Several years ago, there were so many stories, columns, blog posts and TV reports about the “dying sports card industry” that it kind of become a running joke. The theme was pretty much always the same. Most of the people writing those words fell into three camps: 1) they collected as kids in the late 1980s or early 90s, were now discovering their cards weren’t worth anything and concluded the hobby was dead or 2) they never collected at all but they talked to a few disgruntled shop owners who told them business wasn’t great or 3) they went to a local show that wasn’t well promoted, saw the small turnout and came to a similar conclusion.
Of course, most of us in the game knew the real reason those junk wax era cards aren’t worth much, we knew how many cards were selling online and we also knew that there was a lot of money being spent on stuff those writers weren’t even considering. It didn’t matter. A week later, someone else wrote the very same thing.
I haven’t seen many of those stories for awhile. The hobby seems to be on quite a roll.
In this month alone, there have been national news stories on a couple of 1952 Topps finds, the million dollar Mickey Mantle jersey, the $600,000 inaugural Hall of Fame class autographed baseball and the 1955 Bowman pack break that yielded the mint Mantle card.
Gary Vaynerchuk, digital marketing and social media guru known worldwide, has been tweeting his love for the industry and a desire to get involved in a major way.
Much of the publicity, as usual, is focused on the eye-popping dollar figures. That’s almost always the case when it comes to collectibles. They’re fun to read about but what about me, you say? “I don’t have a ’52 Mantle in my collection and no one’s calling me with one to sell.”
It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and claim the big bucks stories don’t impact you.
That would be a mistake.
Each time we (or a mainstream media entity) carry a story about a huge sale or a find worth big money, there’s a wave that follows. When Evan Mathis sold his PSA 9 1952 Topps Mantle for $2.88 million earlier this year, an older man read about it and contacted Heritage Auctions. Turns out he had FIVE Mantles. Someone else had a couple. That, in turn, created more news in recent days when those cards earned top grades and were also sold.
Others across the country who read the stories probably didn’t have any ’52 Mantles but dug their old cards out of storage and are contacting potential buyers or auction companies to see what they might be worth.
The publicity over the unopened ’55 Bowman break at the National has led to a barrage of interest in old packs. New or re-engaged collectors loved the story and signed up to participate in pack and box breaking—something they didn’t know existed until a few weeks ago.
In the days after our story on the sale of the 1939 Hall of Fame baseball, we received a few calls and emails from people who’d seen them through online searches and decided to see what their old signed stuff had any value (happily, their items did).
It’s not just auction companies who benefit, though.
Read any of the comments below some of these stories you see online and it’s clear that they had an emotional impact on folks who remembered collecting as a kid and were announcing their intention to start again. That means many will visit online marketplaces where you may have items for sale. It means they may sign up for forums and groups where they may buy from you. It may mean they bring fresh items into the market that you might have a chance to buy. It may mean they remember how much fun they used to have at card shops back in the day and find your store where they’ll start buying packs, boxes, single cards or sets. It means they may start interacting with the card companies. It might mean they find out it’s a good idea to spend money with an authentication company. It may mean they read about this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention and decide to spend a few days in Chicago next year where you have a table. They might even take a table at your local show promoter’s next event or decide to sell to a dealer who is set up at one. They may follow you on Facebook or Twitter.
Take it to a slightly deeper level and they may find out that collecting again does wonders for their mental health and general attitude toward the rest of the world.
When sports collecting’s best stories are occupying the headlines, it might be for something that you could never afford.
The more important story for the hobby as a whole is what happens afterward.