“I tell guys all the time, stop watching women’s basketball expecting to watch the men’s game. Watch women’s basketball – there’s a lot of really extraordinary stuff going on.” Brandon Steiner, creator of CollectibleXchange, the only online signed WNBA collectibles marketplace for women’s sports, told Queen Ballers Club.
Brandon always knew there were a lot of great women’s basketball players. But the first time he saw Diana Taurasi play at UConn, it sealed the deal. The way he tells it, “Diana was just doing everything, just taking control – a big game. And I was like ‘I love this woman’s game!’ That’s when I really started getting into her game and watching.”
Years later, another UConn hooper caught his eye. “The woman I have incredible amount of respect for, even though at the beginning I didn’t like her, because I really wanted her to go to Syracuse – I’m a Syracuse guy – she went to UConn: Breanna Stewart. Breanna Stewart, I’m like ‘Who is this woman? Does she ever do anything other than greatness on the court?'”
“She dominated four years in a row, obviously really one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. I don’t care what anybody says. Winning four Championships in a row is just insane. And the way she did it, and the way she operates: what’s great about her is she also does it so seamlessly. Like she drops 20 or 25 points – you don’t even know she’s there, she’s getting triple doubles. A lot of players would need a lot of attention, the ball, this, that – she does so many little things without the ball. She’s such a selfless player. It’s really hard to find a player like that.” Brandon reflected.
His interest in women’s college basketball led him to follow his favorite players’ careers into the WNBA. Brandon became an avid fan of the league, and he’s not alone as WNBA viewership and ratings are on the rise.
He even has a favorite WNBA series: the 2018 Semi-Finals. “If you remember a few years ago, there was a playoff series with the Phoenix Mercury and the Seattle Storm. At the end of that series – which normally Diana Taurasi takes those over and wins – Sue Bird went off. She was just dropping dimes, going off, and that really got my attention.”
However, he also realized visibility was missing, and impacting the growth of the league. “What kills me about that playoff series is that a lot of people didn’t watch it. And I was posting a lot back then, ‘If you like hoops you gotta watch this series.’ and it was on at like 10:30PM at night. Really bumming me out because a lot of people didn’t see that series, really one of the most well played, ever.”
Those who have been lucky enough to find women’s sports on TV, have enjoyed something truly special. “We’re living in really the golden era of women’s sports. We have some great women athletes that are amazing. We may never see the depth of women that we have right now in front of us: Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Serena Williams, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe,” said Brandon.
In fact, Brandon believes in women’s basketball so much, he wanted to lead the helm as the WNBA Commissioner — something few know. “I wanted to be the WNBA Commissioner, I tried. When I was at Steiner, it was the only job that I was ready to leave Steiner for, it was about four or five years ago.” he told Queen Ballers Club. Brandon founded Steiner Sports Marketing & Memorabilia in 1987, and worked mostly with men’s teams and athletes for over 32 years. Today he is no longer affiliated with Steiner Sports.
“I went to see Adam Silver and I really, really made a play to try to become it….That’s how much I love the women’s game and that’s how much I think it’s worth investing in: I was going to invest my career in it. I mean, that’s how much I believe in it. That’s how good the game is.” he said.
Ultimately, Brandon found another way to invest his career in women’s basketball.
With CollectibleXchange, Brandon hopes to do his part in lifting the women’s game his own way. Though, he admits, it took his daughter questioning him six years ago to kickstart his expansion.
At the time, Brandon was set to receive an award for his involvement in women’s sports. Yet his daughter refused to present him with the honor when he asked. Instead, she told him, “You haven’t done enough. What have you done? All I see you do is make money with men and guys. Yeah, you help coach some women’s basketball and you do a couple of things, but you gotta do more.”
While historically, sports memorabilia for male athletes has been commonplace, souvenirs haven’t been as accessible for fans of women’s sports. From its start, CollectibleXchange has set out to change that, and to be a part of creating the type of ecosystem around women’s sports that can drive continued investment, demand, and growth.
Launched in 2021, the marketplace is the first to offer genuine player-owned, game-issued, and practice-worn gear from some of the biggest names in sports. Today you can find WNBA collectibles and signed souvenirs such as sneakers, jerseys, shirts, and posters from greats including Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Nneka Ogwumike, and more.
As an avid collector himself, Brandon knows that collectibles provide inspiration, have sentimental and nostalgic value, and are great for decorating homes and office spaces. “I have always suggested that people invest in collectibles for the joy and fun of it. If it goes up in value, great. That would be better than most gifts you give yourself.” said Brandon.
“I collect a lot of stuff.” he told Queen Ballers Club. “One of the first women’s collectible things that I bought was in my gym forever, and I only recently sold it. [It] was a Pat Summitt signed basketball – I love Pat Summitt, respect her, watched every one of her videos.” Another self-claimed favorite item from his collection is a cool photo of Diana Taurasi cutting down a net, from when he got to meet her during a signing about 10 years ago.
“I’ve collected a bunch of Diana stuff over the years.” he said. “I play in a Diana Taurasi T-shirt. I still hoop. That’s my favorite player…I try to play a little bit like Diana.”
A 62-year-old man emulating Diana’s style of play caught our attention: that’s the impact a league-all-time leading scorer can have. “I play a little point [guard]. But you know, I’ve worked really hard on my shot. I have an indoor court at my house, so I’ve gotten to become a much better shooter as I’m getting older.” The other similarity between the WNBA Goat and Brandon? Their commitment to basketball.
It was his love for the game that led to his home court, which also provided the opportunity for the entrepreneur to first connect with Sue Bird. The star Seattle Storm guard and four-time WNBA Champion was there for a FootLocker promotion, when Brandon seized the opportunity to get her onboard with his vision for the collectibles market and the way it could drive support for women in sports.
As he tells it: “I said ‘Sue, I really want to do more collectibles. Let me show you this stuff I’ve done with men, and I have a pretty big sports room with a lot of collectibles.’ And I said, ‘See all this stuff…I could be doing this stuff for you guys. All the stuff I could create, I used to obviously do Jeter, Manning, all these collectibles are all products and ideas I’ve created over the years – the industry. And now I want to do it for women.'”
The WNBA’s all-time leader in assists and five-time Olympic Gold Medalist was supportive of the idea. “Her and Megan [Rapinoe] had come over the house a couple of times, and I think it got their attention, they were very supportive. So you can’t get two better women, people, athletes, than those two. So very grateful they got behind me and kind of created a little bit of a stir.”
It’s easy to see why athletes would want to join the marketplace. The Collective Marketplace on Athlete Direct, backed by Wasserman’s women-focused division, The Collective, is athlete-controlled. Athletes set the prices for their personal and autographed items, and there’s not a huge mark up by the platform. The marketplace also offers the option for amateurs to list, so athletes can start their collections as they acquire new goods.
For consumers, CollectibleXchange provides an easy way to capitalize on college players before they hit it big in the pros, and to find sentimental goods from their favorite pros’ most iconic moments. Plus, everything is safe and authenticated. CollectibleXchange has a special hologram, and when any athlete signs an item, the hologram gets added as well.
“You can take your phone over the hologram and you’ll see exactly when the item was signed, who it was signed by, and where. Very simple.” said Brandon, describing the QR code function. “Obviously, I’ve been doing this since…since forever. So the Steiner seal method was real and is a very big thing, and the CollectibleXchange seal has already gained some traction. People know me and they know the product I’m creating and they don’t have to worry.”
It turns out trust is fundamental to everything Brandon wants to create.
As we got into discussing Brandon’s future vision for the one-of-a-kind marketplace, building the market and continued customer loyalty emerged as his highest priorities.
When we asked about whether he’d like to venture into the NFT market – as other athlete-first platforms such as PWRFWD have done, he explained: “I like the NFTs and I’m following it. But you know, I think somebody like myself – I don’t want you to take this the wrong way; I’m not an egomaniac. But listen, I been doing this since really the early 90s. So when I go out with something, people are expecting me to know what I’m doing, and know that what I’m doing makes sense. And right now, I’m not secure enough given my name and given what I’ve done in this business to go out with NFTs with certainty…I don’t just go out with something for the sake of going out with it.”
“The NFT thing, it’s extremely gray and things move very quickly. I do think the NFT thing could work. I don’t think it’s going to work the way it is now. I think it’s going to be a good thing for collectibles. But it’s not mature enough yet for me to jump into and take my players, or more importantly my customers, into something that I’m still so unsure about.”
“I wish that more people that were leading in this business would understand what I just said. Because it’s everything. At the end of the day, people will buy your product. But if you want them to be loyal to your product you have to establish trust with them, and they have to believe you with what you tell them. And every time you go out with something that you’re not sure about, you’re creating a lot of craziness with loyalty. To me I think customer loyalty is everything.”
“You know, that’s my basis of building my business over the years, and I’m very serious. If you want people to come back and be loyal to you, be nice to them and give them good reason to trust you. That’s true in your personal relations, business, everything.” he advised.
As for what the future of the marketplace holds, it’s simple: “First of all I’ve really got to educate people that this is worth investing in, and that it’s cool to put up. And then I’ve got to do my job: I’ve got to come up with really cool stuff – which I have every intention of doing.” Brandon told Queen Ballers Club.
In terms of action item number two, he’s hoping to work directly with leagues and teams, such as USA soccer, on collectibles releases. He also has his eyes set on bringing onboard more college women. “There’s so much to do. I mean, there’s so much to do with the players I have now, and some of the players that are coming, that it’ll blow you away.” he said.
Circling back to his market education agenda, in terms of products for women’s basketball today, Brandon knows there’s a lot to be desired. “You go to NBA.com you need a microscope to find the WNBA button.” he ranted. (Is there one? We couldn’t even find it!?) “You go to the NBA Store and there’s a couple SKUs all the way in the back.” (We checked: 9000 NBA Store SKUs with a Store link to the W Store, featuring just 152 WNBA Store SKUs).
“That’s not respecting women.” he said.
Instead, to bolster the market, Brandon is making calls to men, women, sports bar owners, and restaurant owners.
“What I ask is that I want more women to support women…I’m asking women to start putting up great women in their kids rooms and in their offices.”
“I go in these offices, I see Kobe, I see Jeter, and I’m a big fan of it, I get that. But how about let’s mix it up? I go into sports bars, how about starting to show some of these great women – how about putting an unbelievable picture of Serena Williams up? How many sports bars do you go in and you look in the entire sports bar there’s not one woman thing? So I’m making calls to sports bars, to women, to women executives to start decorating their offices equally with women, great team leaders and stuff like that.” he said.
Putting up a poster to support women feels pretty simple to us.
CollectiblesXchange is positioned to help build the foundation of investment for the next wave of unbelievable hooper talent. Someday, college players who are inspired by Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi collectibles won’t have to demand a better TV time slot — they’ll have it.
Check out a few awesome signed WNBA jerseys, posters, and balls you can add to your collection, gift to a friend, or hang up in your home or office.
As a CollectibleXChange partner, we’ll get a little money back from any purchases you make to help support our website – a double win for basketball!
Up next, learn more about star Skylar Diggins-Smith’s basketball career.