There are always challenges in the sports collecting hobby and frankly, 2013 is not an exception. Baseball season is over and thus the effects of rookies such as Yasiel Puig have settled down, There is no dominant rookie in either football or basketball and let’s face it, hockey is a distant fourth in most parts of this country as it comes to collecting.
So, for dealers and collectors who understand this is not the year to be heavily invested in brand new products, what is the solution? Well, everyone has his or her way of doing business but I will throw out some suggestions
This past weekend, my good friend Roger Neufeldt had one of his “one-man” shows in Arlington, Texas. Since Roger is an all-around good guy and always has interesting material both low and high-end I went and visited with him this weekend. One of the reasons he does these type of events is he always generates a good amount of cash flow with limited expenses on his trips to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. To me, this is one way of adapting to the hobby changes. With fewer good shows around, Roger just creates his own and he has a nice list of vintage card collectors who he contacts via either email or with postcards.
When I was there, I traded some war stories with Roger, his associate and a few collectors around his table. We discussed old stories of Playboy Playmates at card shows selling raffle tickets for charity and how cards can now be considered “short-printed” either because they are short-printed (I relayed the 1961 5th series story and the 1966 Grant Jackson story) or because they are scarcer in high condition (1962 Topps George Witt is an example)
Upon reflecting, what Roger is doing is actually what many real old school dealers did back in the day except Roger is selling cards rather than buying cards. In the 1970’s, many dealers went on “buying trips”, setting up shop in a local hotel room and running ads in area papers offering to buy cards. There were a lot of cards purchased back then that turned out to be worth a lot of money in future years.
The purpose is the same with what Roger is doing…just the end result is now flipped. I wonder if what he does could be expanded into a slightly bigger room with a few more tables and each dealer (with some overlapping) could have their own expertise.
For example. Roger could have vintage baseball, another dealer could have all local teams, another could have football cards and someone else could have unopened boxes and packs. And if anything walked into the room, one dealer with expertise in a specific area could be the point person to buy the lot and then disperse it all to his or her team. This does require some cooperation and agreements but is something which can be accomplished with a modicum of effort. Sounds amazing, but nearly four decades ago, what I’m suggesting used to be almost standard hobby policy.
With the reduction of shows and stores and the growth in Internet venues, there are even other ways of moving cards. Case breaks, where a dealer will purchase a case of cards and then sell spots by team is a good situation for all involved as card companies sell their product, dealers have another outlet to sell them and collectors do not have to lay out as much money as they would for a full box.
The math works like this and this is going to be a simplistic explanation. If I had a 12 case box which sell for $100 each I generate $1200 in income while if I have 32 NFL teams and sell each team for $50 I generate $1600. This works on two levels, one is that the collector saves $50 and the dealer generates an extra $400. To me, this is a win-win for almost all concerned as long as the team drafts are done honestly.
Sometimes as a collector or dealer, zigging while everyone else is zagging, can be rewarding.
For some, perhaps a trip to the past is a worthwhile way to go. One way for collectors of current products is to revert back to the simpler world of vintage where there are fewer cards to chase and less volatility. Perhaps the cards issued during the “junk wax” era are even your cup of tea. There are more collectors of these sets and oddities out there than you think and as long as a collector understands they are not likely to be the gold mine they were once thought to be, it’s a fun and very affordable alternative.
Another option is to look for players who have had success in the past and are now noticeably cooled down. I’d be looking to see if any Bryce Harper (he is still very young) cards are on the low end or perhaps a Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan is the type of player you feel have another run of brilliance in them. There are always players with a second and even a third stage to their card popularity career.
And, there is always this: See how some of the newer products will go and then jump on those with lower print runs being dumped below cost. There may not be any terrific rookies in 2013 NFL cards but you have to think at some point, new stars will emerge who have their first year cards in those sets. That is something you will frankly have to do either on the Internet or at a major show as most store owners do not (and with good reason) lower prices that much.
I remember when the baseball strike and hobby lockout hit in 1994, many stressed that was a great time to purchase cards at a reduced price. Well, with the problems currently inherent in new releases in some of the major sports, this may be a great time to be looking for newer cards as well.
One of the keys to the baseball card hobby is if you have the courage to be a contrarian, there are both short and long-term benefits. Some believe those suspected of PED usage will gain back a measure of respect for their career accomplishments. Two shining examples are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. If you put personal feelings about those players aside, might they still be considered among the best of all-time and might the next generation think of them with less disdain? While there is no right or wrong to the answer of buying their cards, is this a shot worth taking? It’s an interesting proposition. What are your examples of how you are adapting to the hobby changes of 2013?
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]