A couple of days ago we discussed how Tiger Woods, basically by himself, had created a golf card market about 15 years ago. That was actually the third and longest attempt to market golf cards. The first came in 1981 when Donruss added golf for a couple of years so they could do more than baseball cards.
The next attempt came during the peak production years when Pro Set briefly got into the game (hey, when you have your own printing presses you want to keep running, why not find yet another sport to go with football and hockey). Then, Upper Deck, in large part because of their exclusive contract with Tiger Woods, who had become a mega-star, created a litany of sets.
Of course, there have been one-offs featuring individual golfers in sets such as the late 1970s oversized Sportscaster issue or the long-running Sports Illustrated for Kids cards.
Trying to keep a sustained audience for golf isn’t easy. One of the biggest issues golf has is all the tours move each week and only stay for a week in any location. That minimizes the chances of hooking long-term fans who, by their personal attendance, may get enthused enough to buy a product like trading cards. The second issue is that all the contracts are individually based. Do you want to chase down the top 120 golfers each year in addition to all the retired and older greats you might want to put into these sets? Yep, that can be a logistical nightmare as well.
With Tiger on the decline and interest in playing the game waning across the country, it’s a challenging time for the sport. They need all the marketable, young stars they can get and now they’ve got one.
Golf’s latest sensation is 21-year-old Jordan Spieth, winner of the Masters and now the U.S. Open and a player who made a name for himself over a year ago. Despite that, he has hardly any trading cards. When I checked the Beckett price guide after the Open, I found exactly two cards listed, both of which were 1/1 autographs. He’s got some cut signatures in Leaf products and he was also part of the uncut sheet inside June’s Sports Illustrated for Kids issue (amazingly, the uncut sheets which also include Steph Curry and others are generally selling for less than $30). However, it has to be at least a little disappointing for golf—and for Spieth’s management team for the sport’s biggest young star to have no regular cards available to the masses.
Having written that, I’m not sure there’s enough of a market for a full-fledged golf set. At least we have Americans safely ensconced in the top 20 world rankings but with fewer shops around than even ten years ago and the limited time to sell these at any event, selling golf cards is a tricky proposition.
I wonder if the best way for the PGA Tour to make it happen is to work out arrangements with the players and be in charge of their trading card market. Perhaps you can also work out the details with a card company so these can be joint ventures but that is the best solution I can think of at this time.
Spieth is not only a great player, he has some humility, some charisma and the youth that almost always helps drive a market. It makes him the perfect face of a card set. If nothing else, hopefully at least Topps could sign him for inclusion in a set like Allen and Ginter or Upper Deck could put him in Goodwin Champions. Either way, we’d like to see something akin to a Jordan Spieth rookie card before the year is out.
It’s not likely to happen but what if he winds up winning the Grand Slam but has no trading cards during that magical season? I’m sure the card companies would listen to your ideas on this topic as well.