Ohanian’s All-Out Quest for His Wife Serena Williams’ Memorabilia

by 24USATVApril 1, 2024, 10:40 p.m. 24
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Alexis Ohanian is a businessman, venture capitalist and sports team owner. He’s also a sports memorabilia enthusiast and the husband of tennis icon Serena Williams. As such, he’s been on a quest to secure as many of his wife’s rarest trading cards and collectibles as possible.

He submitted more than 7,000 items to the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA). Of those, more than 3,000 are in what PSA dubbed “The Serena Collection.” They received PSA’s Pedigree distinction, which is reserved for private collections of the most prominent athletes.

The following excerpt is part of a larger feature on Ohanian by Jon Gold that will run in PSA Magazine on Monday.

Ohanian grew up collecting cards in the 1990s before out-growing the hobby. Around 2019, one of his friends boldly declared to him, “cards are back,” and he started doing some eBay searches. He wondered, “Do they even make tennis cards?”

Then he discovered that Serena’s cards were selling for less than Anna Kournikova’s.

Forget as a husband — as an investor — Ohanian’s interest was piqued.

“I was looking over my shoulder saying, ‘How is the market this inefficient?” he told PSA Magazine.

Ohanian felt a “responsibility” to get these insanely mispriced cards.

For himself, as a money man. For his wife, as a romantic gesture. For his children and their children and their children’s children, as a legacy.

“It’s ink on a dead tree,” he said. “(But) if I’m married to Picasso, I’d want to own every Picasso I can. And I’d want to make sure my great grandkids have all these Picassos. That’s been my mindset for five or six years.”

To help him embark on the chase, and then, ultimately, to assist in immortalizing his treasure, Ohanian turned to his buddies at Alt, the tech-driven sports card marketplace. Known professionally as a co-founder of Reddit and as a venture capitalist, Ohanian’s 776 Ventures helped fund Alt’s Series A round in 2021. He appreciated Alt’s white-glove service and quickly formed a bond with Business Operations Manager Chris Jackson.

Jackson became Ohanian’s co-navigator in what soon became an all-out treasure hunt.

It all started with casual searches at his desk in an office already chock full of collectibles and memorabilia. Ohanian is a collector down deep, a hoarder at heart. PSA 10 Michael Jordan Fleer rookie? Check. A WATA-graded 9.8 Mario Kart 64? Got it. Pulse rifle movie prop from Alien? His crown jewel.

But with Serena, this was different.

This was bigger than any set registry. He could’ve kept it clean and simply sought one of each of the fewer than 200 different Serena cards. By GOAT standards, Serena has by far the fewest number of unique items.

Acquiring one of each of even the rarest cards certainly would’ve been doable. But along with seeking out Serena’s particularly coveted and rare cards — including her 2003 NetPro Elite Glossy rookie card, limited to 100, and her 2018 Upper Deck Employee Exclusive Exquisite Autographed Materials card, limited to 199 — Ohanian began acquiring dozens, sometimes hundreds, of her base 2003 NetPro rookie cards, among others.

He enlisted Jackson, one of Alt’s founding team members, to aid him on his quest. They’d text at all hours, long into the night, trading strategies and comparing notes. “Should I offer this?” “Would he part with that?”

“At one point my mom was over, and she says, ‘Who is this Alexis girl you keep texting?’” Jackson told PSA. “He was obsessive in the best way.”

In the middle of his fast-paced life, hob-nobbing with some of the most famous people on the planet jet-setting the world over, Ohanian would sneak away from his wife just to bid on a $25 card of his wife.

“He’s the speaker at Robin Hood NYC, just getting offstage, and he’s sending me links to cards,” Jackson said. “He was texting me while at the Met Gala, ‘Should we buy this one?’ This dude’s at the Met Gala with his Bored Ape pin talking to Lewis Hamilton and he’s texting me about Serena cards.”

Pretty soon, Ohanian had a hoard that could rival any gathering of GOATs across the hobby. “For a while, my closet was overtaken by cards,” Ohanian said. “Serena was like … ‘Can you do something about this?’ The ratio of clothes to cards in my closet is still not good. By definition I’m not sure it’s a closet anymore.”

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