Two VCs See Trading Cards as a Great Investment and are Starting a Fund to Trade Them

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

Two VCs See Trading Cards as a Great Investment and are Starting a Fund to Trade Them

As early investors in buzzy startups like Lyft, SpaceX, Pinterest and Ring, Courtney and Carter Reum have gained a reputation as successful venture investors. Now they are devoting some of their attention and dollars to a decidedly lower tech investment: trading cards. After dabbling in cards as a hobby since they were kids growing up in the Midwest, the brothers want to use what they have learned as VCs to start a fund to procure undervalued cards they hope will someday score big returns.

"Applying that kind of rigor to something that has usually been done by young kids or emotion...I think that's how you get unfair advantages and outlier results," explained Courtney Reum. "I don't want to just dabble a couple hours a week. I want to be with people who really want to actually do this in an analytical way."

The Reums are making what they describe as a "meaningful" contribution to a multimillion dollar fund called Mint 10. They view it as a way to diversify their holdings away from illiquid shares in startups that won't pay off for years – if they're lucky – and equities, which they see as overvalued.

"I see this as a great alternative class, somewhere closer to a stock, albeit a little less liquid but more so than my venture and private equity stuff," said Courtney Reum. "To me, there's not much to find in the stock market that's a good deal."

A study last year showed baseball cards had a far superior return to stocks over the previous decade. The pandemic has triggered a frenzy in the card market, with huge spikes in trading and new records for coveted NBA rookie cards fetching more than a million dollars apiece.

The Reum brothers founded their Santa Monica-based early-stage consumer technology venture firm, M13, in 2016, after they sold their spirits business, Veev, for a hefty multiple to a St. Louis beverage conglomerate. M13 is now deploying its $175 million second fund backed by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

Reum thinks the still stodgy card industry is ripe for a shake up, eyeing big potential in influencers and creating content around the practice of "case breaking," the act of opening card boxes, which can draw big audiences on streaming platforms.

Reum, who remembers his mother driving him to card shows when he was 14 years old, views trading cards as similar to art, sports teams, Bitcoin or gold, which he's "bought a bunch of lately." What do all those assets have in common? There's a finite supply, which Reum believes inevitably drives the price up over time.

"I generally believe that something like gold or baseball cards, depending who you are, could be a couple percent of your allocation, up to like 10 percent," Reum said. "I think this is just as viable as gold or bitcoin or any of that."

Mint 10 will hedge its bets by buying a mix of cards from the three major sports that are both old and new.

"It's no different than how a long/short fund does their allocations," Reum said. "We have LP [limited partner] interest coming out of our ears."

Reum would not specify how large the fund will be or what his and brother's contribution is, owing to the fact that they are still fundraising. "It will be a multi-million dollar fund but we haven't finalized the amount yet," he explained. "We have a lot of interest but we want the strategy to dictate the raise vs the inverse, which is sometimes the case."

Courtney and Carter Reum are devoting some of their attention and dollars to Mint 10, an investment fund focused on trading cards.

The Reums are not alone in their newfound enthusiasm for trading cards. Just as people bored at home with extra cash in their pockets drove a wave of day trading, card sales have been on a tear during the pandemic.

During the first few months of the coronavirus outbreak, sales of basketball cards on eBay spiked more than 130%. Baseball cards saw a 50% spike while football cards had a 47% increase.

In July, a LeBron James rookie card shattered the record for a modern day NBA card, going for $1.8 million. But the record stood for only a few months as last month a card of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo fetched $1.812 million. (The card previously sold for $7,000 on eBay, but the buyer reportedly returned it because of a yellow stain.)

"I think you're going to see sales records over the next 12 to 16 months that shock the world," said Scott Keeney, a DJ, entrepreneur, and trading card expert who the Reums brought in to run the new fund. "I've seen more VC activity in the last four-to-six weeks around the card space than I would have ever dreamed."

Keeney compares Mint 10 to funds trading fine art, but he sees a much bigger upside in cards because of people like Reum, who have traded them since they were kids.

"This generation who grew up in the Junk Wax Era now has disposable income to spend," Keeney said. "Would they rather spend all this money on a piece of art that hangs on the wall that they might not be that tied to? Or do they want to own Magic Johnson's rookie card if they're a Lakers fan?"

Though most trading is done online these days, Keeney, along with fellow DJ, Steve Aoki, opened a brick and mortar card card shop last month in Hollywood, Cards and Coffee, featuring over $2 million worth of inventory.

With a widely accepted grading system and limited supply, the trading card market has come a long way from the scandals that scared away collectors in the 20th century. But the industry still has problems. Last year, the FBI launched a criminal investigation into the world of baseball card collecting that included the largest seller of cards on eBay.

"This doesn't sour us on the market one bit," Reum said. We are obviously aware of this process of attempting to cheat the system, and are diligent in research to avoid this scenario. However, we actually are glad this incident came to light and was taken seriously by the FBI."

The Card Reum Will Never Sell

On a recent Zoom video call conducted just after he had returned from a business trip to Austin, Reum excused himself and said there was something he wanted to show. He darted off screen and returned holding up a framed oversized 1985 Michael Jordan Interlake card.

He pointed to the bottom right hand corner where the words "Interlake Youth Incentive Program" were printed in small lettering. The card holds a great deal of significance for Reum because his father, W. Robert Reum, was an executive at The Interlake Corporation before becoming president and CEO in 1990.

The company signed on as a corporate sponsor of the Bulls in 1984. As someone who now spends a lot of time thinking about how consumer-focused startups should market themselves, the move still baffles him.

"Given they were a B2B diversified industrials company, whomever was running their marketing probably should have been fired for such a sponsorship," Reum laughs. "The Bulls were the worst team in the league, there was no internet for people to discover the company, and it was hard to see how the sponsorship would help sales of Interlake products. However, the sponsorship did come with eight floor seats. The year following the deal, the Bulls drafted Michael Jordan and the rest is history."

W. Robert Reum died two years ago at the age of 74 from complications from cancer and Reum has a hard time not getting choked up looking at the card.

"To me, it is a really personal way to honor my dad," he said.

The card is worth around $20,000 and could soar in value to half a million dollars if it is seen as Jordan's rookie card, according to Keeney. But this is one card Reum will never sell. He wants to acquire more of them.

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Taylor Swift Concert in the Metaverse? Ticketing Platform Token Is Using NFTs To Optimize Experiences

Andria Moore

Andria is the Social and Engagement Editor for dot.LA. She previously covered internet trends and pop culture for BuzzFeed, and has written for Insider, The Washington Post and the Motion Picture Association. She obtained her bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University and an M.S. in digital audience strategy from Arizona State University. In her free time, Andria can be found roaming LA's incredible food scene or lounging at the beach.

Taylor Swift Concert in the Metaverse? Ticketing Platform Token Is Using NFTs To Optimize Experiences
Evan Xie

When Taylor Swift announced her ‘Eras’ tour back in November, all hell broke loose.

Hundreds of thousands of dedicated Swifties — many of whom were verified for the presale — were disappointed when Ticketmaster failed to secure them tickets, or even allow them to peruse ticketing options.

But the Taylor Swift fiasco is just one of the latest in a long line of complaints against the ticketing behemoth. Ticketmaster has dominated the event and concert space since its merger with Live Nation in 2010 with very few challengers — until now.

Adam Jones, founder and CEO of Token, a fan-first commerce platform for events, said he has the platform and the tech ready to take it on. First and foremost, with Token, Jones is creating a system where there are no queues. In other words, fans know immediately which events are sold out and where.

“We come in very fortunate to have a modern, scalable tech stack that's not going to have all these outages or things being down,” Jones said. “That's step one. The other thing is we’re being aggressively transparent about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So with the Taylor Swift thing…you would know in real time if you actually have a chance of getting the tickets.”

Here’s how it works: Users register for Token’s app and then purchase tickets to either an in-person event, or an event in the metaverse through Animal Concerts. The purchased ticket automatically shows up in the form of a mintable NFT, which can then be used toward merchandise purchases, other ticketed events or, Adams’s hope for the future — external rewards like airline travel. The more active a user is on the site, the more valuable their NFT becomes.

Ticketmaster has dominated the music industry for so long because of its association with big name artists. To compete, Token is working on gaining access to their own slew of popular artists. They recently entered into a partnership with Animal Concerts, a live and non-live event experiences platform that houses artists like Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and Robin Thicke, and has “access to Roc Nation.”

“You'll see they do all the metaverse side of the house,” Jones said. “And we're going to be the [real-life] web3 sides of the house.”

In addition, Token prides itself on working with the artists selling on their platform to set up the best system for their fanbase, devoid of hefty prices and additional fees — something Ticketmaster users have often complained about. Jones believes where Ticketmaster fails, Token thrives. The app incentivizes users to share more data about their interests, venues and artists by operating on a kind of points system in the form of mintable NFTs.

“We can actually take the dataset and say there’s 100 million people in the globe that love Taylor Swift, so imagine she’s going on tour and we ask [the user], ‘Would you go to see her in Detroit?’ And imagine this place has 30,000 seats, but 100,000 people clicked ‘yes,’” he explained. “So you can actually inform the user before anything even happens, right? About what their options are and where to get it.”

Tixr, a Santa-Monica based ticketing app, was founded on the idea that modern ticketing platforms were “living in the legacy of the past.” They plan to attract users by offering them exclusive access to ticketed events that aren’t in Ticketmaster’s registry.

“It melts commerce that's beyond ticketing…to allow fans to experience and purchase things that don't necessarily have to do with tickets,” said Tixr CEO and Founder Robert Davari. “So merchandise, and experiences, and hospitality and stuff like that are all elegantly melded into this one, content driven interface.”

Tixr sells tickets to exclusive concerts like a Tyga performance at a night club in Arizona, general in-person festivals like ComplexCon, and partners with local vendors like The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to sell tickets to the races. Plus, Davari said it’s equipped to handle high-demand, so customers aren’t spending hours waiting in digital queues.

Like Token, Tixr has also found success with a rewards program — in the form of fan marketing.

“There's nothing more powerful in the core of any event, brand, any live entertainment, [than] the community behind it,” Davari said. “So we build technology to empower those fans and to reward them for bringing their friends and spreading the word.”

Basically, if a user gets a friend to purchase tickets to an event, then the original user gets rewarded in the form of discounts or upgrades.

Coupled with their platforms’ ability to handle high-demand events, both Jones and Davari believe their platforms have what it takes to take on Ticketmaster. Expansion into the metaverse, they think, will also help even the playing field.

“So imagine you can't go to Taylor Swift,” Jones said. “What if you could purchase an exclusive to actually go to that exact same show over the metaverse? An artist’s whole world can expand past the stage itself.”

With the way ticketing for events works now, obviously not everyone always gets the exact price, venue or date they want. There are “winners and losers.” Jones’s hope is that by expanding beyond in-person events, there can be more winners.

“If there’s 100,000 people who want to go to one show and there's 37,000 seats, 70,000 are out,” he said. “You can't fight that. But what we can do is start to give them other opportunities to do things in a different way and actually still participate.”

Jones and Davari both teased that their platforms have some exciting developments in the works, but for now both Token and Tixr are set on making their own space within the industry.

“We simply want to advance this industry and make it more efficient and more pleasurable for fans to buy,” Davari said. “That's it.”

Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable
Evan Xie

The original dream of streaming was all of the content you love, easily accessible on your TV or computer at any time, at a reasonable price. Sadly, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have come together over the last decade or so to recognize that this isn’t really economically viable. Instead, the streaming marketplace is slowly transforming into something approximating Cable Television But Online.

It’s very expensive to make the kinds of shows that generate the kind of enthusiasm and excitement from global audiences that drives the growth of streaming platforms. For every international hit like “Squid Game” or “Money Heist,” Netflix produced dozens of other shows whose titles you have definitely forgotten about.

The marketplace for new TV has become so massively competitive, and the streaming landscape so oversaturated, even relatively popular shows with passionate fanbases that generate real enthusiasm and acclaim from critics often struggle to survive. Disney+ canceled Luscasfilm’s “Willow” after just one season this week, despite being based on a hit Ron Howard film and receiving an 83% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Amazon dropped the mystery drama “Three Pines” after one season as well this week, which starred Alfred Molina, also received positive reviews, and is based on a popular series of detective novels.

Even the new season of “The Mandalorian” is off to a sluggish start compared to its previous two Disney+ seasons, and Pedro Pascal is basically the most popular person in America right now.

Now that major players like Netflix, Disney+, and WB Discovery’s HBO Max have entered most of the big international markets, and bombarded consumers there with marketing and promotional efforts, onboarding of new subscribers inevitably has slowed. Combine that with inflation and other economic concerns, and you have a recipe for austerity and belt-tightening among the big streamers that’s virtually guaranteed to turn the smorgasbord of Peak TV into a more conservative a la carte offering. Lots of stuff you like, sure, but in smaller portions.

While Netflix once made its famed billion-dollar mega-deals with top-name creators, now it balks when writer/director Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “The Holiday”) asks for $150 million to pay her cast of A-list actors. Her latest romantic comedy will likely move over to Warner Bros., which can open the film in theaters and hopefully recoup Scarlett Johansson and Michael Fassbender’s salaries rather than just spending the money and hoping it lingers longer in the public consciousness than “The Gray Man.”

CNET did the math last month and determined that it’s still cheaper to choose a few subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime over a conventional cable TV package by an average of about $30 per month (provided you don’t include the cost of internet service itself). But that means picking and choosing your favorite platforms, as once you start adding all the major offerings out there, the prices add up quickly. (And those are just the biggest services from major Hollywood studios and media companies, let alone smaller, more specialized offerings.) Any kind of cable replacement or live TV streaming platform makes the cost essentially comparable to an old-school cable TV package, around $100 a month or more.

So called FAST, or Free Ad-supported Streaming TV services, have become a popular alternative to paid streaming platforms, with Fox’s Tubi making its first-ever appearance on Nielsen’s monthly platform rankings just last month. (It’s now more popular than the first FAST service to appear on the chart, Paramount Global’s Pluto TV.) According to Nielsen, Tubi now accounts for around 1% of all TV viewing in the US, and its model of 24/7 themed channels supported by semi-frequent ad breaks couldn’t resemble cable television anymore if it tried.

Services like Tubi and Pluto stand to benefit significantly from the new streaming paradigm, and not just from fatigued consumers tired of paying for more content. Cast-off shows and films from bigger streamers like HBO Max often find their way to ad-supported platforms, where they can start bringing in revenue for their original studios and producers. The infamous HBO Max shows like “The Nevers” and “Westworld” that WBD controversially pulled from the HBO Max service can now be found on Tubi or The Roku Channel.

HBO Max’s recently-canceled reality dating series “FBoy Island” has also found a new home, but it’s not on any streaming platform. Season 3 will air on TV’s The CW, along with a new spinoff series called (wait for it) “FGirl Island.” So in at least some ways, “30 Rock” was right: technology really IS cyclical.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base
Evan Xie

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

Another day, another update in the unending saga that is the potential TikTok ban.

The latest: separate from the various bills proposing a ban, the Biden administration has been in talks with TikTok since September to try and find a solution. Now, having thrown its support behind Senator MarkWarner’s bill, the White House is demanding TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sell its stakes in the company to avoid a ban. This would be a major blow to the business, as TikTok alone is worth between $40 billion and $50 billion—a significant portion of ByteDance’s $220 billion value.

Clearly, TikTok faces an uphill battle as its CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. But other social media companies are likely looking forward to seeing their primary competitor go—and are positioning themselves as the best replacement for migrating users.


Last year, The Washington Post reported that Meta paid a consulting firm to plant negative stories about TikTok. Now, Meta is reaping the benefits of TikTok’s downfall, with its shares rising 3% after the White House told TikTok to leave ByteDance. But this initial boost means nothing if the company can’t entice creators and viewers to Instagram and Facebook. And it doesn’t look promising in that regard.

Having waffled between pushing its short-form videos, called Reels, and de-prioritizing them in the algorithm, Instagram announced last week that it would no longer offer monetary bonuses to creators making Reels. This might be because of TikTok’s imminent ban. After all, the program was initially meant to convince TikTok creators to use Instagram—an issue that won’t be as pressing if TikTok users have no choice but to find another platform.


Alternatively, Snap is doing the opposite and luring creators with an ad revenue-sharing program. First launched in 2022, creators are now actively boasting about big earnings from the program, which provides 50% of ad revenue from videos. Snapchat is clearly still trying to win over users with new tech like its OpenAI chatbot, which it launched last month. But it's best bet to woo the TikTok crowd is through its new Sounds features, which suggest audio for different lenses and will match montage videos to a song’s rhythm. Audio clips are crucial to TikTok’s platform, so focusing on integrating songs into content will likely appeal to users looking to recreate that experience.


With its short-form ad revenue-sharing program, YouTube Shorts has already lured over TikTok creators. It's even gotten major stars like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift to promote music on Shorts. This is likely where YouTube has the best bet of taking TikTok’s audience. Since TikTok has become deeply intertwined with the music industry, Shorts might be primed to take its spot. And with its new feature that creates compiles all the videos using a specific song, Shorts is likely hoping to capture musicians looking to promote their work.


The most blatant attempt at seducing TikTok users, however, comes from Triller, which launched a portal for people to move their videos from TikTok to its platform. It’s simple, but likely the most effective tactic—and one that other short-form video platforms should try to replicate. With TikTok users worried about losing their backlog of content, this not only lets users archive but also bolsters Triller’s content offerings. The problem, of course, is that Triller isn’t nearly as well known as the other platforms also trying to capture TikTok users. Still, those who are in the know will likely find this option easier than manually re-uploading content to other sites.

It's likely that many of these platforms will see a momentary boost if the TikTok ban goes through. But all of these companies need to ensure that users coming from TikTok actually stay on their platforms. Considering that they have already been upended by one newcomer when TikTok took over, there’s good reason to believe that a new app could come in and swoop up TikTok’s user base. As of right now, it's unclear who will come out on top. But the true loser is the user who has to adhere to the everyday whims of each of these platforms.