Collectable being welcomed into the hobby?
JO: The fractional platform is going to be vital to the market. The market has already surged. I don’t think that the market on iconic historic sports collectables is an aberration. It’s real and here to stay. The higher end cards continue to pull away from the rest of the pack. The fractional platform allows players to stay in the game. Several collector friends of mine, the common theme is reminiscing on the items we used to be able to afford. Recognizing there are items in our collections today we couldn’t afford to buy. It’s starting to pull away from collectors that have serious spending power.
When you look at the marketplace and where some of these price points are, the fractional platform allows people to stay in the game. It allows people to put their toe in the water. It’s a great way to start slow as they learn and educate themselves about the collectibles. Having that fractional platform as an option is going to be increasingly relevant over time.
I watched the industry go through different periods of growth. The one attribute that grew the hobby each time was access. I can go back 4-5 decades about how the hobby grew. Access to product, information, data, each other, collectors. Access is the key term to me that clicked because Collectable does it very well, it gives new access to product as a buyer they wouldn’t have access to.
BP: What makes sports trading cards and collectables different from other investment opportunities?
JO: Sentimental value and nostalgia. That’s what is different with sports collectables and stocks.
With stocks, the number one goal is to make money. Fans will always have an attachment to certain moments in sports history. The easiest way for the average fan to connect is through trading cards. The sports collectible market has been able to weather some significant storms — 9/11, 2008 financial crisis, and the pandemic. During those times, sports trading cards have continued to grow with no sight of slowing down.
BP: What are notable pieces in your personal collection?
JO: I only have maybe a couple of dozen items in my collection. Some of them are very special. I’m a big fan of game-used bats. I have game-used bats of the biggest icons in baseball; Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio.
The reason why I chose to collect used bats was due to how personalized they were to each player. Bats are not only customized through the ordering process, but once again when the player receives it. It’s the piece of equipment that feels unique. If they were Picasso, that’s their paintbrush.
Another great piece I have is a Johnny Bench game-used catcher’s glove from the 1977 season. Years later, was able to secure the gold glove award at auction that matches with that glove used in that same season.
BP: What is your prediction on the hobby going forward?
JO: Increased access. I think that’s what’s going to continue to be the main contributor to the hobby. Access to marketplaces, authentication, grading, that’s going to be the thing going forward.
The hobby continues to grow globally. In the past we were limited to what was available to us only on a local scale. There isn’t a better time to be a collector than right now. In the next five years, the hobby is going to get better. More money is coming into hobby. The new players coming into the game want to offer the same thing. They want to spread the industry worldwide and give access to the space where others are lacking.