by Diane Carter
The NFL lockout is already a reality. The big question is — will it wipe out this season entirely or will an agreement be made in time to salvage the season or at least part of the season?
No NFL this year is not good for anyone. There is no doubt it will negatively affect the football card market, along with everything else connected to football revenue. Just imagine the lost advertising dollars on national television stations.
All you have to do is look at the 1994 baseball strike to see how a sports card market can be affected by the cancellation of a season or, as was the case, a partial cancellation of the season and no World Series. Collectors get a little miffed when players who make millions each year don’t play. Card shop traffic dropped sharply during the latter part of 1994 and early ’95 when fed up fans lost interest in baseball once it became clear the season would end early. Players who were beginning their careers sat on the sideline, essentially spoiling the rookie crop beyond Alex Rodriguez.
If the lockout drags into the pre-season, it could affect the impact this year’s rookie crop will make, again hampering sales in stores, shows and online. 2011 could be a year with no valuable rookie cards, no game-used swatches, and a limited number of autographs.
If it drags into the regular season, will the fans rally forth a year from now to re-embrace football? We know for sure that didn’t happen in 1995, the year after the baseball strike. If there is no season, it’s going to take a while for fans to come back with enthusiasm.
With anticipated sales numbers having to be adjusted, the league’s NFL licensees, Topps and Panini, may be forced to limit production or even cancel products . Products released in the spring may find an audience before the grim reality begins to take hold, but if the lockout is still in place come late June, how many cases will dealers feel comfortable ordering? The trickle down effect could be sizable.
Chris Oldenburg, an offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins, who writes his own blog, indicated the NFL Players Association has been preparing for the lockout and resulting loss of revenue.
“In addition to the money taken out of our regular paychecks, the NFLPA also kept all royalty payments made to them, which is generally paid to players each spring for things like video games, football cards, jersey sales, etc.” he wrote. “That money also belongs rightfully to the players, since our likenesses are used to sell such items. However, not every single player qualifies to receive these payments.”
The vintage market in football and baseball has remained strong for many years and it will likely weather any lockout, even if the season is lost. But what about high end cards, like Topps Inception Football, whose mockups were done with players wearing college uniforms? They might do OK because high end buyers always open their wallets to classy cards with autographs and low numbers. On the other hand, if there’s no Sunday or Monday game, boxes and sets aren’t going to sell.
The economy is getting better–slowly–but still isn’t on an aggressive upturn. With so many people struggling to make house and car payments and other survival necessities, you are not going to see even the most loyal football fans laying out the millions of dollars they do each year when the sport is healthy and the games are broadcast every week.
With the baseball strike of 1994, a lot of collectors stopped buying cards and never restarted. A football strike will cause some collectors to quit. Others will stick around hoping for a downturn in card prices which will allow them to buy more cards of their favorite older players and teams.