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?

hobby shop

The days of seeing this in a hobby shop are long gone!

4 responses »

  1. ny_hitman_23 says:

    Back in the heyday, when cards were over-produced, you could find packs of cards in just about every convenience store, gas station or supermarket and the typical kid (myself) could starve himself at school and save his lunch money and buy 5 of 6 packs every day. Today, production numbers are down, or so they say, and you can’t find cards in every retail outlet so that, in my opinion, drives the price up, along with the technological advancement (GU’d cards, autos, chrome, foil, etc…) of cards.

  2. Christopher Michael says:

    If it was just about popularity of the sport then football would be taking over and the hobby would be fine.

    As a team collector the prices don’t bother me, because days after a new release team sets are sold for practically nothing. Hits aren’t that hard to purchase for a lot less than buying a box.

    Where the price of the boxes hurts is the set collector. In a lot of ways I think that is where the hobby lost a lot of people.

    As for how to fix it? Probably lots of ideas coming from inside the card companies for how to fix it. For starters some of my favorite sets to collect were the Mother’s Cookies/Keebler sets. Go to a baseball game and get an almost complete set of no corner baseball cards. Then trade with others at the game until you have a complete set.

    Fun and the cards don’t get ruined, with bent corners, in the process. Topps should do that at every baseball park next season.

    They should also get regional deals to put promotional cards in happy meals and other fast food places. Regional deals to put cards in cereal.

    Pretty much blanket kids with cards from their local teams. Might even remind some of those kids’ parents of how much they loved to collect in the 90’s.

    As I said, there are probably lots of ideas from inside the card companies. At this point they might as well try everything, well other than a no plot movie deal or having a sports card rap.

  3. Shaun says:

    The internet is to card shops as Wal-Mart is to mom and pop stores. Without bargain priced boxes being sold on the internet and inserts being sold for a song, the card shops would be fine. Thanks to the internet, my local shop owner can only expect to make a few dollars profit on a box of cards. If he charges anymore, he simply wouldn’t be able to sell anything. Even if you have customers lining out the door, you need to sell a ton of product to stay in business. This even goes for the lower end stuff too. The internet will eventually kill of all of the shops and then trading cards will be even less visible and popular in society.

  4. Jason says:

    It’s been mentioned here lots and I’m in complete agreement – how can the companies get kids back into the hobby? How can they get the product in front of the people who are the future of the hobby, and not 50+ year old guys who are already fans?

    One small idea is giveaways – Topps should print up packs/boxes for MLB teams/stadiums to give to each/every kid who passes through a gate next season. It’s not about how they’ll be worth (this might be the mindset that’s killed the hobby BTW), but to put the product in front of young eyes, to tie the product back to the players on the field and away from collectors, to show kids reading the back of card with the stats can be exciting, and mostly, to show them collecting cards can be a fun (cheap) alternative to other liesure activities.

    I spent HOURS pouring over my thousands of mid-1980s cards memorizing stat after stat. I wasn’t concerned about autographs, refractors, patches, etc, but the fun I had as a kid made me a fan as an adult, and I still get a tad bit excited when I see a box of cards at Wal-Mart. I know the packs have probably been picked over, but I always buy two (I pick one while my wife picks one) just to open it up, glaze over the design and look up an obscure stat I forgot about.

    Maybe I’m just a nerd though……..

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