By Rich Klein
When I wrote about Mark Anderson leaving Beckett a few days ago, another of our former Beckett employees Dave Sliepka posted on Facebook that yet another good man had left Beckett. I started realizing that although in many cases change is not always easy, for most businesses change is always normal and sometimes the hobby becomes better for it. While I'm not a big fan for change for the sake of change, it can help generate interest for businesses. And while sometimes change can be really bad (see New Coke in 1985), many times change is perfectly fine. This website has undergone a couple of design changes and so have countless others. Most of us have stopped writing checks except on rare occasions.
The whole key to change is not only to get fresh blood into a company or into a system but also so people take new looks at what is available. While pricing and checklisting cards is the same today as it was in 1990 when I joined Beckett, the tools to do both are totally different. In the early 1990’s, we used what could be considered cutting edge methods for that time. Our methods for gathering pricing included attending shows and stores, reading ads in hobby publications, calling dealers on the phone and using SportsNet (then the leading dealer to dealer communications tool).
I always liked to tell people that although the very nature of my job had not changed, the methods of doing that work have certainly changed. While there might still be an occasional phone call to a dealer or a show trip (usually to a bigger event such as the National or the Toronto Hockey Expo), the methods listed in the previous paragraph are now outdated. You can track pricing through many online sources including major auction houses, eBay, COMC (when they release their historical data as per a recent blog post), and countless other electronic methods. Yes, one is still gathering and assimilating information but the process is totally different.
New talent into this business is also a necessity. You know I talk a lot about COMC and to me that is a perfect example of using already existing talents from the outside to better the hobby. In the late 1970’s. Dr. Jim Beckett, who had his PHD in statistics, helped, as he would like to say, "bring order to chaos". Having a set nomenclature as well as pricing really helped fuel our hobby boom in the 1980’s.
Tim Getsch, the owner (along with his wife Julie) of COMC is an excellent programmer with the collecting bug. He has adopted much of what he learned as a programmer to create the success which is COMC. This, to me, is a perfect example of how new blood into the hobby can really change things for the better. As a COMC user, I really appreciate being able to send them cards, as well as knowing that 99.9 percent of all cards listed will be listed quickly and accurately. The ability to have someone list your cards for you, put it in front of 50,000 potential buyers and provide faith in their security lets me sleep well at night knowing my cards are in good hands. New blood like Tim has been very beneficial for the hobby as he solved what many of us wanted to do before he perfected the system. And like many other successful people, COMC is always going to tinker and add to what they provide their users. If you read their blog, you see there are occasional bumps in the road, but that is all part of a learning process.
So, although I like to call myself a dinosaur and I think some of my “success” at the local Craig Ranch card show is because I have a very old-school set up, I truly appreciate those who keep looking for ways to improve the hobby. Dr. Beckett did so much in the late 1970’s to improve the hobby with his first pricing attempts and Tim today has made selling cards to a wider audience much easier. In between, we will continue looking for innovations and I'm excited to be a small part of any innovations past and present.
Speaking of strange paths, my brother-in-law moderates a successful Facebook group called Man Cave Dallas and he emailed me and asked if I would not being the admin for a Sports Collector group on Facebook. Please feel free to join the group which is just starting out. Speaking of change, could any of us have imagined sites like Facebook and Twitter even ten years ago and how it, too, would impact the hobby? Change happens, whether we foresee it or not.
On an unrelated note… we’re looking for a sponsor for Rich’s Ramblings. I'm not involved in the details of any agreement but if you want have your message inside a column that many hobby movers and shakers (and potential customers) read, please contact Rich Mueller at [email protected].
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]