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Tampa Bay coin and card grading company sells for top dollar

Among the investors in Sarasota’s Certified Collectibles Group: NBA star Andre Iguodala and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
Grader Matt Quinn holds a first-edition Pokemon Charizard card at Certified Collectibles Group's Sarasota headquarters on June 8.
Grader Matt Quinn holds a first-edition Pokemon Charizard card at Certified Collectibles Group's Sarasota headquarters on June 8. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Jul. 2
Updated Jul. 6

In another bellwether of the red-hot grading industry for coins, comics and sports cards, Sarasota’s Certified Collectibles Group is selling a majority stake in its company to private equity firm Blackstone in a deal that puts the company’s value at more than $500 million.

Among the Blackstone-led investors buying a share of the company: NBA star Andre Iguodala; Philadelphia 76ers executive Daryl Morey; Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company; and Main Street Advisors, a celebrity investment firm whose clients have included Drake, Dr. Dre, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Billie Eilish.

Blackstone and Certified Collectibles Group declined to release exact terms of the deal. But based on the valuation, Blackstone’s investment is likely well north of $100 million.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Blackstone during this key point in the industry as the collectibles market continues to accelerate and attract new collectors and investors,” Certified Collectibles Group CEO Steven Eichenbaum, who along with founder Mark Salzberg will retain “a significant minority stake” in the firm, said in a statement. “From the moment we met the Blackstone team, we could tell that we shared the same vision for the future of our company and the global collectibles industry.”

Related: As sports card market goes wild, Tampa Bay card grading company cashes in

Founded in 1987, Certified Collectibles Group started as a place where coin collectors could have their items evaluated for quality, which can drastically impact their value. An item graded “gem mint” or higher can see its value skyrocket exponentially.

Over time, the company added comic books, paper money, stamps and estate items to its portfolio. In 2020, it began grading collectible cards like Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering; this year, it added sports cards. Those moves came at a time when consumer demand for card-grading services was through the roof, leading to monthslong backlogs for customers.

Westin Reeves examines a pair of vintage Michael Jordan cards at Certified Collectibles Group's Sarasota headquarters on June 8.
Westin Reeves examines a pair of vintage Michael Jordan cards at Certified Collectibles Group's Sarasota headquarters on June 8. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Over the last two years, Certified Collectibles Group has seen its business boom so much that it announced plans to increase staff by 100 from its Lakewood Ranch headquarters. To date, it has graded 62 million items worth a combined market value of $50 billion.

Blackstone has $650 billion in assets under management. Its board of directors includes former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Google chief financial officer Ruth Porat.

Blackstone’s investment will enable the company to expand by hiring and training workers, build its digital brand and buy into new grading technology, the companies’ announcement said.

“I think an acquisition by one of the world’s largest investment firms says a lot about the excitement around the fast-growing collectibles industry,” Certified Collectibles Group president Max Spiegel said in an email. “There are a lot of highly experienced and successful investors getting into this space, which reflects not only the size of the collectibles market today, but also its growth potential.”