In many of our recent box reviews, we’ve been focusing on the concept of “value.” I know value is often in the eyes of each individual and thus no two collectors can even quite have the same opinion. Some of us feel to get value we have to feel we can make money out of every box while other collectors feel they can get value if they feel good about what they receive even if a profit is not made. But here are some of our opinions about what constitutes “value” in today’s market and what it means to collectors, dealers and even the average person.
What are some of the key aspects of value? The first and most important issue of value is whether you actually received what was promised. While we understand that card companies can and do change what it is included in a release, the general information should be accurate. In other words, if you indicate in pre-sale promotions that each pack will contain a hit and in a 20-box case there are only 16 hits, then a dealer has a legitimate issue.
As a collector, we always stress in our reviews, what does the box promise you? In the past five years we’ve been writing reviews, there was only one case in which we did not receive our promised hit. That is a pretty good ratio and so as collectors we have to be pretty happy with that percentage. We also understand that not every box will have the prime hits that feature players such as LeBron James or Mike Trout but as long as we receive what is promised, that’s one part of the equation. Card companies never guarantee that secondary market value will be attained. Sometimes it is, but other times it is not.
Not All Issues Are Created Equal
Collectors should understand that all products are different. When one opens a basic Topps or Topps Heritage box, there is typically only one hit per box. These are set building type products. Most collectors do not buy Heritage just for the autograph or relic card that may be inside. They buy it for the overall package which includes the design of older Topps cards that is unique. With the ode to 1966 coming up early in 2015; we’re going to be excited to see what memories come out of our box.
However, when one buys a box such as Triple Threads, then they want to see bigger hits because that is the nature of the product. Some collectors, especially those who don’t understand the brands themselves, are disappointed when they don’t pull a major hit out of a product that isn’t centered upon the chase for low serial number cards.
The Feel Good Test
The next issue for collectors in terms of value comes down to: “Did you feel good about what your purchased?” Regardless of what hits are inside, the overall idea is that when a box break is over, a collector should feel good about what they opened.
MLB license or not, I have heard several people tell me about how much they enjoyed opening 2014 Donruss Baseball. One of the hidden secrets of the pre-2006 Donruss/Leaf/Playoff was that even without things like logo patch autographs, there always seemed to be a few nice cards in every pack from shorter printed cards, to serial numbered inserts or even to the hits. You almost always felt as if those boxes were giving you value even if the book value was not truly there. Today, I hear from store owners who sometimes say they feel sorry for kids or other collectors who open some of the boxes that simply aren’t delivering the quantity or quality one should reasonably expect for a certain price. They are in a tough position because they need to sell those boxes to stay open, yet in many cases they try to be honest and open with customers about the less than positive results they’ve seen come out of previous boxes. I would not want to be in that position as a retailer. On the other hand, sometimes the card companies provide enough value in terms of card design, player selection or uniqueness that one feels good even if the dollar value may or may not be there.
When I was in Nick’s Sportscards the other day, a collector purchased one of the pricey Topps Dynasty boxes and received a gorgeous Bo Jackson signed patch card numbered to 10. A check of eBay showed some at the $300 or higher level and some significantly below but the collector just felt good about getting a signed Bo Jackson card. He’s one of the players Topps has tried to include in recent sets because of the fondness collectors of a certain age have for his two-sport ability and the fun that came along with the Bo Knows marketing campaign. That’s why knowing who those players are and getting their autographs into products is so important, regardless of whatever secondary market pricing may be.
The Card Company-Collector Connection
All of this also leads up for another aspect of value, which is how to include more collectors into the process. To me, the recent Topps High Tek release is a perfect example of a wasted promotional attempt. A few years ago, Upper Deck had a really cool and I’m sure frustrating contest to see which collector would be the first to complete .the 2008 Upper Deck Yankee Legacy set of more than 6,000 cards. Could you imagine the sales if Topps had done something like in 1998 where they had a 90 card set with 90 different patterns and 90 different designs for a total of 8100 cards? How about a contest to see who could complete that 8.100 card set and honor the winner with a card in the 2015 Topps set as well as adding interest to the product?
In checking with local dealer and collectors, they believe the hobby’s current monopolies on trading card licensing have taken some of the day-to-day contests away from the collector. If you are a sports card manufacturer you should always look for marketing opportunities to bring more collectors into your tent. In addition, every new name you get with contests becomes part of your mailing or e-list which holds a great deal of value to companies.
Those are some of our opinions, please let us know yours with an email to the address at the bottom of this column.