Hello again, fellow card maniacs.
I know it has been a bit since we chatted (granted it is really a one-sided conversation) but the last several weeks have been a whirlwind. I recently came back from a trip to Dallas where I attended the third and final industry event of the first quarter. First there was Upper Deck in Orlando, Topps in Phoenix and most recently Beckett/Panini/Leaf/Tristar in Dallas. Each offered tremendous opportunities to establish (or reestablish) relationships with manufacturers as well as other card shop owners. There was tremendous idea sharing and it looks like the card store vs breakers discomfort has left the building.
There were product previews, late night “meetings”, special autograph guests, hobby royalty like Alan Narz and Rob Veres were there and the prevailing theme from hobby shops and others was the overall challenge in getting/keeping new releases in stock. Yeah, our biggest gripe wasn’t other shops, online retailers, the typical “us vs them” discussions, but how to we keep our shelves stocked with products so hot that putting a price tag on them is a hindrance because prices are changing faster than horrible trades involving the Miami Marlins.
Let’s just say if we all had to drink shots each time the word “allocation” was used, the attendance at the 8 AM meetings would have been sparser than they already were. Yes, we have reached a time where seemingly none of us want cash in the bank because having product on our shelves is so much more attractive. It is a compliment to each of the manufacturers for making compelling releases, not always letting the presses roll and giving us what we want: years of continuous non stoppage in each of the sports, a very positive economic climate we could only dream of and apparently a sprinkling of fairy pixie dust. If you’re doing it right, it’s a good time to be in the card business.
We can get into how impractical it is to take six flights instead of two, three hotel stays instead of one and none of the three taking place in Las Vegas another time since it was a pleasure to get more time with my hobby brothers and sisters, rather than cram it all into one three-day event.
Again, I apologize for not sharing my hobby heat piece last month, but when I tell you I had no time; it is only because it is true.
So…here’s what’s hot right now:
1) 2018 Topps Heritage MLB– I want to apologize. I want to apologize to everyone who bought a pack, box or case of 2018 Topps Heritage. Right now, boxes are going for $125 or so when they usually are in the $79 range. I made a point of offering the first 12 Discount Card Members at my shop one a box each at $99. They lasted less than 24 hours.
The lust for Heritage was already strong before they announced that Ohtani was going to be part of the release with a base card as well as a possible autographed version. With the Red Ink version of his autographed card clearing the $3,000 plateau, collectors do not mind (or at least do not appear to mind) spending close to $50 above where Heritage might have been. Granted the 2017 version set a high bar for this year, but it will be interesting to see how long Heritage will continue to be offered at this rate, if not higher.
2) 2017 Panini Contenders NFL – Contenders enjoys much of the same devoted, passionate following that Heritage does, with its release date being a little football party day all to itself. Collectors have come to love the 5-6 autographs per box it offers in spite of Deshaun Watson’s season coming to an early.
Contenders has not only performed incredibly well, but secondary market prices have been rising steadily. To restock boxes, I am having to pay close to what I first offered them for and even though it has been out for close to a month, It shows no sign of slowing down.
3) 2017 Panini Select NFL – See 2017 Panini Contenders. I actually thought of just leaving it as just that, but could not do it. I mean it is virtually the same answer, but there was no way I could just leave it like that. We have restock pricing being at or above initial shelf price and prices have crept upward even faster than Contenders.
Personally the boxes I have seen have been solid, but I am still waiting to see an OMG card that makes me feel good about the current price point. Again, I do have a few excused absence days from my shop so it’s possible some great cards came and went without my knowing.
4) 2017/18 Panini Contenders NBA – OK, I will admit that I had hesitancy about Contenders NBA when it was solicited. We have all gotten used to there being a full hand’s worth of autographed cards and I was concerned how it was going to go over with just a pair of autographed cards in each box this year. Clearly you all should not take stock or internet currency advice from me as I got this one wrong as well.
Apparently two of a kind can beat a full house when you have an impressive rookie class, Cracked Ice parallels, Championship Ticket versions, 1/1 Printing Plates and Rookie Ticket Variations. The secondary market is strong. Unlike the slow and steady climb we saw from Contenders and Select NFL, Contenders NBA took the pricing express elevator and you think I feel badly about how Heritage is pricing, it has nothing on this release. If you got in early, good for you.
5) 2017/18 Upper Deck Series 2 NHL – In an article filled with products with a great history behind them, Upper Deck 2 is no exception. When it released there were plenty of Puckheads lined up to enjoy boxes and cases. The big Young Guns rookies on everyone’s wishlist are Nolan Patrick and Clayton Keller along with the Canvas versions of the YGs that appeared in Series 1.
I do want to give props to Upper Deck for keeping the Retro Young Guns Acetates such a trade secret. Nobody saw them coming and few can believe how well they have performed. Looking at everyone’s favorite selling site, I can see Sidney Crosby versions have sold for $1,500 and $1,600 respectively.
Looking ahead, I am seeing many more examples of releases that have skyrocket potential as well. You all might want to run, and not walk to your local card shops before they either run out of 2017 Contenders Optic NFL, 2018 Donruss MLB, 17/18 Panini Select NBA, 2017 National Treasures NFL, 2018 Gypsy Queen MLB and 2018 Topps Tribute MLB before prices adjust to a point where you regret not getting in earlier. It’s that kind of market right now.
I have owned a store long enough to remember hoping product prices would not plummet before I had a chance to sell what I had brought in. Currently shop owners are facing a different challenge: having to adjust prices just to keep in line with what they will have to spend just to restock. Sure it is fun to not have to worry about products dropping like Bitcoin after it neared $20k, but I really have to wonder how sustainable this is. I am thinking of my Topps Heritage collectors who did not get those boxes for 99 bucks and might choose to not pursue building set or who might chance things up and simply buy the full set online. I am thinking back to when I had 15/16 The Cup at $700 a box on release and saw the disappointment in so many collectors when they felt like they had invested $200 more on a box than they were used to and were disappointed with the contents. I am still maxing out on my new order forms because I do not want to chase new releases versus stocking them deep and part of me remembers 2010 with Stephen Strasburg getting hurt and the box balloon getting popped.
Right now, like every other day in the hobby, we are seeing interesting times and I guess it just means I will be looking online more to see what is going on with each new release by the day, hour and minute.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. His column focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. He’s got thousands of cards for sale on COMC.com under the ID cardmn5150. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected].