Five weeks are left in 2010, a year when card companies continued to watch every penny and prayed to keep a share of a market that continues to be challenging at best.
Dealers and auction houses fought for consignments and hoped their customers bid a little more often.
Good things have happened over the last 11 months but there are plenty of things we'd like to see come to fruition in 2011.
1) An end to the FBI investigation. The Bureau is thorough, and for that the honest hobbyist is grateful. But the ongoing questions and suspicions cast a shadow over big card shows and make collectors wonder just how much fraud has taken place. It's not likely, but we hope the FBI can put a bow on their 3-4 year examination and bring whatever charges may come by this time next year...if not sooner.
2) More great finds. Everyone loves a great story. It's at the heart of what collecting is about. When nuns put a Honus Wagner card up for auction or a Babe Ruth rookie card is found in someone's attic, it puts a jolt into the hobby--even if you can't afford it.
3) More league-sponsored events. Some people still think of sports memorabilia collecting as "dead" or "dying". It's not, of course, and every time a major professional sports league sanctions an event, it lends an air of legitimacy to the proceedings. We'd love to see each league put on a mid-season card show and promote the heck out of it.
4) Another strong year for Topps. No offense to the other companies. They're important and necessary. Each has their own strengths. But right now, Topps owns the MLB partnership and the brand is synonymous with baseball every spring. The Million Card Giveaway wasn't perfect, but it got a lot of people interested in baseball cards. Topps' 60th anniversary will be another chance for the company to generate a media buzz--and one in the hobby as well.
5. Get baseball cards into more places. Before about 1995, kids grew up buying baseball cards at drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores...among other places. Now, if there's no card shop in your town, you buy your cards at Target or Walmart. Cards are an impulse buy and a possible entry point for thousands of kids who aren't allowed to leave their parents' sides when going to the big retail giants.
6. Packs with value. The card companies need to do a better job making sure as few people as possible feel like they wasted their money on a box of cards. Somehow, some way, today's product has to stop becoming old news. More autographs of better quality. Good vintage buy backs. Something. Too many higher end products don't hold their value beyond a week or two.
7. Auctions at card shows. They used to have them all the time. There are a few still out there. There are a couple of high-end events held in and around the National. But those medium sized weekend shows need to put a little fun back in the game. Have a 50 or 100-lot auction. Promote it in coordination with the show. Get consignments from dealers and show goers. It's just a fun thing to do that puts a little spice into the event.
8. More shows. In the 1990s, there were too many shows. Now, there don't seem to be enough. Everyone is on eBay and that's understandable. A good, creative, energetic promoter should still be able to put one together that can succeed. Shows are a huge part of the hobby and it's a little scary that so few new ones are popping up. Buying online is great but there's nothing like holding an item in your hand and talking to the person who's trying to sell it to you.
9. More quality control. We see a lot of sloppy autographs. We see cut autographs where the autograph has actually been trimmed to fit the card. Yuck. Use more redemption cards if you have to in the case of oversized cards. Tell the players signing the current year's cards that they can't just pick up the check and draw a squiggly line on the sticker. They have to sign it.
10. A national association. It's been discussed. Ridiculed. Even tried in years gone by. Still, there isn't really any kind of organization to benefit card collectors across North America. We envision a place where you can get information, discounts to shows and on merchandise. A place that, through its by-laws, would ensure that dealers are held to certain standards.