In the world of sports cards there is definitely a hierarchy in terms of most to least important.  In my mind here is the list:

1st – Baseball

2nd – Football

3rd – Basketball

4th – Hockey

5th – NASCAR

6th – MLS

The list doesn’t tell the whole story though.  We all know that in the real world football is king.  It dominates the headlines all season long.  When colleges went through expansion, the only focus is on football.  With only 16 games a season it is easy to plan into your schedule. It just is marketed perfectly for the everyday sports fan.

When you look at the hobby list I created, baseball is top dog and to be honest, the gap between baseball and football is immense.  Card companies allowed the monopolies of the other sports to happen simply because the big bucks in the hobby come from the baseball side.

I find this interesting though.  I mean the average sports fan is clearly more interested in football, but the average sports card fan is more interested in baseball.  Both sports do a lot to promote the history (although baseball does a much better job), but baseball is king.  I use myself as an example, I can’t get excited about a baseball prospect until he hits a minimum of AAA  However in football, I’m following careers of guys in college getting pumped to see them at the next level.  So you would think that I would go for a product featuring NFL rookies, instead of a Bowman draft picks and prospects set that contains 95% fluff.  The thing is though I can’t wait for Bowman’s DPP set to come out each year.

I can’t explain why other than I think the NFL prospect cards suck.  The best designs I saw were from Topps Magic set last year, a set I am sure they have already written off.  The short print card in football kills it for me as well.  Why do all the rookies have to be short printed? Take Topps regular issue set for football, the rookies are only pulled 1 per pack (if that), when they should be at least 2 per pack based on statistical breakdowns.

At some point the card companies have to see this right?  They have to realize that it’s the designs and print runs that are killing football.  As far as basketball and hockey is concerned,  they will continue to fill that niche market.  Collectors in general just can’t get pumped over those cards.  NASCAR is a dying sport right now, even though their cards look cooler now more than ever.  MLS is just a sport that doesn’t fit the card collector demographic.  Until it becomes as mainstream as basketball or hockey, it will continue to face an uphill battle in the card world.  Too bad, it’s level of play is getting better yearly.

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5 responses »

  1. John Bateman says:

    Its funny in the 1980s, I always thought how little respect that Football, Basketball and Hockey card collecting got little respect (and little value) then in the late 1980s those cards got respect (and higher values).

    For about the last 20 years most of the big name collectable players have been in Football and Basketball (Farve, Jordan and James) – However, I think the tide has turned again where because of Topps exclusive contract and a Super Great Rookie Class – Baseball Card COllecting is on Fire.

  2. jswaykos says:

    I still think it has something to do with football players being “faceless”. The cards, within each team set, all kinda look the same in football since the players have the same helmets, face masks, jerseys, etc. And there’s really only a couple motions to capture a football player in – running, throwing, tackling, or catching. There seems to be more variety than with baseball cards.

    Also, I think football fans are fans of the team first, then players, while in baseball there are a lot of player fans, and then the teams.

    Finally, I think football is a bit more ‘blue collar’, followed by more people with less disposable income to waste on trading cards.

    Just my thoughts…

  3. mfw13 says:

    I think it has a lot to do with the nature of the sports themselves. Pretty much everyone except for the QB and RB toil in relative anonymity. Same thing in the NBA, where most teams feature 1-2 stars teamed with a bunch of nobodies.

    Contrast that with baseball, where every team has at least 13 well-publicized players (the top four starting pitchers, the eight field players, and the closer). Because of the one-on-one nature of baseball (i.e. the matchup between batter and pitcher), each individual player gets far more attention than players do in football and basketball.

    It’s the same reason why fantasy baseball is by far the post popular fantasy sport.

  4. I do find (and maybe I’m biased) more hockey collectors out there than basketball. Most are multisport with baseball and football being the predominant ones but I still see more with that addition of hockey to their arsenals rather than basketball. But overall, the over blown basketball contracts and primadonna attitudes of the players has driven fans away and the lockout in hockey as well as the accessibility of the sport as a whole doesn’t help their case in the card market.

  5. jswaykos says:

    I’d beg to differ that fantasy baseball is more popular than fantasy football. I’m a rabid baseball fan – have been my whole life – who only has gotten into football in the past five years or so, and I think fantasy football is MUCH more fun… not even close.

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