One of my standard lines whenever I walk into Nick’s Sportscards is “teach me what I need to learn” or words to that effect. What I really mean by that is Debbie and Nick are the ones dealing with collectors every day and they always pay attention to what their clientele asks for. On the latest trip Debbie mentioned these two words: “looks matter”.
No, she wasn’t talking about customers. She recalled how a group of Panini designers and other creative people were in their store and she went over to where they were standing and said something to the effect of “Do you know what’s wrong with your box design?” She went on to tell them that when their collectors need to see more than just a photo of Jameis Winston. They want to see what the cards they are paying all that money for actually look like. She also suggested making the selling points of what’s inside more obvious to collectors who might want to know what to expect. That’s not just a problem with one card manufacturer. It’s a good point that anyone who makes trading cards should consider.
Since more hobby stores do keep their recent wax behind the counter, having the information easily visible makes it important to the collectors who have so many choices today. Sometimes collectors are less likely to buy a box if they’re not really sure what they’re getting. On the other hand, a great card design and strong selling points printed on the box can spur sales.
Looks also matter on the vintage level. There are certain sets which will never gain popularity even if they are difficult to complete. The hideous (and I do mean hideous) 1943 MP and Company set will never be popular among collectors. The drawings don’t look like the players and the design was awful. Now compare a set like that to any of the Play Ball sets issues just a few years earlier. Not only was their better distribution but the designs are also pleasing to the eye. There are reasons sets such as 1953 Bowman, 1956 and ’57 Topps and 1967 Topps are incredibly popular. After all, who has not been fascinated by the 1953 Bowman Pee Wee Reese or the 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle? Both of those cards are great photos in great sets.
Today, some of the designs may get lost in the shuffle of hit chasing but I would wager over the coming years, the more attractive looking sets will end up being those with long-term popularity. That’s why Topps’ move to a more fresh design each year is a major improvement over what had almost become cookie cutter releases. If one of the different designs brings back memories of those full color photos which appear to be clear than so much the better.
How many of us who collected in the 1990s loved the Stadium Club photos on the full-bleed design? I can see the shot of John Starks dunking over two Chicago Bulls in a critical playoff moment forever immortalized on a card. It’s great to see some of the photo improvements we’ve seen in certain Topps sets lately.
Yes, looks do matter. Whether it was a card design from 1915 or a box design in 2015.