I just returned from my local card shop’s last location, which I have learned will  be closing its doors very soon.

The shop I am referring to is Diehl’s in the Wyoming Valley Mall in Wilkes-Barre Township, PA, which has been my shop of choice for the last decade or so. Diehl’s once dominated the market for card collecting and related memorabilia in Northeastern Pennsylvania, with two locations in Luzerne County and one in Scranton. I can remember going to the shop when was a kid in fourth or fifth grade and seeing the shop so packed with kids my age that it was almost impossible to have a decent look around. But, times change and the kids stopped coming in. Soon Diehl’s closed two of their locations and stuck with their flagship store in the Wyoming Valley Mall, which will now close as well.

For the last few months, nobody has been working at the shop besides the owner himself and my trip there today revealed a dwindling stock and every single marked down by 50%, as well as dozens of $.25 specials. Out with the old.

Baseball cards are a practically ancient form of entertainment, right up there with vinyl records. However, vinyl has staged a comeback and today marked an international holiday for the vinyl collecting community with Record Store Day, an annual event held at independent record shops. The day is celebrated with the releases of limited runs of special vinyl, free give-a-ways and in-store entertainment. I also collect vinyl and when I arrived to pick up my desired releases from my record shop, I was greeted with a line that wrapped around to the side of the building at nine in the morning. Consider that: it’s 2011, we have the iPad, 3D television and digital music, yet dozens of people were waiting to get their hands on those antiquated discs. Vinyl is here to stay. I wish I could say the same for cards.

The comic book industry was faced with the same problem and they launched Comic Book Day, which was held at comic book shops across the country. Vinyl and print have evolved and have invented ways to be relevant in this modern world. Why can’t baseball cards, or any sport card for that matter? And don’t refer me to Upper Deck Evolution – it can’t be a serious attempt at competing with other forms of media. Evolution is way too cheesy and has no wow factor at all. Can’t I find the videos that go with these cards on YouTube? And they’re far too bulky as far as cards go.

So, maybe we can start a motion for the creation of Baseball Card Day or something along those lines.

Granted, collecting cards isn’t for everybody, thanks in part for the card companies for making the checklists so damn complicated. But the baseball card is an iconic symbol of generations past –  a mark of success, a paper trophy of achievement and it’s up to us, the collectors, to let that legacy live on. While our card shops may be dwindling our passion certainly isn’t. Let’s share that passion with world.

Please feel free to comment and follow me on Twitter: @tmdziedzic. I’m also open to any vinyl discussion especially related to the Beach Boys, for fellow record collectors out there.


7 responses »

  1. Great article! Definitely sad to see the downfall of the card industry from where it once was, but I am of the belief that much like the dedicated collectors of vinyl, there is a die-hard enough group collecting cards to keep the hobby alive and well, albeit in a much smaller form than it used to be.

    As for a national trading card day, Upper Deck does it with National Hockey Card Day up here in Canada, which I think is great. Would love to see the same thing done for baseball too. I’m actually surprised to hear that something like this doesn’t take place yet in the States. Hopefully Topps will get their act together on that.

    I write a blog about sports cards and memorabilia too and you can find me on Twitter too (@bb_bros).

  2. dawgbones says:

    Actually, Free Comic Book Day IS held every year, and is coming up. It’s the first Saturday in May, for me, when I refer to LCS, normally it’s my Local Comic Shop. What a lot of people do not realize, the local comic shop pays for what they give away free.
    Personally, I think Baseball Card Day would be great but I don’t really have any Baseball Card Shops where I live anymore, and the one left seems to be very overpriced, to the point where I feel what ever offer I would be willing to pay would probably piss the guy off!!

  3. jj says:

    You can’t blame the companies, u can blame the internet, and the collectors. Ever since 1997 with the introduction of game used, the market has demanded bigger, better, and more colorful, it has made the product so expensive, either you stopped collecting, or went for the cheaper stuff, but even then it got expensive, just look at Topps Jumbo, a base product commanding 125.00 a box. Ebay killed the stores, because when you wanted a single, it was the local shop now you can shop and compare online. The hobby has become the smaller in my opinion just got to expensive and the hits are not all that great anymore. I would rather spend 50.00 on a wii game then a card or cards that will sit unless you can get your money back. There are more important things in life that cardboard, and paying over the 100.00 range many people think, is it worth the gamble. I feel for the hobby shops, but I saw this happening in 2001, if you want better product your going to pay, and the shops have by closing their doors.

  4. CK says:

    I am a HUGE Beach Boys fan. I just saw them in concert last weekend (4/10) up in Easton, PA. I have every album on CD and almost all on vinyl, too. I’m always up for talking about the Beach Boys.

    As for baseball cards, it is a shame, but the hobby is dying. I go to every card show around here: the Philly show, mall circuit and just this past weekend I went to the show at Oaks, PA (both weekend days). I must have seen maybe 3 kids there the entire weekend. Other than those kids, I must have been the youngest there by 20 years, and I’m in my mid-30s. Kids just don’t care about cards anymore. Not with all the electronic gadgets and technology to distract them; they can’t be bothered with something as quaint as cardboard picture and stats of ballplayers. I think it’s only a matter of time, 20 years or so, when the hobby faces a serious decline, when all the older collectors start to die off.

    There are a lot of reasons for the downfall of the hobby, and I think one of the biggest culprits is technology; specifically, eBay. We all want to get cards cheaper, and the internet/ebay allows us to do that, but in doing so, we are all driving down the associated value of cards. When I was growing up, I paid top dollar for everything, $100 for ’83 Topps Traded, $110 for ’84 Topps Traded, etc., because that’s what the book/dealers said the price was. There was no internet and no way to get cheaper prices. But the good thing was that’s what the set/cards were “worth”. It was much more universal then. You wanted to find that ’89 Topps Jefferies Future Star because it was “worth” $3 then (it wasn’t just a store markup price). I don’t know how to keep values afloat when the internet and ebay allows us to undercut the costs by so much.

    Sometimes I think blasting the hobby back to the ’80s would help (just a base set and a traded set). Make base cards “worth” something; make base rookie cards worth something without having endless parallels and inserts. But then I know card companies would never downsize like that, it kills their cash stream. And I know some (maybe a lot) of collectors wouldn’t like that either. And even still, at the end of the day, would ebay just undercut the cost/value of these base cards and sets, the same as it does today? My only thought is if there isn’t any variety (and I know that’s not necessarily a fun or good thing), then the value would have to be consolidated in whatever is left, whatever’s out there.

  5. chuckneo says:

    I don’t know – I think the vinyl thing is actually a similar comparison. I don’t think vinyl is particularly more successful than baseball cards. There are less kids collecting cards these days when compared with the 80’s – certainly true. But are there as many vinyl albums in the world as there were 30-40 years ago? Certainly not. Far less in fact.

    There are still plenty of collectors out there – if you go to ebay and search for cards – how many auctions will come up? I bet quite a few more than if you searched for vinyl. Probably more or a comparable amount as comics. I don’t think the industry is necessarily dying.

    I do agree with you – the video cards by Upper Deck are not appropriate “competition” with the ditigal age. Competing for people’s entertainment value shouldn’t be done by trying to get a cheap imitation of digital technology. It should focus on what makes cards unique – they are collectibles.

    I also agree – card companies are making the checklists way too complicated. It’s one thing to make a few super-rare cards – that can make the “chase factor” in the product and be good for the hobby and good for sales. However, in every product, there are a ton of different retail-only variations and inserts, and I think this makes it difficult to draw new collectors in – it’s just too complicated in a society where there’s too much else to do. They do this in every set, even products like Heritage and A&G that could honestly be hobby only.

  6. Tim H says:

    From one PA’er to Another PA’er…..I feel your pain. At least you’re not surrounded by Amish!

  7. Weber 10 says:

    The card shop by me just closed up, but like that was said before, you cant compare with the internet. Especially ebay or amazon.com. Back a few years ago I liked the topps bazooka baseball cards, for a price of one box at his store, i bought three online

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