The King of Collectibles
One man’s treasures, another man’s Netflix series
By Kate Morgan

Peyton Manning & Ken Goldin in Netflix’s “King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch”

Ken Goldin is in the treasure-hunting business. The 57-year-old is the founder and chairman of the world’s largest sports memorabilia auction house, which pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. And now, thanks to a popular new Netflix show, Goldin can add “TV star” to his resume too. 

But before all that, he was a kid in Cherry Hill who was into trading cards. “I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Goldin says. He recalls his first real business transaction: It was the late 1970s, in the parking lot of the Berlin Farmers Market. 

“Some guy was trying to bring in a bunch of cards, and the dealer didn’t have time, so I followed him back to his car,” Goldin says. “He had 6 Hefty bags of cards in his trunk. I told my dad to pay him $70, and help me load them in our car.” 

Goldin says he kept about 80 percent of that haul, and listed the less-exciting stuff for sale in a trade magazine. Buyers came calling, and he made $500. “I sold the worst 20% of those cards for $500, and that’s when I said OK, this is what I’m going to do with my life,” Goldin says. He was 13. 

When he started his auction house in 2012, Goldin had 5 employees. “We did $800,000 in sales that first year. Last year, we had over 100 employees and brought in probably over $350 million.”

Much of that success is thanks to Goldin’s relationship with professional athletes and other celebrities. Those friendships give him access most don’t have to things like jerseys, cards, tickets, game balls and other memorabilia. The company, which is headquartered in Runnemede, not far from Goldin’s home in Haddonfield, runs online auctions that draw bidders from around the world. Often, they’re willing to spend a lot of money. 

“Right now the most expensive item we’ve sold was a T206 Honus Wagner for $7.25 million,” he says. For the uninitiated, that’s a baseball card; a super rare one. Wagner, a Pittsburgh Pirates player at the turn of the 20th century, is considered one of the best players of all time. The card is a rarity because Wagner demanded the American Tobacco Company stop attaching it to packs of cigarettes. He didn’t want kids buying them just to get his baseball card. 

“There’s about 50 in the world, and I’ve probably sold 10,” says Goldin. “I sold one in 2016 for $3.5 million, which at the time was also a record. Now, it’d probably be more like $25 million.” 

Many items Goldin auctions come directly from the players who wore or used them. “It used to be that if athletes were selling an item it meant they were going broke, or they need the money,” Goldin says. “It’s not like that anymore.”

Recently, Goldin sold the collection of legendary quarterback Joe Montana: jerseys, signed footballs, MVP awards and even Super Bowl trophies. “Montana’s been retired for 30 years now. He said, OK, it’s time,” says Goldin. “He kept the Super Bowl rings and said, we’ll let the rest go.”

Goldin’s reputation was part of what attracted a major investment to his auction house in 2021 from The Chernin Group, and big-name funders like Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Logan Paul, Timbaland, Mark Cuban, YouTube founder Chad Hurley and former Twitter executives Dick Costolo and Adam Bain. 

Soon after, filming began on the Netflix series “King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch,” produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions. The football great also appears in several episodes of the show, as do other famous folks like Drake, Mike Tyson and Karl Malone.  

“I think there’s a good indication that we will be renewed for another season,” Goldin says. “The show was top 10 in 12 different countries, including the US and Canada and Australia.”

Goldin is at the top of his game in an industry that’s been booming. And the future, Goldin says, is bright. 

“The average collector has gotten younger,” he says. “I used to go to conventions and it’d be all guys in their 50s and 60s. Now the average age is probably in their 20s.” 

In a way, Goldin thinks of himself as a fine art dealer for a new generation of collectors. 

“Classic paintings, you know, may be a little stodgy and boring for some of these guys,” he says. “They’d rather own a Kobe Bryant or LeBron James jersey.”

Mostly, Goldin just likes being the guy who, every once in a while, gets to give somebody really, really good news. 

“One of the most gratifying things is when people find something and they don’t know what they have. And then we can explain to them, hey, this is something really special,” he says. “We get about 1,000 emails a day, and 990 of them are stuff that does not have value. But every once in a while, they say, ‘My grandfather died. We’re going through his house and I just found this,’ and they send me a picture and it’s a $250,000 Babe Ruth card. There is definitely still hidden treasure out there.”  


August 2023
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