There have been a lot of articles recently about the status of the hobby. How in it’s heyday there were more than 5000 hobby shops nationally, now trimmed to 500. I have personally witnessed 3 go under in the past 2 years. The age of the hobby shop is dead. I have banged to drum over and over, people want more for their money. A guarenteed hit in a box is only worth about $5 on average. So why are companies trying to get customers to believe that the hits are worth $20 a pop?
Michael Eisner took over Topps and they have gained exclusive baseball rights for one reason, Eisner needs to bring the cards to the kids. Everything has to be valued so that you can get kids into cards. When I was a kid, atari 2600 games were the rage, but they cost nearly $40 each. However I could get a box of 1986 Topps for about $9. As a kid I felt that for $9 I was getting my value. To this day if I could buy 36 packs for lets say $20 I would feel I got my moneys worth. However we must look at baseball cards as what they are, a leisure activity.
There is a lot of competition for liesure dollars. There are DVDs that run $20 or video games that run $40 – $60. So why would any kid part ways with $50 – $60 for a bottom of the barrel wax box like 2009 Topps? The answer is they wouldn’t and aren’t in droves. Collecting baseball cards is not a game like Magic and Pokemon, it’s a cardboard picture of a player. Players who a lot of kids aren’t even watching according to demographic ratings of MLB games on TV. So is handing the contract to Topps going to do anything for the industry?
The answer is a resounding no. It’s part MLB’s fault and part card industry’s fault. The MLB has done nothing to market or sexy up their product. It’s a sport that just doesn’t translate to an exciting TV program, that’s why ratings have been declining for years. It’s the card company’s fault because they push a product that they feel is worth money, they tell the hobby magazines the cards are worth money, but in truth it’s worth a tenth to a quarter of what the book says. Until the card comapnies realize the true value of their cards and allign themselves to put out a less expensive product to make, the card companies will die off. How do we fix it?
We can’t, MLB needs to realize that their licensing costs are prohibitive to the hobby, so they need to lower what they charge Topps for the rights. Next the card companies need to find a manufacturing process that lowers their cost and then transfer that savings to the consumer. Until this happens, the consumer will continue to feel ripped off and will not want to buy in bulk. So the next question is Will this happen?
As the Magic 8 Ball likes to say, answer seems hazy. MLB will probably not lower their costs, Topps will lower theirs to gain more profit, so don’t expect to see a dip in card prices anytime soon. The cards of today, as good as some of the sets look, just don’t dictate the prices that are asked for a box. Until Topps can offer value for the money, the card companys can’t and won’t win. I am not looking forward to the day when both Topps and UD cease sport cards operations, but the time is almost at hand for that. I may be over reacting here, but most of you that read this know I am at least on the right track.
How do you feel about this issue?
The days of seeing this in a hobby shop are long gone!