Editor’s Blog: Scandals Sting, But Collecting Lives On

The hobby has seen its share of highs and lows in recent years.  Major finds bringing international attention.  Record-setting prices paid for historic jerseys and scarce cards.

Arrests for game worn jersey shenanigans.  Indictments for auction fraud.

Are there issues in the hobby?  Yes.

Are there still some potential bombshells that could fall?  No doubt.

Is someone out there cheating buyers as you read this?  No question.

Will more legal troubles “bring down the sports memorabilia industry” or “bring it to its knees” as you sometimes read in the mainstream media or on some forums?

Not a chance.

Those who make such statements or even wonder about them don’t understand the foundation of the hobby.

What makes it tick is not the guy spending six figures and more every few months on rare items you see in major auctions.  It’s the guy walking around the show with a want list in a spiral notebook, picking up cards he needs to fill in his 1972 Topps set.  It’s the person who goes to the hobby shop and buys a new box of cards.  It’s the millions of anonymous souls around the world who browse eBay for everything from gumball machine football helmets to bargains on autographs of Hall of Famers and spend what their significant other will allow.

While the big ticket items and folks who have the money to buy them are an important part of what keeps sports collectibles in the news and relevant to the masses, the bottom could drop out of the high end market and many average collectors would scarcely notice.

The percentage of those who chase valuable high grade complete vintage sets or superstar game-worn items is tiny compared to the overwhelming majority of collectors who entered the hobby through a wax pack as kids and continue to focus their collecting around purchases that total less than, say, $2,000 a year.

The investigations that have resulted in arrests or indictments are more reasons for collectors to be cautious.  Greed makes people do things that cost other people money.  It’s not right when it happens and it definitely happens in the hobby.  Some will skate on by whatever probe is currently taking place, never getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  New scandals will spring up.  Money is a powerful drug.

Such is life.

The sports memorabilia industry is no different than any other.  There are cheaters in every business and service occupation.  There are those who overcharge to pad their bank account.  There are those who will lie to gain an edge.  It doesn’t mean that the entire realm will collapse, whether the perpetrators are caught or not.

The silent majority of collectors for whom most of this is barely an afterthought will go on their merry way.  Happy some justice has been done, but happier to simply find out what the next trip to the show, shop or flea market might bring to their hobby room.