It sounds weird to even say the phrase now: The National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim, CA.
That was ten years ago; the last time the NSCC was held west of the Mississippi (we feel you, west coast). It was also just a few weeks after I launched the site you’re reading now. I flew out on short notice, passing out some freshly printed business cards to show dealers and anyone else I thought might want to know about the little news and information website that had just launched on June 30, 2006.
I was fully employed in broadcasting then but managed to snare a little vacation time, grabbed a laptop and decided to cover the National like a daily news outlet would. I had no staff but I did it because no one else was doing it.
Print still held a grip on how we consumed information but it was fading. There was material being posted online by hobby publications back then but you could tell it wasn’t a priority. It’s important to have a niche and writing about events as they happened—not two weeks or a month later—was it.
I felt the industry or the hobby or whatever you wanted to call it was big enough to have its own daily digest so I coughed up 500 bucks, hired a programmer to do the technical set up and away we went. Just to give you an idea of how long ago that really was, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush had just finished their USC careers and were the marquee autograph attractions inside the Anaheim show–at $89 a pop.
The initial idea of SC Daily was also to find stories about the hobby that mainstream media outlets were covering and share the links with collectors and others who might not otherwise get to see them. Working in the media and having access to a lot of them, I figured other collectors would like to see what I saw. The common whine among industry pros then was “the hobby never gets any press.” I knew that wasn’t true.
I committed to posting four new stories each weekday. Some, I’m kind of embarrassed to say now, were simply a sentence or two with a link to the story that appeared someplace else. Still, it was fresh– and it was free–which was definitely a new concept. Of course, we also wrote about new card releases and big auctions and did interviews with show promoters and dealers. Thankfully, people seemed to like it and so here we are ten years later—now with over 11,000 posts in the archive, some of it pretty important to the hobby as a whole. I’d love to know how many words that is, though. So far, no major injuries have occurred.
Truthfully, I almost quit a couple of times during those first two years. Writing and producing stories every day was a challenge. Monetizing the site was a bigger one. Eventually, it all worked out.
Today, I went into the archive and took a brief trip back to those first few weeks, just to get a sense of what was happening, what was different and what hadn’t changed much.
The big stories in those early days included the auction for Barry Bonds’ 715th home run ball, the nasty fight among Topps’ Board of Directors over the public company’s entertainment of private offers including one from Upper Deck (the sale to Michael Eisner’s group eventually happened, of course), PSA opening a pack authentication and grading division, the Alex Gordon rookie card error fiasco and the gigantic auction catalogs Bill Mastro’s company was producing. Upper Deck was still making baseball, football and basketball cards to the tune of about one set a week, it seemed.
The modern trading card end of the hobby is really where much of the change has happened. In 2006, you never would have dreamed that a company called Panini would hold more major pro sports licenses than anyone else or cell phone apps would be responsible for a big chunk of Topps’ revenue. While higher-end products were starting to become a bigger deal, a $1,500 box—er, briefcase—was something most would have thought could never happen.
Prices for memorabilia were just beginning to take their stratospheric leaps forward thanks to the emergence of several auction companies who were producing several huge, attractive catalogs per year and marketing like crazy to sports fans who became collectors. The sheer number of auction companies has grown a lot since 2006 and most people now place bids online rather than by phone or fax (remember fax machines?).
Pro sports teams have taken command of their own game-used and game-worn items, setting up physical shops and holding online auctions, which have attracted new collectors. There are some higher quality options for storing and displaying items, now, too.
Amazingly, a year after we launched, the FBI began their investigation into a few elements of the industry and the result of the most intense of those initial fact-finding sessions didn’t play out until the last 12 months or so. The wheels of justice sometimes move slowly.
New online buying and selling options like COMC emerged and became successful. Amazon entered the sports collectibles business and formed a partnership with COMC. Grading and authentication of cards and memorabilia has expanded into new realms and has become even more prominent. Prices for high quality vintage rookie and star cards have exploded like never before creating a lot of attention but also a lot of questions. Has sports collecting finally “arrived” with well-financed collectors and investors in it for the long haul or is price manipulation having an impact? That one may take a few years to answer.
Probably a couple of years after we launched, I remember my very knowledgeable programmer/web guru saying “there’s a new communications platform you need to get involved with. It’s called Twitter. It might seem goofy at first but just do it.”
As usual, he was right. Social media has become hugely important, allowing new hobby-related businesses to grow, collectors to connect and information to be shared even quicker and in different ways than before. None of it was available to the masses in 2006.
A lot hasn’t really changed in ten years, though. Some predicted the end of card shows but they’re actually making a minor comeback in some areas. eBay remains a huge force in the hobby but both shows and card shops can still be successful as long as the owners treat their operation like a modern business. Online forums remain popular. Collectors still collect what they want to collect—whether it’s pulling cards for their “PC” from dime or quarter boxes, collecting autographs, toting want lists around to fill sets or buying Hall of Fame rookies. You can still go to a shop or show and buy a few packs or boxes (we’re not in the all-digital age yet and I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen).
I was actually pretty confident back in 2006 that there would be enough material to fill these pages on a daily basis. Over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of help from some really knowledgeable and talented folks who’ve written stories to make that happen and provide more depth on sets from the past and present.
Thankfully, you keep coming back—if not every day then a couple of times a week or maybe when the mood strikes. Some of you get our daily headlines via email and decide from there what you want to read. It’s all good. And it’s all appreciated. Thanks for a great ten years.