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Ramblings: The Readers Write

Everyone has their ideas on how to improve the sports card hobby but not everyone takes time to put their thoughts on paper (so to speak, in the digital age).  Rich Ramblings 2014We recently received a very passionate email from an old school collector from Sacramento, CA.

Many of the topics Jeremy Hyde has issues with are things we hear time and again, so I thought I’d present a slightly abridged version of his email here and answer some of his questions with a little help from editor Rich Mueller.

JH: I have a few things to offer that would help the industry recover. I read your page and follow it on Facebook religiously.

SC Daily:  We’d all like to see the industry recover, but instincts tell us that in many ways this is the strongest the hobby has been for many years. When a company such as Beckett becomes aggressive about purchasing hobby assets, it should tell you that some people still consider this a growth industry. We know there are many people who collected cards in the early and mid-1990’s as youths who are coming back. When you think of how many young people collected back then and how many shops managed to thrive (for a while), if even one out of 100 return, that’s quite a boost for the hobby.

2013 Topps Tier One Baseball boxJH: DROP THE PRICES OF NEW CARDS. We have to get the kids back into collecting sports cards. They need to be able to AFFORD this hobby as well. No parent is going to give their kid $20 to go to the store and buy whatever they want. When I was a kid I would go down to the local drug store and buy a couple of candy bars and a couple of packs of baseball or football cards for 15 cents each etc. 

Sports cards should be 69 cents a pack like candy bars. What this would do for the industry is drop the value of new cards…as they should, therefore raising the prices of vintage cards which SHOULD happen.  There is no way an autograph card of LeBron James or Mike Trout should be worth more than a vintage Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron or Willie Mays card. If new cards are less valuable it is NOT going to steer people away from the hobby. PACKS OF ALL CARDS SHOULD BE THE SAME PRICE AS CANDY 69 cents!! GREED IS KILLING THIS INDUSTRY!

SC Daily:  You might be surprised how many kids have $20 to spend on cards or on other goodies. While when we were growing up $20 would buy you several Topps boxes, but today you would need a few hundred dollars to purchase those boxes. You’d be surprised, though, just how many kids only want the higher end cards and stay away from those lower price point products.  It’s why the card manufacturers produce them.  In many cases, they are what sells today.

Rising costs associated with exclusive trading card contracts, collector demands for higher quality products and the simple march of time means we’re not likely to see much of anything for sale at 69 cents again.  If the card companies thought they’d bring thousands of kids into the hobby and sell millions of cards by lowering prices of new releases, believe me, they’d do it. 

All cards are subject to some basic supply and demand rules and frankly if you believe older cards are undervalued, perhaps this is the opportune time to make some purchases.

targetJH:  What’s killing this industry is cards used to be in every gas station, drug store and convenience store.  Wherever you went you could pick up a few packs of cards. Now it is in Walmart,Target and hobby shops…and nowhere else because distributors don’t allow any room for profit so people don’t want to carry them. 

SC Daily:  Well if that is true, neither Walmart or Target would ever carry cards again. Counter space is very precious in convenience stores and let’s understand that if you own one of those stores you are dealing with very tight margins and quite a bit of risk. But yes, it would be nice to see basic Topps return to the local 7-11 stores. More visibility for the hobby never hurts.

JH: I worked in 2 card shops growing up and have collected since 1978. I used to help my boss at weekend conventions when Bob Lee (Santa Rosa,CA) used to put on all the California conventions. He always had a former sports star signing autographs for $10 or $15 each for a few hours at his conventions. Other than Tri-star all conventions lack a player to draw in KIDS FOR AUTOGRAPHS! No wonder it is only OLD collectors who show up. There is NOTHING to attract the KIDS. 

Panini SigningRK:  I’d love to have a current player at a show I promote. However, the financial realities of what players make nowadays for such appearances makes getting a current major leaguer cost prohibitive and thus my best chance is someone from a minor league team or a retired player. However, let’s say I bring in someone such as Michael Downs who played for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980’s. He retired 25 years ago.  You’re right.  Not many kids really want to meet a Cowboy who retired many years before he or she was ever born. 

However, I will say we had a pretty large turnout of kids at our show in Plano, TX earlier this year and the Dallas Card Show also brings in a nice grouping of young collectors every time. Like everything else, bringing in the kids has to do with providing value. You want kids at a show, see if you can get cheap packs to give them as a gift for coming in or provide free cards. I’ve actually been encouraged by all the kids I’ve seen at shows over the past year in the DFW area.

JH:  Most importantly, every industry is on cable TV these days EXCEPT SPORTSCARDS. This industry NEEDS a 24-hour cable TV show with hours from Panini, Topps, Bowman, Upper Deck etc., promoting their products, maybe some hours of in-house card education from some of the most successful sports card shops. This tvcameranetwork could cover conventions, the Industry Summit every year etc., so people who aren’t there in person could be there through cable TV. They need this to TEACH today’s kids about the sports card industry. The reason they are not into it is they are not knowledgeable about this subject.  They are not seduced by a cable TV sports card show. It should be near the ESPN channels so kids will find it. There is nothing to teach today’s kids about sports card collecting.

SC Daily:  It wouldn’t be possible for a cable network to survive just on sports trading cards but perhaps if one included other hobbies a network like that would have a chance to succeed.  The cost of producing television shows—let alone a network’s worth—is staggering.  Millions of dollars are involved and finding sponsors would be very difficult.   

The good news is that there are some shows in the works.  Fox Sports recently agreed to carry an independently produced show about sports memorabilia on its various networks around the country.  ESPN does an internet segment a few times a week called Mint Condition. In fact the editor of this site has appeared on that program. I think you may very well have more card coverage, perhaps as early as the end of 2014. 

JH:  Advertising almost does not exist. Every commercial break during sports events should have sports card commercials. I have seen Bowman advertisements during baseball games and that is it!  Once again the kids just don’t get the message and they see commercials for everything EXCEPT sports cards. Of course they buy everything EXCEPT sports cards.

SC Daily:  Like we mentioned, advertising is expensive.  The major licensed trading card companies are big business and have no doubt analyzed where their marketing dollars are best spent.  Topps does advertise on certain TV broadcasts and I thought doing the Bowman ads were a great idea since the product is aimed at young players. However, if we see those shows mentioned above, then we might have better outlets for sports card and memorabilia-related advertising.

JH:  The reason this industry is dead is because no one is trying to give it life. There things would give this industry the publicity it needs to bring in thousands if not millions of new collectors…and sports card packs are just CRAZY expensive now.   

SC Daily:  We’re not even close to being sure this hobby is dead. The great concept of case breaks which gives team collectors a new lease on life, the success of vintage card auctions and certain card shows—if promoted well—are often successful.  And if this hobby were really dead, do you think the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page would be about to hit 50,000 fans?  Not all are Nick Castellanos 2014 Topps Opening Dayavid collectors but the numbers are growing daily and there are a lot of potential collectors there, all over the world. 

Packs are more expensive than they used to be but there are products out there, especially on the secondary market that can be purchased at reasonable levels. Topps Opening Day Baseball is aimed at youngsters and has a lower price point.  

The best thing about this hobby is that you can collect whatever you like.  If you can’t afford a high-end pack, try collecting players from your favorite team or pick one favorite player and chase his cards.  There’s plenty of variety in the market.  Some single cards can still be purchased for pennies and shows are still fun to go to.  We agree, though, that we’d love to see more kids in the hobby.  Otherwise, the future could be a little bleak.

Thank you Jeremy and if any of you have some hobby ideas we’d love to hear those as well. Please contact me at the email address you see below.

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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