The Digital Transformation of Physical Trading Cards
The massive spike in demand for trading card grading services during and after the 2020 lockdown has spurred a technological revolution in the industry. Until now, the tech has mostly come in the form of AI and automation aimed at expediting the excruciatingly long turnaround times for card graders like PSA and Beckett. However, we see the potential for technology to revolutionize the customer experience of card collecting itself. The underlying technology for this change is physical NFTs but that's not important, what's important is the changes it brings about. This post outlines a vision for the technological revolution that will influence the collector.
The TikToks, Instagrams, and Facebooks
Everyone knows interactions are increasingly trending online. Collectibles conventions are still a big part of many collectors lives, but their interactions are increasingly virtual. Collectors want a way to connect with each other without needing to meet up in person. Entire platforms like whatnot.com have sprung up to address this need and have seen impressive traction.
We are big fans of whatnot as a hub for collectors, but we think the NFT integrations coming soon to Instagram and Facebook are going to be even more game changing for the hobby. These platforms want to become a hub for the NFT communities that have sprung up around purely digital collections, however, there is no reason they can't be leveraged for physical NFTs backed by a real card. Every collector we've spoken to is excited by the idea of being able to show off their cards as verified NFTs in their Instagram feed. Imagine being able to flex a rendering of your rare physical trading card like this on your profile.
If you've got a legal hunch, one of the key concerns that may come to mind when you see renderings like this is around IP and copyrights. We've consulted with IP lawyers and they came to the following conclusion: when the rendering is backed by a physical card that is owned by the collector, creating a rendering like the one on the left is within the law. Since the digital rendering is not being sold separately, it is most similar to posting a professional photo of the physical card on a site like eBay.
Another problem in the card industry ripe for technological disruption is authenticity (or lack thereof). Currently, graders periodically update their anti-counterfeiting technologies on their holders or slabs, pictured below. This has led to a sort of arms-race with counterfeiters as they catch up to the holograms and special ink that graders use. To make matters worse, as additional anti-counterfeiting tech is added to the labels, it gets harder for people just trying to quickly gauge if the card they're buying at a convention or Facebook marketplace is legit.
Fortunately, this arms-race between counterfeiters and graders that leaves collectors caught in the crossfire can be won with the help of special NFC stickers.
"Why can't I just copy the data on the NFC sticker" is one of the most common questions we get from skeptics. This would be true for regular NFC stickers, but the specific NFC stickers Verilink sources actually respond to a unique cryptographic challenge every single verification with the help of blockchain technology. This makes it impossible to copy them without destroying the tag itself.
For those unfamiliar with NFC stickers, you will be pleased to hear anyone with a smartphone is capable of verifying them.
All Together Now
Tying together the social integrations with authenticity guarantees, we get a pretty clear vision of the future for card collectors. We envision a future where instead of the increasingly convoluted anti-counterfeiting measures card graders add to their labels, an NFC sticker is embedded in the slab/holder to provide instant verification. The same sticker interfaces with the blockchain to transfer the NFT to the user where they can directly show it off using the new social media integrations.
This vision is possible today. If you're a collector, grader, or collectibles shop excited by this vision, we encourage you to reach out and help make this a reality with us.