This is the second of Tony Reid’s ongoing series on the hobby from inside the Pennsylvania shop he helps manage.
This week started out like most, with people literally waiting at the door for us to open bright and early on Monday morning. It’s that kind of market.
Early in the week, a few teenagers were in with their eyes on 2020 Prizm Football. After some deliberation, the one young man bought a pack of 2020 Prizm hobby and a pack of 2020 Prizm No Huddle. One of the other young men in the crew also grabbed a few packs of the new Prizm Football. At the moment, we are selling packs of Prizm hobby for $110 a piece and the Prizm No Huddle sells for $55 a pack. That’s a pretty serious investment for most kids who just turned double digits in age.
That set the early tone for my topic for this week’s piece: the barrier of entry for a young kid to be able to participate in the current sports card market through the purchase of current year boxes and packs.
Right now the cheapest pack of cards we have in the store from the year 2020 is $14 for 2020 Legacy Football. After that, prices increase rather quickly. Our cost to stock even the most pedestrian products has gone way up over the last several months and that means higher prices for the public.
We’ve even resorted to opening blaster boxes and selling packs out of 2020 Prizm, Mosaic and other mid to higher end products just to give people on a budget and/or young kids the opportunity to buy and open packs of cards from the current year. We try to do everything we can to keep people engaged in the hobby and we try to help find a way and a place for everyone who wants to get involved.
Only a few short hours after these young guys were buying $100 packs, I received a text message from a former NFL quarterback who’s a friend of mine and collects with his own teenage sons. Of all the possible topics he could have texted me about, it was one that was already on my mind all week. He told me he had been in a card shop near his hometown and he was pretty annoyed that the owner was almost mocking a few young kids who were in the store because they couldn’t afford to pay some of these insanely high prices for packs.
I hope that that is the exception and not the rule because if that’s the case across the board then we will quickly make this a hobby of the sneaker flippers, the wealthy and the people looking for “investments.” We will continue to lose the tiny sliver of innocence and hope for the vast majority of the young people who like sports and want to collect cards. It may have been an issue before but he’s become a much more widespread concern.
There are definitely more affordable packs produced from time to time but they’re getting slimmer and slimmer and the options for affordable products for the average person have become fewer and farther between. This is problematic. Sports card packs were never meant to be strictly for adults with significant amounts of disposable income.
There is a place at the table for everyone and we should welcome them all with open arms. As we continue to see the insanely high prices of so many of the desirable products in the market, let’s all make sure we still have a kiddie table in the room, with some quality current goodies available for kids or anyone else who wants them.
Along this similar topic, a young boy came into the shop with his even younger brother accompanied by their mother. Instead of asking about Prizm or Mosaic, he went straight for some of our vintage cards. It was a beautiful thing to see. He was excited to see a 1976 Topps Hank Aaron Record Breakers card, a 1968 Topps Game Mickey Mantle and a 1958 Topps Mantle All-Star card in the showcase. I was so impressed that he was so excited and after some wheeling and dealing on his part, he ended up buying the Aaron and the 1958 Mantle All-Star card. That was maybe the most refreshing interaction of the week. It was so great to see a youngster so excited about some of the all-time greats of decades past.
For the hundreds of great interactions and customers, you’re bound to have one or two at the other end of the spectrum.
This week we were greeted by a customer, who as soon as he walked in the store, proceeded to tell us that he wished he found us sooner because he “already bought out” the other shops in the area of the merchandise that he wanted. He informed us that he was looking to buy large quantities and was looking for “bulk” deals. After asking to use our private bathroom, he left buying two packs of cards.
We also had a few kids in this week looking at some of our up and coming baseball prospects including cards of Bobby Witt, Jr, Adley Rutschman and others on the rise. There are a good number of our customers excited to see baseball back on the horizon. The National Pastime is definitely top of mind for many of our customers.
There was much discussion about pricing on current boxes and packs of cards. We made a concerted effort to restock 2018-19 basketball… the best we could. We were able to restock Panini Threads blasters, NBA Hoops blasters and a few other, ahem, “lower end” products that now sell for upwards of $200 per pack, which is just flat out mind boggling. Just as amazing is the fact that these products are selling as fast as we can get them on the shelf (or listed online).
These little moments offer a glimpse into the current state of the white hot sports card market. Despite the issues with cost for unopened product, there’s a lot of enthusiasm. What a time to be alive…and what a time to be a part of such an exciting industry. We are seeing record prices on popular rookie cards being set on what seems like a daily basis as so many new and re-engaged collectors enter the hobby. Our store has near constant traffic, with folks looking for singles, boxes, packs, supplies and everything else we carry. The excitement is palpable in the shop. It’s fun going to work each day.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll check in again next week.