What Are Blockchain Sports Cards & How Do They Work?
Sports cards have been a staple of sports fandom since at least 1909, the year American Tobacco stashed its first cards as freebies in cigarette and tobacco packs. The industry has grown significantly since those early days, and technology has matured alongside it. Now, the blockchain provides the perfect meeting point for the two.
Blockchain sports cards are unique digital collectibles that can take many forms while retaining their fundamental appeal to collectors and opening up new revenue streams for the brands that mint (the process of validating information, such as domain ownership, and registering that onto the blockchain) them. Here’s what you need to know to make your mark on the market.
Want to learn more about the intersection of sports and blockchain, or maybe you're ready to turn this technology to your advantage? Read our guide, "How to Win With Blockchain Technology in Sports."
What are blockchain sports cards?
Blockchain sports cards are, at their core, non-fungible tokens (NFTs). They’re unique digital collectibles, each one of which has a publicly accessible record of when it was created and every time it has been sold. By tying your collectible to the digital sports cards blockchain, you can ensure that it remains provably authentic and safe from degradation. You can also bake a royalty fee into the token, ensuring you earn secondary revenue every time that card changes hands.
The cards themselves can take many forms. Some sports NFT brands make blockchain sports cards that are perfectly analogous to their physical counterparts, with a photo of the player accompanied by stats, history, or other info of interest to collectors. Other brands leverage the digital nature of the collectible to produce videos or other assets in place of the standard card.
How do you make blockchain sports cards?
The process for making a blockchain sports card is, in many ways, similar to making a physical one. You begin by choosing the asset you want to use as the foundation for your card, and then select a production method for achieving the best possible version of it. For physical cards, that means a printer, card stock, distribution partner, and so on; for blockchain sports cards, the process is a little different.
Choose a blockchain
Your first real hurdle will be deciding on which blockchain you want to mint your soon-to-be digital sports card. You’ll want to consider several factors, including the size of the blockchain’s user base, the level of security it provides, how many transactions it can handle per second, and how much it charges for each of those transactions.
- Ethereum is one of the most popular and secure blockchains, but transactions on the chain are slower and more costly than on some smaller blockchains.
- Solana is less widely used than Ethereum, but it boasts cheaper and faster transactions.
- Flow has already been trusted by major brands such as the NBA for their NFTs.
- Tezos is particularly popular for NFTs, but it lacks the scale of Ethereum or Flow.
Consider what mix of security, scale, and cost is right for your brand before you mint your blockchain sports cards.
Create a digital wallet
Whichever digital sports card blockchain you use, you’ll need to set up a digital wallet to hold the cryptocurrency you’ll receive from future sales. There are plenty of options here, too.
- Guarda is a free-to-use, all-purpose crypto wallet with mobile and desktop apps, a browser extension, and support for more than 400,000 assets.
- Crypto DeFi Wallet is, as the name suggests, specifically designed for DeFi. It's open source and free to use, and it offers a mobile app, a browser extension, a desktop app that allows for hardware wallets through a third-party integration, support for more than 1,000 assets, and two-factor authentication.
- Coinbase Wallet is developed by the Coinbase exchange and is free to use. It integrates particularly well with that exchange and offers mobile and browser-based connections and support for thousands of assets, but it lacks a desktop app.
- Exodus is a free-to-use wallet with a mobile app, a desktop app, and a browser extension. It boasts a library of explanatory content for users who are new to crypto and offers DeFi capabilities, but supports only around 260 assets.
- MetaMask is a free and open-source wallet that integrates with many Web3 applications, such as Axie Infinity. It's built for the Ethereum blockchain and can store any asset minted on that blockchain (more than 700,000 currently exist). It has mobile and browser-based apps, but no desktop app, and DeFi support only through connected apps.
The differences between each of these wallets are important to consider, but almost any will work as long as it is compatible with your chosen digital sports cards blockchain.
Select a marketplace
Next up, you’ll need to choose an NFT marketplace on which to list your blockchain sports cards. Like other NFTs on the market, your blockchain sports cards will begin life as listings on one of these marketplaces. You’ll select the starting price of these collectibles, or hold an auction to sell them all off, and customers will pay for their chosen collectible using cryptocurrency.
Here again, you’ll find plenty of potential partners. One option is Rarible, a popular marketplace that supports a wide range of cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum, Polhyon, Solana, Flow, and Tezos. Rarible may be especially attractive for brands that partner with Dapper Labs and mint on the Flow blockchain, as the marketplace will cover the cost of actually minting Flow NFTs — it’ll pay the “gas fee” to use the parlance of the crypto community.
OpenSea is likely the biggest NFT marketplace on the scene, with more than $20 billion in all-time sales. It won’t pay your gas fee, but it does offer a feature called “lazy minting,” which shifts the gas fee onto whoever buys your NFT during the initial sale. It also has a robust partnership program that pairs potential clients with NFT experts to help them get the most out of their platform.
If you haven’t left the realm of the physical behind, consider partnering with Dibbs. We use NFTs to back physical collectibles such as sports cards, freeing them from the dangers of transit and ensuring their provenance through blockchain technology. We operate our own marketplace, and our NFT knowledge runs deep. Get in touch with us if you’d like to schedule a demo.
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Mint your NFTs
Now that you’ve picked a marketplace, you can upload the digital file with which you began this process, and it will become a tradable NFT forever, secured on the blockchain. You’ll set your sales parameters, including starting price and the portion of each future transaction that you’ll receive as a royalty payment, and then, when you’re ready, your NFT will see the light of the blockchain bazaar.
From that moment forward, collectors will be able to buy, sell, and trade your blockchain sports cards to their hearts' content. And each time they do, you’ll receive a royalty payment.
What are the biggest blockchain sports cards around?
Of all the blockchain sports cards on the market, Sorare most closely resembles physical trading cards. The NFTs, minted on the Ethereum blockchain, feature digital cards with photos of individual players. All are the result of partnerships between Sorare and the league or team in question. In addition to serving as collectibles, Sorare cards can be used in a fantasy football-style game in which players build teams out of their collections and compete to win bragging rights and real-world prizes. The game component helps keep users engaged, which in turn maintains the value of the cards.
Sorare started with soccer cards in 2019 but expanded to the MLB in May 2022 and the NBA in September 2022. It pulls in an estimated $29 million in revenue each year and has raised $739.4 million in funding, earning it a $4.3 billion valuation.
NBA Top Shot
Top Shot launched in 2019 as the result of a partnership between the NBA and Dapper Labs. Dapper takes short videos of game highlights from throughout the league’s history and mints them as NFTs on the Flow blockchain, called Moments, which players can then collect. But the videos are just a representation of what Top Shot really sells: pieces of history. If you own an NFT of a layup by Jayson Tatum — first of all, congratulations on your $2,000 — you own the moment itself. It’s a subtle distinction, but Top Shot pitches itself as the future of sports cards, and fans have responded in a big and lucrative way.
To whit: Top Shot had accrued more than 1.1 million registered users trading around $800 million worth of NFTs by 2021. A single Lebron James dunk sold for $387,600 in 2021, becoming one of the most expensive sports NFT sales in history. And the platform had made more than $1 billion in sales as of May 2022.
You may be ready to bring your brand into the future, but minting blockchain sports cards on your own may be intimidating. Dibbs is here to help. We have a wealth of experience from owning and operating our own 24/7 NFT marketplace, and by partnering with us, you can get your blockchain integration into a bustling market quickly, easily, and with an eye toward quality.
Contact us to find out what kind of blockchain integration makes the most sense for your business.