“Greed is good.” – Gordon Gekko
“It’s only worth what you can sell it for.” – Paul Fruitman
“I’m sorry.” – Mike Fruitman
I can safely say I have not wrestled with writing a story this much since I began sharing my thoughts with Sports Collectors Daily several years ago, but I am sorry for where the market has gone in the past few years and more specifically, the past few months.
Recently, when Panini Mosaic basketball arrived, I had to stop and wonder if there had ever been a release that sold at a higher retail level vs its initial cost or initial SRP. I asked other card store owners if they had ever seen a product move for so much more than initial pricing and none could share a higher return on investment.
Essentially a box that was supposed to be selling for less than $200 was being offered by major online sellers for well over $700 and that was after Panini sold through their allotted amount at $629. My pricing hands were then further tied by my restock cost from one distributor pricing out at $689.
I’m not picking on Panini since we are seeing higher out of the gate pricing on seemingly everything new including Bowman MLB and Chronicles NFL. Even Topps XFL trading cards, are above cost when they should be hovering at the 50-75% pricing range, with the third price sticker having been applied to it in an attempt to reclaim the space.
At this point, many of you are –
1) Wondering why I’m having an issue with this.
2) Concerned about the future of the hobby.
3) Somewhere beyond miffed and perhaps using more colorful words to describe your thoughts.
Clearly this isn’t happening because of just one factor. Here are a few I’ve seen:
1) Sports cards are once again being thought of as legitimate investments. The boxes of 2019/20 Panini Prizm hobby I initially offered my collecting base in December for $399 are now available through internet sellers for over $1,000 and that is without a game of basketball being played since March 11. If you bought in early, you’ve done well.
2) You all are bored, REALLY BORED! Since I expanded my online selling when the games stopped and my store (and seemingly all others) was closed in late March, I cannot tell you how many times I heard from collectors that they didn’t have anything to do and that my breaks were providing a get away from what they were (or more importantly weren’t able to do).
3) Zion, Zion and more Zion. Young Mr. Williamson and the other rookies from this season did enough to make collectors feel confident that we have not only the future of the league in safe condition, but that those who collect them should expect to be rewarded for collecting his cards along with Ja’s, Coby White’s and many other young stars.
4) I cannot remember the last product I would label as a failure. I cannot point to every release and say it performed as well as 2020 Topps Inception (initially in the $49 range and currently at $139 by one online seller).
Panini’s Select baseball released at a much higher than initially expected price and then came down a significant amount. Contenders Draft NFL also saw an adjustment downward after hitting. Even Bowman has come off its highs instead of creeping up as usual (granted, none of those prospects have played recently). Generally, though, just about everything is selling well.
5) Products are reaching their 2-4 year potential more quickly than ever. We have been seeing so many products for so many years achieve incredible returns, but these days it takes so much less time for them to rise, and then keep rising. I feel glad for all the many collectors at my shop who took my advice and sat on boxes as well as going after the players they enjoy or wanted to speculate on.
6) Those who talk about cards like stocks. Guys like Gary V and Geoff Wilson on YouTube who have expanded their influence as they share the virtues and potential values of investing in the sports card market. You can agree or disagree with what they say or why, but there’s no denying the number of people watching and listening.
7) Singles have been flying up the charts. As most know by now, base Optic, Prizm and Select singles of stars and HOFers are getting more attention than ever, the big rookies from boxes are collecting premiums and of course the autos and relics are doing as well if not better than any time in recent memory.
As a shop owner, part of me is excited to see this much interest in sports cards. Back in March when COVID-19 began to disrupt everything and we saw the stoppages in sports, I envisioned collectors going into hibernation. Clearly I know nothing about this industry, or at least less than I thought I did. March turned out to be my best month ever in spite of having to lock my doors for the last ten days of the month. I’m about to add up April and while my physical place of business was closed for all of it, our numbers might rival March.
Over the last several days, SP Authentic NHL, Score NFL, Tier One MLB and Court Kings NBA all arrived and while they will not all make the Hot List, the buzz about them was as strong if not stronger than I’ve seen in recent years. Big time thanks to all of my collectors and for all of you who are also supporting your own local card shops as we begin the Hot 5 portion of this piece.
1) 19/20 Panini Mosaic NBA
This was the first year since 16/17 that Mosaic was made available directly to hobby shops and the response has been incredible. Collectors saw is as a more affordable (yes, we talked about this earlier) version of Prizm with loads of silvers and other base set parallels. Hobby and Fast Break boxes each offer one autograph per and if I could only have a direct line on a few hundred cases of blasters, I would be able to keep up with the demand from my box buyers as they have really embraced this more affordable option.
2) 2020 Topps Bowman MLB – Jasson Dominguez. I almost stopped there in my description.
When a player many have never even seen on video, who is young enough that he can’t drink (in the US at least) for another four years and who already has been put into the HOF by MLB pundits has several autographed cards that have already cleared 10k, you have to stop and take notice. Of course it doesn’t hurt that he plays for the Yankees. Well, he will…in say two or three years.
3) 19/20 Upper Deck SP Authentic NHL
SP Authentic had a two day lead over the other releases from this week and its later than scheduled arrival only seemed to make my puckheads want it all the more. Locally at least, the interest in Avs’ Calder candidate Cale Makar only seemed to increase as the chase for his autographed Future Watch rookie drove many of my collectors to try half if not full cases right out of the gate.
4) 2020 Panini Select MLB
Select hasn’t been a standalone release since 2013, but came back with a buzz in part created by its success in both NBA and NFL offerings. More recently, the 2013 version has enjoyed quite a bump due to greater interest in the hits from it as well.
From a practical sense, boxes which started off in the $200 range at least had two autographs and two relic cards compared to say Bowman Hobby with one autograph in the $300 area. Mr. Dominguez also has autos possible in Select and there are loads of other prospects. Throw in the usual incredible selection of colored parallels and I should have doubled up on my Select orders when I had the chance.
Without being brand specific, my shop has seen the type of sales figures for sports/entertainment offerings that I haven’t seen in some time. Boxes have been flying off my shelves as collectors were looking for either affordable options like UFC or WWE boxes or have been following the soccer singles trends with many cards bumping up significantly.
Sure soccer isn’t THE sport of the United States, but when card values have gone up like they have even casual collectors had to take notice. At one point I had the mixed feeling of finally being out of some releases that had been on my shelves for years and then recognizing that I should not only restock them, but also expand my product line.
So there you have it: a little more heart to heart info on the hobby to lead off and the standard top five hot products to round things out. I can’t predict the future, but I would not be surprised to see more falling back on some products after release, but with the NBA and NHL getting closer to starting again, don’t be surprised if we see some significant jumps, especially for players who stand out.
Thanks to all of you who supported my shop and who made a point of doing what you could for your local card shops during this crisis as well. The past few months have been nothing short of crazy and at least currently, I have not heard of any stores that are planning on closing, which was one of my initial concerns.
See you next month with another dose of What’s Hot.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. His column normally 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] Check out past editions of What’s Hot here.