“It’s going to help people find and sell tickets,” said Mark Townsend, owner of Tickets from the Past, referring to a website that his company recently launched to better serve buyers and sellers of vintage sports tickets. “It’s the first network of its kind that I know of. It has already helped high-end memorabilia collectors find each other and the items that they seek.”
For Townsend, this is merely a new twist to an old theme. “I started in 1980 doing shows in local malls as a weekend warrior before I opened a memorabilia shop – Balltown Cards – in Clarksville [Maryland] in the early 1990s. That was when baseball cards were hot and everyone was collecting them, but in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s cards were overproduced and the bottom fell out of the market.”
Tickets are different, according to Townsend. “What makes tickets special is that there are a limited number of them and they were not produced specifically with collecting in mind – at least they didn’t used to be. Tickets were made to be used and discarded, and for the most part they were. That makes the ones that survived much more valuable.”
“Mark is good to work with because he’s passionate about what he’s doing and motivated to improve upon what’s already out there,” said Lynne D’Autrechy, president of Buzzquake, a web design firm that created the site. “This industry was really lacking a network and [Mark] was smart to see an opportunity and capitalize on it.”
When Professional Sports Authenticator, an independent grading service, started applying its proprietary, 10-point rating scale to vintage sports tickets, interest in collecting grew quickly among sports hobbyists.
“PSA’s involvement vastly increased awareness, interest and demand. It’s not just certifying a ticket’s condition; they also started documenting games’ events. Tickets bring people back to special moments in time,” said Townsend, 57, who grew up in Los Angeles as a Dodgers fan before moving east in his senior year of high school.
“This was not your run-of-the-mill website project,” said D’Autrechy. “We built a variety of search capabilities – year, phrase, player name – so that even though there’s a large inventory, you can find what you need quickly and easily.”
“They even integrated PSA’s information,” added Townsend. “I hope the website puts a niche in the hobby and makes people more aware.”
Although fewer tickets are printed nowadays due in part to the proliferation of online sales, those that are produced have a far better chance of being preserved because they typically are scanned instead of torn at stadium entrances.
“Camden Yards was one of the first stadiums to scan tickets,” recalled Townsend.
“I think tickets will go by the wayside in the future,” said Townsend. “In the very near future, season tickets holders will be issued a card instead of paper tickets. That marks the beginning of the end.”
“My favorite tickets are the older ones. Ruth and Fox home run tickets for instance. Grand slam tickets. Favorite players tickets, like the Dodgers and Koufax. I especially like the old Brooklyn Dodgers stuff. The chase is the interesting part,” said Townsend.
“I’m sure he’ll be successful. He’s really knowledgeable about the industry. This is a classic case of finding a way to make money doing something you love,” said D’Autrechy.
“Hopefully my website will help people like me find what they’re looking for,” said Townsend.