So here we sit.
It’s a crappy feeling. And weird. Really weird. Like hopping into a sports time machine set to about 1855.
We are the most spoiled sports generation in history. There are so many games now, they all kind of intersect. Spring baseball. Spring football. Spring basketball. Spring hockey.
Golf. Racing. Tennis.
We can watch sports virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can bet on most of it. We can watch games on our phones. We can manage our own “teams” through fantasy sports. And much of it still all relatively new. Pro basketball in its current form didn’t even exist until the late 1940s.
We can collect stuff associated with the games, too. That’s why you’re here, right?
So what’s next for hobby in the weeks to come, assuming things get worse? What’s a collector to do? What’s a dealer to do? An online seller?
The good news is that while the games are shut down, the cards and other stuff are not. Our card show experiences may be limited or non-existent but unless things get really bad, the postal service and package companies will continue to pick up and deliver. If you’re at home more often than usual, this might be a really good time to settle in and unload that stuff you’ve been wanting to sell.
There are anxieties about the economy in the wake of the coronavirus and that’s to be expected. Businesses who see a slowdown in traffic may lay off working collectors who suddenly find there’s no disposable income anymore. Others will be selling because they’re jittery, bored or impatient. On the other hand, if you’re confident of staying employed for a good long while, it might be a good time to buy.
The market itself will bear watching, especially when it comes to current era cards. Prices are often driven by performance and when no one’s performing, it’s easy to see that things may stall for a bit. We hope the NBA and NHL will resume their seasons at some point, but we don’t know for certain.
That doesn’t mean Zion, Luka and Ja will drop out of hobby consciousness and their card prices will hit the floor like a deflated Spalding. It just means the more explosive parts of the market may pause. And it could be a long wait before things ramp up.
CDC recommendation of no events of 50-plus people for next two months comes as a number of NBA owners and executives increasingly believe a best case scenario is a mid-to-late June return to play — with no fans. League’s scouting for possible arena dates all the way thru August.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 15, 2020
The same goes for baseball, where collectors and dealers have been waiting to see which young players will take the next step on the hobby hot lists. The wait will continue, maybe until sometime in June. With a shortened season, 2020 may result in less market activity, especially until late in the year.
The NFL plans to keep its current draft date but will it be possible to create the kind of trading card products we’re used to seeing between July and September? Will the NFL Rookie Premiere be delayed or happen at all?
Expect card companies to continue releasing late winter and early spring products as planned. Upper Deck says it will push out 2019-20 NHL SPx this coming week with O-Pee-Chee Platinum and then Credentials to follow.
There are other new products in the pipeline, of course, but it’s possible if the coronavirus hits hard, the card companies’ constant work on future products may slow or come to a halt. They’re no different than any other business and rely on a workforce as well as other companies and processes to make it all happen. Gathering player autographs may be tough for them for awhile, which could impact future releases.
Card shops have begun taking precautions to limit the potential spread of germs. Some have put their singles boxes away and are asking customers to be reasonable about touching packaged products in the store. Others have cancelled trade nights. Some will focus more attention on online box breaks and online selling for a while. If you want to support your local shop, buying a gift certificate for later use might be a good idea.
It’s likely visits to shops and conventions by authentication companies won’t be happening for a while. PSA pulled out of the Chicago Sports Spectacular last Friday, just before it was shut down by a state mandate on public gatherings.
“Most of the work that I do is remote. It’s on the road,” said Beckett autograph authenticator Steve Grad in a weekend interview with SWAU Graphcast. “I’m traveling and going to conventions and shows. (Now) I’m shut down. We have some contingency plans at Beckett but business is going to change. We feel like we’re ahead of the curve right now, offering specials and I’m getting people to send me stuff and offering free shipping because we would still like to do some work, but it’s going to be a tough time.”
Most of the sports memorabilia auction companies are smallish and we suspect business will continue as usual although it’s reasonable to think their consignment road trips may be affected.
The market for vintage cards and memorabilia will depend on the seriousness of the situation and the impact on the economy. As of now, it seems there has been little change from the robust market it has been. If folks are spending more time online than in public, it’s possible there may even be a spike in online transactions, again assuming the situation doesn’t become far worse than we imagine.
Hobbies have always been a way to turn down the stress. They’ll be even more important in the uncertain days to come and with no games to watch. There’s plenty for collectors to do. Sort that box of cards that’s just a big mess right now. Organize your card room. Make an online trade. Put a few bucks in your pocket by selling on eBay. Answer a newbie’s question. Buy something from a small time dealer or shop owner who might be worried what this is going to do to his business.
For dealers, it’s a great time to work on your marketing game and organize your inventory so it’s more sellable. Ramp up your social media efforts and make personal connections with customers and potential customers. Put some buying ads out there. Price stuff that needs pricing. Create a website and put some content on it or invest in a revamp of the one you have.
No one in the hobby should be bored. There’s always something to do.
We’ll appreciate sports a lot more when they come back, that’s for sure. The hobby is more energized when it moves along with the games. That time will be here before you know it and it’ll be OK to be among large groups of others again, but be safe and smart until then.