Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sports Card collecting is Dead, Long live sports card collecting!!!!!

I finally got to watch the 4 minute news piece that every one is all up in arms about.  You can go here to watch it if you haven't seen it yet.  That being said there has been a lot of talk around the industry about it.  I realize I'm a day late and dollar short, but while the piece was one sided, not incredibly well researched and reeks of short news day filler, it does raise a few good points.

I feel pretty lucky up here in the great white north.  I have two excellent local card shops that I get to visit when I have a little extra coin in my pocket.  And they both hold monthly trade nights, or they do most of the time.  There are a couple guys in town that put a card show together every now and then and they usually have to go in with the stamp and coin guys to fill up the tables.

So what is my take on the death of the industry?  I think it's been stated very well so far by lots of other bloggers, but it's about change.  Things change, industries evolve.  The fact that an industry that has been pretty much producing the same product or kinds of products for over 60 years and is still around is a pretty good sign.

Does anyone remember the uproar when Panini and Upper Deck decided to try out video cards?  Wow, talk about a firestorm of debate.  I for one was all for it.  Innovation is never a bad thing.  This is why automakers make concept cars.  Remember Topps Tek or Fleer E-X?

This industry like any other is evolving, consolidating and spawning new companies.  Remember when Panini was just an Italian sticker company?  Now it's one of the big 3.  Remember when Upper Deck made the best cards? Now they seem to barely be able to put out a few hockey issues a year. Have you seen what Leaf and In the Game have been putting out?  It's very promising.

Is the industry dying?  I don't know.  But is it better off than it was 7 years ago when the companies were putting out more than 100 different sets of various sports?  Probably not.  I think there has to be happy medium between the glut and the famine.  And I'll state it here again, I hate the idea of exclusivity.  I understand how it works in the companies favor, only competing with yourself, but for collectors it kinda sucks.

And in a time where people are losing their houses, are out of work, and in dire straights, an industry that lives solely on the disposable income of it's customers is going to suffer.

Sorry I'm kinda all over the place here.  The big thing I took from the news story was the lack of kids.  Kids who in theory would become adult collectors.  That's not usually how it works.  Kids grow up find girls, cars, lose interest, ect ect.  And then later find that box of old baseball cards in their parents basement and come back in.  I've read that scenario over and over again all over the blogosphere.  I think the huge popularity in the 80's and 90's is what is killed the industry of the 80's and 90's.  Because it wasn't just the sports card hobby that blew up in that time period, but comic books, stamps and coins all had  huge followings.  Look at all the mail order catalogs and shows going. Was it for the joy of the hobby?  Nope it was for the money.  Speculation, the quick buck, the next big thing.

Let's remember all those kids from the 80's and 90's, of which I am one, are the ones who are collector's now.  So when we were kids and got into the hobby, how much of investment did it take to jump in?  Not much really.  Your allowance could buy a few packs of cards, or if your parents were generous, lots of packs of cards, mine weren't that generous.  Even when things got crazy, packs of cards were still pretty cheap.  Of course there are still cheap packs of cards around today, but lets face it.  If your a kid today, do you want the base rookie of Stephen Strasburg, or do you want his autographed triple relic purple parallel numbered to 5?  Come on kids aren't dumb.

So the point of making is that when comparing the industry of yesterday to today, the industry of yesterday killed itself.  You will always compare the current to the best boomtime of an industry, but what if we compare the industry now to the 1970's or the early 80's.  I think you'll agree while the age demographic has changed on who's buying and total numbers of card production may be down, but companies are putting out fewer cards of higher quality.

Is the local card show dead? Yeah probably.  Why?  Well eBay is the short answer and Beckett.  You go to a card show and you're looking at a card.  It doesn't have a price on it so you ask about it. What's the first thing that dealer does?  Grabs a Beckett to look it up.  And if he wants to sell it he'll knock about 20 to 30% off the low book.  But if I can get that same card on ebay for 50, 60 or more off book why would I buy it at the show?  To support my local sellers?  Sure, but realistically I want the better deal and I know where I can get it.

Wow if you read all that and understood what I'm trying to say. Bravo.  I tend to ramble in my diatribes.

So in summary, my two cents, just my opinion here.....

You can't compare the industry of the late 80's and early 90's to today, it just not the same.  Second to say that kids will save in the industry or that we have to get kids back into the hobby to save the industry is just false.  Kids are going to do what they want, and kids don't have the money, so you can try and cater to the kids. In the end you have to cater to the parent.  And even if a child doesn't collect cards growing up who's to say that he or she won't discover the hobby later in life?  And yes the local card show might be a dinosaur about to sink into the tar pit.  It's unfortunate, but dinosaurs will die.

1 comment:

  1. A fair question, that you touched on, is whether or not kids that for whatever reason haven't been collecting, will discover the hobby when they have disposable income as adults. I guess only time will tell. I think you hit it on the head as far as shows go. I've never been to one (rarely a card shop)and yet have managed to add a boatload of cards to my collection over the past seven or eight years. Borders Books closed over 400 stores and yet the book/reading is not dead. How many Kindles did Amazon sell last Christmas?