Another Diatribe on the State of the Hobby

Earlier today, it seems as though an obscure sports cards based article has re-ignited a debate over the state of the hobby in general. I personally hate these types of articles because it evokes extreme knee jerk reactions that have relatively no basis in reality. If there is one thing that everyone needs to understand – the hobby will never cease to be. It just wont die like people expect it to.

People will continue to collect, even if the industry is defunct. Ask all those people that collect odd toys. All of that being said, the industry is never guaranteed to be around for an extended period of time, but I will say that it doesnt seem like there is any reason to believe that it will be going away any time in the future.

The main point of many of the scathing reports that surface is that collecting cards is no longer attractive to kids, which will therefore be it’s eventual demise. This is something I agree with on the attraction, but it is nothing to be worried about. In fact, I think we have all beenĀ over sensitizedĀ to how children are or are not involved in the general goings on of our favorite past time. I realize that as children, many of us were exposed to cards, but it was a different time with different stimulating factors. Card companies have realized that children are not the money drivers, and have shifted focus to adults who want to spend their more available disposable income. This is MOST DEFINITELY the right decision.

You know what the funny part of it is? Even though the industry’s target market is now adults 18-45, the kids have adapted with it. If companies put out kid friendly products, they fall on their face due to lack of adult attracting content. Yes, the kids like big hits too.

Regardless, its hard to deny there are fewer kids these days, and that is fine. With social media and the internet, there are now two groups of people that should be courted with excess, as the opportunity is huge. The first are sports fans, and the second are international based collectors. Topps and Panini have done their best to make their presence felt in these venues, and I believe that both are growing the install base better than has been the case in the last 10 years. That is a good thing.

The crazy part about all of this is that despite the massive changes that have been made in licensing over the last few years, everything is relatively the same. That is the problem that never seems to get fixed. Although we have had sweeping changes in the way the card companies communicate about the products themselves, there have been no sweeping changes in the ways the products are made. Each product continues to deliver relatively the same content, which is fine for existing collectors, but a turn off to new collectors. Why get into a hobby where each player has the same card produced 100 times over the course of one year. I have always been supportive over the number of releases, only because I know how expensive it is to obtain and maintain a league license. However, it forces the card companies to churn out cookie cutter products just to make ends meet.

There needs to be more innovation in the industry, and I honestly believe that the collectors themselves have better ideas than a lot of the brass at many of the big companies. The issue is that many of the card company employees are bound by their notions of a bottom line, so they confine their ideas to meeting it. Collectors are more free spirited, and though they may come up with some ridiculous ideas, there is gold in them hills. Unique content needs to be driven to meet the needs of a changing economical and sociological atmosphere, not continuing to deliver the same product 18 times in one year.

Topps may have garnered extreme reactions to their exclusive in baseball, but I have seem more out of their products that have long term legs, than any other company in any sport. They are FAR from presenting an ideal situation in the sports in which they have a license, but they do go outside the (wax) box in a lot of ways other companies are not comfortable doing.

Guys, here is the skinny on this. I dont think that there is trouble on the way, but I dont think there is nothing to worry about either. I will say this – kids or the exclusive license are not of any concern to me. The only concern I have stems from the ability to creatively progress normal content to keep people interested. I dont think kids have anything to do with that.

Here is the article in question:

http://www.beauregarddailynews.net/article/20130210/NEWS/130209651

A much more well written approach to this:

http://www.petewilliams.net/blog/?p=748

3 thoughts on “Another Diatribe on the State of the Hobby

  1. I often wonder about the future of the hobby….

    I dont think the NFL does a very good job of promoting its history and I wonder if anyone has interest in Johnny U or Walter Payton now let alone in 10 or 50 years.. Its not really a stat driven league and most stats and performances dont translate very well from decade to decade…

    Im also not sure what the companies are doing to help keep it going long term either.. I dont think there should be more than one release per company every 3 weeks or so and no company should release products in the same week or less than 2 weeks apart. It seems like Panini does this more than Topps. Wouldnt boxes be better if there was no Gridiron and all the inserts and autos were put in Leaf Rookies and Stars or no Magic and the autos are all in base Topps for example?

    League exclusives dont help either.. I think Panini gets a false sense of the hobby when most of the hoop they make appears to sell out but outside of Chrome jr. what have they put out that is worth doubling down on the lottery and buying more than one box…

    And why are the companies spokesman’s autos on stickers.. What are they paying them for?

    But we the “collectors” are helping out much either. Doesnt seem like anyone makes sets outside the base Topps versions. We are all playing the lottery and paying silly prices for this year’s hot shot while dismissing the current and historical stars. We dont look at a print run in total just the specific card.

    If you take all colored versions of a Chrome rookie there are a couple thousand auto rookies. If there wasnt any vertigo refractor auto numbered to 8 but instead the print run was really out of 2000, the cards would sell for next to nothing….

  2. The problem isn’t that the hobby isn’t attractive to kids….it’s that it’s not attractive to adults like me who have been collecting for years (since 1977 to be precise) and have tons of disposable income. But when I spend that income, it’s to work on vintage sets, not on current releases.

    Plain and simple, most current releases are overpriced and filled with to much junk….endless parallels, meaningless inserts, worthless autographs, etc.

    The last wax box of any product in any sport I bought….2008 Goudey…and I’m someone who loves to rip wax.

    Probably 90% of the economic activity in the hobby today is centered around prospecting/investing, not actually collecting.

    When manufacturers start producing well-designed products at reasonable prices…that’s when I’ll start giving them my money again.

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