The mother of all extended holidays is over. The NFL regular season? Dust. The season lives for only two college football teams. Holiday merchandise is now 70% off.
2015 is now relegated to the archives but there was plenty to remember as the calendar turned to a new year and a lot to wonder about as 2016 gets underway.
Panini America continued to gobble up trading card licenses, nailing down its exclusive deals with the NFL and nearly every major university. Collectors, distributors and retailers will be watching closely to see exactly how Topps fills the void during the 2016 football season.
The 2015 baseball card year got a huge boost from an influx of new stars. Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Kyle Schwarber, Francisco Lindor and a few others—not to mention a rejuvenated Bryce Harper—kept pack rippers ripping.
However, one could make a strong argument that it was the year of the hockey card. In Canada, a promotion by Tim Hortons put packs into the hands of the masses and by most accounts, it was a smash hit, even driving new business into card shops. Then came the arrival of the first cards of mega prospects Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel…and another strong Rookie of the Year candidate in Dylan Larkin. When was the last time you saw collectors lined up outside a card shop, awaiting release date? The hype didn’t end there. The first two McDavid game-worn jerseys made available to the public sold for $60,000 combined.
Prices for high-grade vintage Hall of Fame rookie cards surged upward. Investors who’ve seen steady and sometimes explosive growth in the most well-known cards jumped in to battle serious collectors for some of the top prizes, especially the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. Graded, NM/MT examples offered at auction resulted in huge profits for their owners but so did high-end copies of more modern era icons like the 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan rookie and the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan. It’s hard to imagine anyone dreaming a ’52 Mantle would broach the $500,000 mark when the year began, but it happened.
One of the hobby’s longest-running criminal cases resulted in a sentence being carried out when Bill Mastro was booked into a federal prison camp in central Illinois where he’ll stay until sometime in 2017. His former cohort at Mastro Auctions, Doug Allen, could face a longer sentence when he goes before a judge this month. While that chapter may soon close, the FBI is not likely done looking into hobby-related trouble.
We’re also likely to learn more details about a massive online fake autograph scheme carried out over the last several years by a group of people in Ohio. Smaller players in the case have already been arrested and some have been sentenced but those who are believed to have organized the bogus signature factory haven’t been revealed.
One of the hobby’s biggest retailers suffered through a large employee theft case that ended with guilty pleas for three Buffalo area men. They took advantage of a computer software flaw and stole over $1.3 million worth of products from Dave and Adam’s between 2013 and 2014.
The hobby lost one of its trading card manufacturers when Press Pass shut down in early January. The company had been making NASCAR and pre-draft NFL products. They closed abruptly and announced they wouldn’t be honoring any redemption cards. Additional contraction on the manufacturing side hasn’t occurred–yet.
Late in the year came the shocking news that the co-founder and executive director of the National Sports Collectors Convention has passed away. The death of Mike Berkus leaves a huge void and it will be interesting to see how the management of the hobby’s biggest show evolves. The 2016 event will be in Atlantic City, NJ.
There were enough fresh finds of forgotten cards and memorabilia to invigorate auction businesses and anyone who dreams of their own Eureka moment. Not all were hugely valuable but the stories were always fun. There was a Lou Gehrig bat once used as a home protection device that became one of the biggest selling auction items of the year; a Vince Lombardi Army coaching sweater from the 1940s that was discovered in a Goodwill store; a stash of old strip cards including multiple Babe Ruths that popped out of a wall in New Jersey; a find of Sporting Life cards in a Connecticut attic; an 1869 Red Stockings CDV found in a stack of old family photos; a small, forgotten stash of 1909 Philadelphia Caramel cards found inside a cookie tin and many, many more.
Here’s hoping you’re the one who uncovers a great find we’re writing about 366 days from now.