Starting where the last post left off, I figured I would take the other stance.  If we want the hobby to continue how can we bring in the next generation of collectors.  As we all know the local hobby shops are in the toilet.  In my neck of the woods alone, I’ve seen the local card shops drop from 6 to 1.  I visited each and every one of them and spoke with all the owners.  Every one of them said the same thing.  There is no growth in the industry and there may never be any growth ever again.

Some of the other complaints, eBay is killing them, the profit margin has shrunk to levels that are not conducive to making money.  Buying wax has gone from a low risk / high reward to high risk / low reward.  Companies like Dave and Adam’s Cardworld make their money on buying and selling in bulk.  Your local card shop can’t do that.

In the Raleigh Durham area we get card shows once every three months.  It has gone from being on the floor of the local arena to now being in a hall, about a quarter of the size.  Not only that but only about 3/4 of the tables are full.  Even better we have to pay to get in.  So the question is, do we just let the hobby die?  Or can Topps, Upper Deck or Panini figure out what to do next?

There were a lot of suggestions, but none were better than blowing it all up and going back to the 80s.  Not to piss off everyone who reads this blog, but in the end, it is what it is pictures on cardboard.  The real problem with that is that we are going to miss the autographs and the game used cards.  Stores are slowing down on what they carry, even Walmart has given less space over the past few years.

The key is kids.  I have given kids in my neighborhood cards with jersey swatches and autographs on them and they just aren’t interested.  Commentors were right, you are competing with video games, mp3s, dvds and phone games. They aren’t buying dollar packs with 8 cards in them.  Sorry it’s just not happening.  A kid might have $20 he could blow and a blaster of 60 cards ain’t gonna do it.  This is going to hurt the likes of Upper Deck and Panini, but it’s time to bring back cardboard and dump things like silver and gold foil.

Not just one set of low end products, there needs to be quite a few.  No more autographs, no more parallels, not more sequentially numbered cards, no more gray and white jersey swatches.  Just cards with solid designs.  Face it, we aren’t the future of card collecting.  It’s over when our generation is over.  Sadly if things don’t get under control, this great hobby we all love will be gone.

People think I’m nuts, that I don’t know what I’m talking about.  However, I do know what I’m talking about and while yes, it won’t happen this year or next, but 5 to 10 years from now, see what we are going to be left with. Maybe two brands, with a handful of very pricey releases.  To get kids involved, the hobby has to get easier, less releases and better products.  Sometimes less is more.

I know that I will go down with this sinking ship.  I will hope that the card companies can read these posts and the comments that go with them.  There has to be a company or entrepreneur out there that gets it.  One that understands that the future is in the younger generation.  If this hobby is to survive, we aren’t the future.

Remember when this was the chase card?

and this box cast about $20:

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13 responses »

  1. bamlinden says:

    If the internet existed back when I was a kid, I might not have gotten into the hobby. Neither would a lot of people my age. Different interests, different focuses for kids nowadays.

    Blowing up the whole thing would not bring the kids back. It would just kill off a ton of the ‘flavor of the week’ collectors there are nowadays.

    There are still a number of ways to get cheap cards – ebay being one of them. Heck, guys who buy cases of stuff these days end up throwing away their base cards because they are only interested in the hits.

    Kids (and I think their parents) just don’t want to take the time to really find a niche in the hobby to enjoy. They see all the big fancy car stores and feel frustrated as they go get their clunker of a vehicle. Well, there’s actually some merit in the clunker.

    If kids don’t want to be in the hobby, then that’s their choice. We can’t force them to become interested. This hobby (like many pastimes back in the day) might one day fade away into oblivion.

    Personally, I don’t see that happening. I see sport card collecting being in my life….for the rest of my life.

  2. Bill says:

    I don’t think you are crazy for suggesting your “going back to the 80’s” concept but its almost impossible to stop the way the hobby has evolved. You could make it easier to get in the hobby by making the cards more accessible (cheaper), but then you will alienate those that will want all the hits etc. If you try to do a little of both, the people that have the money will use it on the sets that may generate better return for them.

    The way I try to play my part is to just be encouraging. I know when I was growing up, as the hobby started to get bigger, the people who had the cards started to get to get to be a**holes and nerds about the cards. When you are young and you don’t know anything you either get taken advantage of or you get ignored.

    I live in a small townhouse community with tons of kids. There are a few that have gotten into cards. I try to encourage them as much as possible. I try to teach them what I know about cards. I give them cards when I have dupes and I have guys that they like. And there are gateways to get them into cards. Little League and getting them into baseball is obviously one, taking them to games is another (they love going early to catch BP in the outfield and then try to get autographs), but also I’ve found that fantasy baseball has helped.

    Fantasy gets them into certain players and they start paying attention to stats and what’s on the back of the cards too. I think there is hope in the next generation. I just think it will be a lot smaller than it was. We just have to be encouraging and not alienating like its a special club.

  3. Paul says:

    I can’t think of a single viable way to make baseball cards compete with other entertainment options for kids’ dollars. I just can’t. You open the packs, look at the pictures… and then what?

    Yu-Gi-Oh & Pokemon cards let you play a game with your friends. That $20 blaster box is competing against a bargain video game, or whatever else the kid happens to be interested in… the box of cards is likely to be greeted with the same enthusiasm we had for socks & underwear if we got them on Christmas morning.

    The better bet is to try to lure casual sports fans into collecting somehow… that’s not going to be easy, either, but it seems a little bit more doable. (After all, somebody is buying those MLB-licensed garden gnomes & Christmas ornaments…)

  4. jl says:

    Face it the hobby is a dead in terms of new collectors, to expensive, to many cards, and for the value, it is not there, what collectors forget is before the game used and autos it was about sets and building them, also collecting favorite player, going back to the 80’s you had 5 companies and base sets period nothing more nothing less, the ones crying about going back to the 80’s style because of the evolution of the hobby, are the ones that killed the hobby

  5. night owl says:

    I’ve said this a few times, but there ARE kids who still collect baseball cards. I see them at card shows, I see them at my daughter’s school, I see them get excited when I’ve given away cards to them, I see them buying packs at Target. They DO exist.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot fewer of them than there used to be and they have many more distractions in their lives than I did as a kid — which was a number of years before the Canseco rookie. Too many kids, like Paul said above, look at something and say “what does it DO?”

    I think there will be collectors during the next generation, but I doubt that more than a few will be able to make a living off their numbers.

  6. Mike D says:

    I disagree whole heartedly with the notion that the hobby needs to be blown up and regenerated into what 30-somethings remember as their childhood love affair. Kids in 2011 don’t know what the 80s were like, other than maybe watching re-runs of The Cosby Show or I Love The 80s on VH1. To force that on someone is counter productive to generating interest.
    Also, consider in 1986 – when the Canseco card came out – baseball was king. Football and basketball were still secondary and there wasn’t even a soccer boom yet. Now, you have Moto-X and the X-Games phenomenon, soccer and lacrosse continuing to be popular, the NFL trumps MLB hands down – a Monday night football game not long ago smoked a World Series game – and so on. Baseball was the driving force for cards, which is where Topps drove their market. With the mass production of cards in the Junk Wax Era and the shift in power from baseball to football, I think the industry lost a lot of steam.
    The comments everyone has made about the video games and instant everything is also very pertinent to the deevolution of the hobby. While it can be said that you can take the cards with you, trade them, let them accrue value, at the end of the day, a card just sits on a counter or a shoe box and doesn’t do anything for the ADD generation we seem to be living in today.

  7. AdamE says:

    The card companies will never make money off of kids. Card companies can only hope to make their money off of adults with disposable income.

    When the baseball card market exploded in the 80s it was due to the fact that the kids who grew up in the baby boom era that did have cards as kids started to have disposable income and started buying cards for the nostalgia. Yes some kids were buying stuff back then to but just like many if not most of the blogging community at some point they quit. But even through the 80s and early 90s most card money was spent by adults. I remember watching grown men buying packs of Upper Deck and being astounded that someone was going to pay a whole dollar for a pack of cards.

    When business started to taper off the card companies changed their tactics and boxes of cards became lottery tickets but that has about run it’s course. In my opinion card companies now have to figure out how to get all those kids from the 80s who were a percent of the hobby to come back. Those kids are adults with jobs and money to spend. It is a cycle and card companies need to figure out how to keep that cycle going. They need to get cards into the hands of kids. Give them out at school, Little League games, MLB games something but they have to get what kids they can involved and not plan on making money on it. Kids are not going to spend money on cards. But at some point those kids will be adults and have money to spend on cards and the way to do it is go get them semi involved now so that they can hook them later.

  8. smedindy says:

    As long as there are people who care, the hobby will never die. I see kids at the Target card area every time I come into the store.

  9. Instead of those video cards, the card companies should have focused on marking the card itself more interactive like the Pokeman or even the Club Penguim. The crad companies need to make an app (Ipads, Ipods, Itouches, etc) when you put a code from the card (like Upper Decks Kids does), you get the virtual cards. With that card, you can then use them to play a game (like the Toppstown offers). The code would also unlock video clips of the player that are downloaded on your device (instead on these video cards). Also, they would be liked to both historic and current stats. Can be used to also play fantasy games (like the Etopps Challenge). There are a lot of things on the teck side that can get kids involved. They buy the cards to play the games on line and trade the cards. Why can’t they do the same withe any sports card. May of these games (like Club Pengiun) charge monthly fees. They need to explore that market.

    The LCS also need to be more interactive. If they are on EBay, they usually don’t let the walk in customers know because they don’t want to sell at the lower price. If I knew what my LCS sold under, i would bid on their item so I can pick it up at the store. They shoudl also see singles from the boxes they sell. There is nothing worse then buying pack after pack to work on the set and when you get to a certain point, you stop buying packs and get the singles only. My LCS dose not offer the singles, so I buy then off ebay or checkoutmycards. That menas one less trip to the LCS. LCS could also run Fantasy type contest where you can only use players on the crads that you open in the store. Run them weekly and offer free packs as prizes.

    Just some thoughts.

  10. jl says:

    Let me give you a glimp on why I left the hobby for a long time, 2001 Donruss timeless treasures, 75.00 one pack, got a Palmero 400 hr bat chip, I was mad, never again was I going to spend money on a pack and get a chip. The hobby needs a punch in the arm, but until it gets down to a reasonable price, target is the way to go, Look at heritage this year enough said.

  11. chuckneo says:

    I still see kids buying cards – though I agree – not as many as before. I think getting kids more interested should be more of a focus – I’m a little disappointed Topps hasn’t done better with that. I thought that was supposed to be the point of their “partnership” (monopoly) with MLB. Topps Attax is not it – it doesn’t work if the cards for kids are not the same as the cards for adults. Lessening the # of cards to collect could help, but maybe I’m just griping.

    It seems like there is alot of bitterness about the demise of the LCS. I don’t understand this – do you all really think this is unique to baseball cards? Do you know how many more local hardware stores there were 20 years ago? Alot more than there are now. Why? Because of Home Depot and Lowe’s. Wal Mart, Sams, Target and Meier have run out a host of other mom & pop shops (not just the LCS). eBay has run alot of other companies out of buisness, too. In some ways, it’s better for the consumer – I can get alot more at target (including cards) for what used to be more trips. This is the way of the world – it is by no means unique to baseball cards. I don’t think it signifies the downfall of people buying hammers and power tools, and I don’t think it signifies the end of the baseball card industry.

    Will it look a lot different 10 years from now? Certainly. Will some of us not like that change? Probably. But cards will still be around. Assuming anything else ignores the millions of cards being bought and sold at target and on ebay right now.

  12. R.N. Coyote says:

    Honestly there is no next step. The one-upmanship that went on from the late 80s-early 90s (arrival of Upper Deck, Score) to late 90s (start of patch cards) to early 2000 (start of high end) has caught up to the industry. It continues on recently with Upper Deck and Panini with video cards.

    Also the quantity gone down while prices rose up. What went from 16 cards to 12 to now 8 along with a price from a .25 to $2 a pack. Blame the exclusive contracts to $200-$500 pack of cards. It’s more risk than reward to average Joe collector who just wants hits or collect their favorite players/team. Consumers no longer have disposable income due to the economy.

    Kids in this age have too much stuff in their pocket to keep them occupied than cards. Companies lost focus and try reach to them but its too little too late. Topps attempt gear toward kids with Attax and I haven’t heard much about kids playing with it.

    To me its the hobby is on its last legs and like some will hang on to it til its over like I am.

  13. vio789 says:

    I started collecting when I was 5 or 6. Now 7 years later I have seen card price steadily increase. When I first got a video game system(not one that plugs into a tv) I quit collecting for a long time. My uncle gave me about 3 boxes worth of cards. I’ve been trying to put those up and collect. The Bowman Chrome cards are my faviorite made set right now. But 3 cards at $3 or $4 bucks is something I can’t afford. Card companies need to lower prices. I understand that they need to make money but they could make money at lower prices.

    Vio789

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