Upper Deck Launches ePack Digital Hockey Cards

Upper-Deck-ePack-Logo

Today, as you might have heard, Upper Deck launched e-pack, which is the sister program to their physical hockey products, including a way to sell the physical version of the cards pulled in the digital packs on COMC.com.

I will start by saying this program is not anywhere close to the experience that Topps has built on their apps, and that might not be a bad thing for some of you. Instead of focusing on digital content that is exclusive to the app like Topps, they have opted to pair the digital offering with physical content that collectors can actually possess. Being that the app isnt live yet, and everything is done through their site, I cant comment on the full capacity of what the program is about.

What I do know is that Hockey cards sell well on the secondary market, more than many would guess:

2015 Upper Deck Series 1 Connor McDavid Young Guns

2015 Upper Deck Master Collection Wayne Gretzky / Mario Lemieux Dual Auto

2005 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby RC Auto Patch /87 BGS 9.5

2013 Upper Deck The Cup Nathan MacKinnon RC Auto Patch /29

I messed around with the site, including purchasing one pack just to see what everything is about. At the moment, from my experience as a physical collector, the program is very interesting. It provides access to real cards without leaving your house. You can buy the pack at any time and theoretically realize the physical version of what you pull.

From the side of the digital collector in me, I cant say Im that interested in its current state. Purchases, at the moment take a lot of info. Maybe that will be different on the app. Similarly, the cost per pack is equivalent to the physical side, which means that money spent per pack is much higher at the base level. Again this could change.

Being able to access the “game” through the computer is nice. Its one thing that I wish Topps could figure out some how. Being that right now, things are bare bones, its hard to judge the full perspective of what is going to be coming. Trading is likely on the way. Selling is fully supported. However, I just dont see why Upper Deck is choosing to operate a digital format (which could exist with very little if any overhead other than license and app costs) and link it to a physical manifestation at its core. For a company that is teetering on oblivion from what people in the industry are saying, this seems like a huge investment with more investment clearly needed.

The partnership with COMC is a big deal for a site that has gained some major traction over the last few years. Because this exists kind of as a “big redemption program” as some have said, this opens up a lot of big notions that havent been available to date. Imagine this. You pull a redemption in packs. The redemption goes unfulfilled. Instead of the company choosing your replacement, you get an equivalent in COMC dollars to shop on the site. Not only does this do exactly what Panini Rewards SHOULD have done, but it puts some of the power back in the hands of the collector to get something THEY want.

Being that the audience for digital can be enormous, and hockey has a global audience, bringing this dual set up to the table seems very limiting. That isnt saying they cant cut ties on the physical side eventually, but I would guess catering to a shrinking audience of card collectors who will want to go through the process of acquiring real cards, cant be super attractive.

Topps Digital is successful for a few main reasons. First, they have attractive licenses. Second, they produce daily content, including on demand. They dont have to deal with players to get signatures, employ or pay for warehouse space, and they dont have to worry about finding a vendor to print the actual cards. For a hobby bent on instant gratification, this is a recipe for success that I dont think ePack can even come close to.

As of now, they look to be anchored to the physical product, including scanning and uploading all that information into the app. Server space is expensive in its own right, and Topps dedicates theirs to supporting the users’ growing existence instead of storing card images.

Additionally, there are a ton of unanswered questions. Do they pre-print the physical cards or are they printing on demand? If pre-printing is in the process, they will need to store, ship and process the orders. That seems pretty limiting and expensive, even if COMC is the vendor. If they print on demand, it could be a sour note for people whose pack pulled real cards were rare and become less valuable with each new printing. Also, that seems overly expensive and not practical considering what goes into printing cards. Im also very curious how you tell a collector base that a part of the print run is being held back for digital in a pre-printed format?

As a hockey fan but not a hockey collector, I doubt this is up my alley long term. However, this is the second company to try to build a format to compete with Topps, and so far the only reasonably successful one is the kittens app that recently launched. Try that one on for size, haha.

You can access what is available at www.upperdeckepack.com

Here is the official release: http://upperdeck.com/Corporate/News-And-Events/2016-01-28.aspx

 

Chasing Cam: Best and Worst of 2011

When Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl two years ago, the hobby went freaking bananas over his cards. They have stayed strong with good season after good season, despite his odd public persona and give up signature structure. He definitely looks like a legit player, and his success is bleeding a bit into Cam Newton’s cards as well. The issue is that 2012 wasnt a bad year in terms of finding good looking cards. Wilson’s cards are helped in that manner. Not the same for Cam. Unfortunately, in my opinion, 2011 might be one of the worst looking years of cards in recent memory. Here are the best and worst.

A Note About Cam Newton and His Autograph

For 2011 through 2013, Newton has displayed 2 autograph types simultaneously. As a result, there have been a lot of questions raised about the authenticity of some of Newton’s signatures, as they dont match his confirmed real signature at all. Although the autographs look SIMILAR, they feature such significant differences in structure and content, that many have said that someone else signed the stickers in Newton’s absence. Although no new confirmations have been obtained, its best just to stay away. In support of this theory, I have yet to see any authenticated in person autograph with the questionable structure. Every in person signature I have seen bears the correct look.

Examples of “good” autos:

2011 UD Legends Cam Newton Auto On Card

2011 Topps Red Zone Cam Newton Auto

2011 Crown Royale Cam Newton Silhouette Auto Patch

Examples of “questionable” autos to avoid:

2011 National Treasures Cam Newton Dual Patch Auto

2011 SPX Cam Newton Auto Relic

2011 Topps Cam Newton Variation Autograph BGS 9.5

Keep in mind, the sellers have NOTHING to do with this, so dont go reporting auctions. Instead, I would encourage communication with the companies themselves, as Newton is far from the last person with these questions in play.

None of the on card listings from this point forward will feature this “bad” signature, just as an FYI.

2011 Topps Chrome – WINNER!

For the first time ever, 2011 Chrome featured on card autographs. Not only that, but it was the first year that the Bowman refractor parallel setup was used in the football brand. Not only was the Superfractor from this set the top card of the year, but the exceptionally low numbered Red and Gold autos were insane in value too. This was the last year that baseball’s design was ported over to football, but it worked very well. Adding in the hard signed Bowman Chrome autographs and other chase content, and this set was a beast. One of the best of the year without much competition. Newton’s cards sell for a crazy amount, as Topps used an SP list of top players to limit the costs on the massive deals needed to get Newton to sign.

Check it out:

2011 Topps Chrome Cam Newton Refractor Auto /99

2011 Topps Chrome Cam Newton Gold Refractor Auto /10

2011 Topps Chrome Cam Newton Rookie Recognition On Card Auto

 2011 Contenders – LOSER!

There literally could not have been a more ugly design used for this set. There is a reason that top players dont sell in this set, and it has to do with the stupid layout and terrible variation gimmick used in the production of the cards. I put this set on my worst sets of the last 10 years posts for a reason, and it all has to do with how terrible the ticket design was. Not only did it use a big white box, but the color scheme and layout of the card is beyond horrendous. Hard to appreciate a card that looks this bad.

Here is the damage:

2011 Contenders Cam Newton Rookie Ticket Auto

2011 Topps Five Star – PUSH

I was one of the few people that actually loved Five Star in 2011, as I thought the approach was really nice and very sleek. I actually dont think the design was the problem, more that the patch size on the card was about 1/4th the size of Treasures. As a result, the bottom fell out on the secondary market. Although Newton’s cards, especially his inscriptions still sell well, they are no where near where they should be. Considering how disgusting the Treasures design was in 2011, im still shocked that no one cares about this much more pretty looking set.

2011 Topps Five Star Cam Newton Quotable Inscriptions

2011 Topps Five Star Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch /55

2011 Topps Five Star Cam Newton Rookie Auto /110

2011 National Treasures – LOSER

This was still before the time where NT had a lot of on card content, so there were a ton of stickers everywhere in this set. Not only that, but the rookie patch auto design was among the worst of the entire run of National Treasures. It featured an overly ornate belt buckle shaped patch window that left about 1/2 an inch of space for the player to sign. Add in some terrible looking colored foil, and you get the gist. For some stupid reason, people ignored the lack of quality in the design in favor of a large patch, which was maybe worn for 3 seconds (if that) at the rookie premiere. It was bad enough to see Contenders put up a bubbly fart for their design, but Treasures was the icing on the cake.

2011 National Treasures Cam Newton Panther Logo Patch Auto

2011 National Treasures Cam Newton Reebok Logo Patch Auto /10

2011 Topps Inception – WINNER!

The brand that has spread to every sport and digital in Topps’ universe started in Football. This was the first time Topps used retouched college photos to create cards to be signed at the rookie premiere, and boy did they knock it out of the park. Although the booklets and inscriptions werent there until later, this set was stunning at the time. It was also before the NFL required 00 jerseys for players without assigned uniform numbers, so those were gone too. There was an issue with chipping that caused some big problems on some cards, but the legacy cant be denied.

2011 Inception Cam Newton Silver Signings Auto /25

2011 Inception Cam Newton Green Auto /50

2011 Prime Signatures – WINNER!

Cheap box? Check. Simple and nice design? Check. On card autos for the top rookies? Check. This was a surprise, and I dont think that many expected it to do as well as it did. From what it looks like Panini wanted it to be a sticker dump, but found a way to make it work. The white bordered cards with dynamic action photos looked awesome with on card autos. Much like Five Star, collector appreciation was so so, which meant that the prices on the cards remains affordable. If you are looking to pick up a Cam card that looks great and doesnt cost much, this is it.

2011 Prime Signatures Cam Newton Auto

2011 Gold Standard – LOSER!

Oh man this set was bad. Not only did it cost a ton, but you only got two autographs per box. The likelihood that both autos were no name scrubs was quite high, and that doesnt even speak to the horrid design for most of the cards in the set. Panini must have wanted to try out some of their silver pens, so they added a big black box area on the rookie patch autos to use them. Inexplicably, they didnt use Gold pens in a “GOLD Standard” product, which was a funny twist of stupidity in its own right. Go look at some of the singles. BARF.

2011 Gold Standard Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch

2011 Gold Standard Cam Newton NFL Logo Patch Auto 1/1

2011 Topps Finest – LOSER!

I thought this set had some potential because it featured on card autographs on the case hit rookie cards. Those were nice. Everything else about this set wasnt as lucky. The card design was overly simplified to the point where nothing really stood out. The patch autos featured posed photos and an odd layout. Although the jumbo relic design was nice, the SP list was insanely limited, meaning bad pulls were the norm. Overall, this just wasnt Topps’ “Finest” Finest set.

2011 Finest Cam Newton On Card Auto Mosaic /10

2011 Topps Finest Cam Newton Auto Patch Gold Refractor BGS 9.5

2011 SP Authentic – LOSER!

Although Exquisite was nice in 2011, SP Authentic was terrible. The patch design went completely off the SPA reservation, and the results werent even close to expectations. Higher numbering on the cards didnt help, and neither did the patch content. Of course, both are secondary to the look, which resembled more of what Press Pass was famous for, than the storied history of SPA.

2011 SP Authentic Cam Newton Rookie Patch Auto

2011 Exquisite – WINNER!

I was actually pretty shocked at how nice Exquisite turned out to be in 2011. The design was bold and big, and the gold signatures added a nice touch. Considering how odd the previous year was, this set helped to solidify Upper Deck as a continued viable option after the loss of their NFL license. Many logo patches brought in big money that was comparable to Treasures, something I doubt Panini was happy about.

2011 Exquisite Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch Logo /99

2011 Timeless Treasures – LOSER!

Another set that might be one of the worst sets ever released in the modern era. Whether it is the signed white(?) pleather cuts that just look goofy, or the design work on the subsets, I dont actually need to diplay much before your stomachs will start to churn. Did I mention one auto per box at a pretty high cost? Yeah, it was bad.

2011 Timeless Treasures Cam Newton Pleather Auto

Again, 2011 wasnt the best year as a whole. Almost every one of the big sets was terrible in both design and execution. Hopefully this doesnt happen again, but with Panini at the helm for the foreseeable future, who knows? Without sets from Topps or Upper Deck, it might very well be a bloodbath of epic proportions.

Hobby Headlines: Five Reasons Why Things Are Good Right Now

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A few days ago, I wrote about five reasons why things are bad right now in the industry and hobby. To be honest, that was a MUCH easier article to write, because at the moment, things arent all that great. Im pretty upset that the industry has been so mismanaged that we are where we are, as I really dont like seeing my favorite past time flushed down the toilet.

That being said, there are still a lot of reasons that say some things still ARE working well, im just not as enthusiastic about these reasons when considering the five things talked about in the previous post.

Sorry to start this off on such a downer, but reality is reality.

Reason 1 – Online Communities / Social Media / Blogs

Although not as vibrant as it might have been five years ago, the online hobby presence is still pretty much the way to get all the news that you can. Not only that, but it provides some amazing ways to communicate with other collectors and operate within the hobby itself.

Not only are collectors on Social Media, but the card companies, distributors and even players are online as well, which makes for a very fun experience for most collectors. Of course, there is a negative side to this as well, as not everyone engages social media as a tool for furthering their own hobby existence. Even with this element, I still say that the Hobby is better because of this method of communication.

Hobby message boards and communities are also a big part of the population of collectors online, and they still function as a hub of news, commentary and all sorts of fun stuff. Selling on the message boards is usually done fee free, and can be a bit more postive as a whole than ebay.

Similarly, blogs are still popping up every month, as more and more collectors are finding a reason to get online and write about their experience in the hobby they love. SCU is coming up on its 7th anniversary this year, and I dont see any reason to stop writing in the near future. The more people that lend their voice, the more feedback exists, and hopefully the more that gets done.

Reason 2 – Digital Cards

I get it, not everyone can understand the concept of digital cards, especially paying money for a “card” that you dont own. Believe it or not, nothing could be better for the industry, especially when you see just how many people are getting exposed to cards through Topps’ apps. Their Star Wars app has hundreds of thousands of registered users, with many checking in daily. Bunt, Huddle and Kick (Baseball, Football, and Soccer) also have huge numbers in the population that supports their apps, and it is growing by the day.

Panini also has a Basketball and Football app, but the functionality is terrible at the moment. As they make a greater investment, im sure things will improve, but I am guessing that many of you are surprised that another company is diving in and spending major bucks on digital.

Seeing that something in the industry having an up arrow in terms of potential, is definitely a huge deal. In my previous post, I talked about the relic card being the last big thing to hit the hobby, and it is from a physical side. However, overall, Digital is doing things to this industry that we saw back in 1996, and that should be exciting.

Even if physical card collectors dont identify with what the app does on a daily basis, they are far in the minority. If you are smart, you would familiarize yourself with what digital is all about, as it is primed to be the main method of collecting for the future.

I have long argued that kids are gone from the hobby for good, and there is no way to compete with XBOX and PS4. There really isnt, other than their smartphone, which many people carry with them 24/7.

Add in that there are no redemptions, no printing cost, no distribution cost, no players you have to hound to sign cards, and content can be produced on demand and in real time? That’s a lot of benefit in one sentence.

Right now there are huge issues in the hobby with card production, player relationships, product construction and product distribution. Shops are closing each and every day. Luckily for digital, none of this is a concern. In fact, digital may even play a part in exposing non-collectors to cards. That is quite the acquisition tool.

Reason 3 – Group Breaks

Just talking about group breaks will illicit a negative reaction from some people. Because of a few bad apples, and a general change in the way the hobby participates, group breaks have developed a stigma. Some of it is rightfully earned, but I would say that group breaks are actually a good thing for the hobby.

Even though the AMOUNT of group breakers that are active is insanely high, they offer a service to collectors in a world where cost is quickly accelerating. Similarly, individuals who normally would not be able to have access to super premium products are now able to participate. Because so many boxes are growing in MSRP, there are more people that can buy the cards through these formats. Access is a big thing right now.

Additionally, as more of the companies look to set up a group of approved breakers who they trust, I would guess that the market for the vendors will become more and more focused on these people. The guy operating a group break store out of his garage is not going to fly forever, if not only because people will stop trusting them over larger “companies” with actual storefronts.

As secondary market values continue to sink, group breaks provide a lower risk entry into the product pool. Breaking a 500 dollar box and walking away with a top card can can now be had for a fraction of the money, and that is a good way to float premium products to a group of people who are quickly becoming disenfranchised.

On the negative side, it can make poor quality products look far more successful than they would have been without group break formats involved, but the benefit outweighs the counterpoints.

Reason 4 – Technology

When you look at what cards look like today vs what they looked like even as recently as 2005, its clear that the technology and methods for building and constructing cards for packs is getting better by the year. Although some of these methods, like Acetate, have saturated the market lately, its not necessarily bad. In fact, I would argue that finding new ways to construct and produce sports cards is a necessity to keep things fresh and profitable.

Honestly, the worst thing that can happen is a company tries something and fails once. I want them to continue taking huge risks on this front, especially with how far things continue to come in terms of available methods.

Similarly, things like 3D printing, and other innovations like it, will continue to offer intriguing ways to keep sports cards from going the way of VHS. Even on the photography front, better cameras and better editing software should make cards more beautiful – as long as they are used correctly. Panini is a prime example when you consider the photos they choose on a regular basis.

The funny thing about technology is the cost to use and obtain, which has always been a severe limiting factor in a lot of ways. Hopefully the drop in pricing that is associated with the increasing age of an invention will spell good things for the industry.

Reason 5 – Company Access

As mentioned above, Collectors live in a unique era of access. At any given time, any person can see what is going on with any given company. Through Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, and similar media, frequent updates are provided throughout each business day. This is unheard of in the past, and renders the print media of the past relatively useless. It also allows for quicker temperatures on releases and better access to provide feedback instantly.

Similarly, with the National Convention, and other events across the nation, collectors can choose to interact with the card companies directly in person, which is something that has become a very big deal. If a company goes to NSCC without staff to support collectors at their booth, good luck.

Because so much access is available, its becoming more and more essential for the companies to take it seriously, which over the last few years has come very far. Card companies are FINALLY hiring the right people to handle their online presence, and collectors demand that responses are available. Sometimes, it works in an adverse fashion because of how passionate and invested people are with the hobby, but that comes with the territory.

The next post in this series will be about suggestions for the future and how I see things shaking out. I realize its one thing to state a problem without a way to potentially fix it, but in some of these cases, a fix might not be available. This is why my outlook is slightly right of moderate on the industry’s future potential.

On the Radar: 2015 Panini Flawless Football

Flawless is an interesting product in football. I say interesting because it wasnt born in football, and I still dont think it fits. Football is one of those sports where the rookie class dominates the collecting landscape for the year, and outside of that, its hard for mid range nice cards to sell well. Sure, there will be some cards that are always the exception, but as a rule the market is pretty soft overall. For a 1500 dollar box of cards, there really has to be a huge reason for the box to exist, and I didnt see that as the case in Basketball, and definitely not in football. Although the limited run of the product has kept sealed box prices high, the singles market for anyone not named Brady has come down CONSIDERABLY.

Here are some of the top cards from last year:

2014 Flawless Tom Brady Auto Jumbo Patch /25

2014 Flawless Cam Newton Auto Panther Team Patch /5

2014 Flawless Brett Favre Dual Patch Auto /25

2014 Flawless Emmitt Smith Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Flawless Jerry Rice Dual Patch Auto /25

One of the things that made 2014 Flawless interesting above just the product itself, was the timeframe in which it was released. Not only was it on card and really nicely designed, but it was released in the middle of the season. If you know anything about how difficult that must have been, appreciation for the product would likely be higher. Now that the product is going to be released after the season is over, im not sure the novelty will be the same.

Although the main content does and has looked good for last year’s set, its almost identical in a lot of ways to what Treasures offers. Treasures is a garbage dump this year because of player photographs, but the designs are very similar to what we are seeing in Flawless, if not more desirable because of what looks like bigger patches on the cards.

Personally, this is a slap in the face when content isnt in a class on its own. Flawless needs to be 100% special. If you set out to take super premium to a level like we have here, it cant be the same shit with a new product name on it. So far, for both Basketball and Football, that looks to be exactly what it is and has been to this point. The fact that the designs are even remotely similar is just pure Panini. I just cant understand how you dont go a completely new way, or even just make sure NT is different.

Here are the reasons I love what Flawless brings:

  • On Card Autographs – All cards are hard signed, which SHOULD be the standard for a product that costs this much. For the most part, this is still something to be happy about.
  • Nice Design – I have seen only a few cards from Flawless based on Panini’s previews, but so far, it looks much better than anything they have released so far, minus Immaculate.
  • Top Signers – Combine this with the on card autographs, and it becomes obvious that you have a good opportunity to do some great things with this product.

That being said, there are some MAJOR reasons why I think this product is a fucking joke:

  • High Box Price – Not only is basketball almost all about super premium cards as the gold standard, but there are a lot more names that sell for a considerable amount. Low tier basketball rookies can sell for what top tier football rookies sell for. 1500 is way too high.
  • Lack of Unique or Special Content – So far, for the extra money that we are required to spend on Flawless to get a box, it offers nothing that isnt available other places. The lack of chase content in last year’s product was a huge downer. No shields, no crazy multi signed cards, no real big element. Contrived scarcity doesnt account for lack of innovative content.
  • Rookie Checklist – for whatever reason, Basketball is a collection of the best of the best rookies. There are dud non-rookies, but rookies were different. In the NFL you not only got the Fat Lever type dud players, but a ton of dud rookies as well. Another reason the 1500 isnt good for football.

Its going to be very interesting to see how the second year of Flawless does, made more interesting by the fact that the hype on the 2015 class seems to have cooled considerably. The addition of inscriptions to cards may change the way the set performs, something I am very excited about, but its probably not going to be enough to carry the second edition of a product that doesnt seem all that special all on its own.

Once the checklist is released, and we see who is a part of everything, as well as when the boxes will hit shelves, all could be on the line. If the set is released around or after the draft, and collectors have already moved on, good luck. If they find a way to make this fun, with some actually innovative content, there could be a run on it. Im not banking on any of that, however.

Hobby Headlines: Five Reasons Why Things Are Bad Right Now

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Collecting cards has been around for over 100 years, and I dont see those days coming to an end any time soon. Although the industry will probably fall by the wayside at some point, there will always be people who continue to collect. That being said, there are definitely some bad things going down at the moment, and it is leading to collector attrition at record rates. Although there are elements that still keep people around, more things are happening now that are driving them away.

Reason 1 – Exclusives

Its easy to put this on the list, as they are one of the main reasons why things suck right now. Not only do exclusives prevent variety by their very nature, but it can be argued that exclusives also prevent innovation from being at the forefront of the brands. Its one thing to produce crap with other competitors on the market, as they will just fly by you on the way to a larger market share. Its another thing when you have a marketplace with little competition because of environmental circumstances.

Although it does make A LOT of sense for the company to try to build their manifest destiny with the leagues that offer limited access to their (expensive) licenses, it only serves to hurt the population. Not only are people resentful, but they also get bored. Its easy to see how a Panini card differs from a Topps or Upper Deck card in its design, and to have 30+ products per sport with the same company gets repetitive and uneventful.

Companies will say that they can make better investments in the products knowing that the exclusive deal has a long term impact, but I havent seen how this actually makes it into the final product in any sort of real way we can point to. Both Baseball and Basketball seem to have lost a step since going exclusive, and that’s putting it lightly.

Adding football to the mix of leagues with exclusives in place will only further hurt things, especially when for the second time, the company taking over is arguably not the collector favorite, or the company with any real history in the sport. Its all about money, and thats not surprising.

Without getting into reasons why the pending NFL exclusive is even worse when you dig down deep, as a whole, its one of the next dominoes to fall. People are afraid that a company could potentially take over all four sports, and that is a big topic as to why there is less confidence in prices realized on the secondary market. The correlation between industry health and hobby health is evident in the buzz, and an industry where 1 player remains out of the 6 that were around previously doesnt show health.

Reason 2 – Amount of Products

Before I get into this, I am NOT advocating going back to 4 products a year or even 10. What I am saying is that 30 plus products per sport is just not realistic. Not only is it not realistic, but it is causing more harm than it is helping, especially when companies are actually building print runs with a closeout portion of the cases in the plan. I also understand that the leagues carry a large portion of this blame as well, as many of their licenses come with minimum guarantees that necessitate a packed calendar.

Here is the thing. If you look at how many products are being released, its clear that companies are running out of ways to build a trading card. Look at the way Panini dilutes their brand names, and its should be even more obvious that they are struggling to get good ideas into the pipeline. Then consider further that they are only building HALF of the products in football that they will need to build next year. It shouldnt come as a shock when you see Flawless Basketball, Football, College, Kentucky and Duke editions all in the works. Same thing is the case for Treasures and Immaculate as well.

The biggest issue that this leads to is collectors feeling both overwhelmed and frustrated. There is only so much demand on the market for any given player or card, and most of the trading card manufacturers dont sign an autograph deal without 10,000 signatures involved. It just gets to the point where people are just giving up because they know they arent going to get anything they havent seen 100 times previously. At some point, the cards just start to look the same, with different set names attached. Chrome stock can only be used so many ways before people write off the new stuff as “here we go again with this stuff.”

Reason 3 – Lack of Innovation

The last big thing to happen to the hobby was the rise of the relic card, and that happened 20 fucking years ago this year. Not only have companies bled this idea until it became a shriveled corpse of its former glory, but they havent found a way to take things to the next step. Well, at least not on the physical front.

Right now, the 100 dollar box with 4 hits is happening almost 50 times per year over all the sports. The designs might be different, but much of the methods to create the cards are exactly the same. Acetate and other types of card stocks have been minor innovations, but as a rule, you wont find a box of cards without at least one standard auto or relic in it.

This means when a big signer is part of a checklist, their participation is muted by the fact that many times, they have signed thousands of cards prior to the one they are currently signing. Not only that, but all the cards are relatively similar in nature. The only way to create value these days seems to be adding larger and better relics, or lowering the serial number. Contrived scarcity by a manufacturer is NOT innovation.

We cannot continue to sit back on the laurels of 1996 and hope that things work out. Box prices continue to increase, but its not like they are adding anything different to the mix in any way. People wonder why secondary market prices crash so fast after release, and it all has to do with this. What makes this Mike Trout auto different than the 1000 others that came before it? Even Michael Jordan isnt immune. Its time to see what can be done, and reason 2 and reason 3 are prime culprits.

Actually, 1996 is still a big year for cards, mainly because so many of the card companies produce their sets like we are living in frozen time. The collectibles market as a whole boomed in the mid 1990s, partly because of an economic boom, and partly because things were fresh still. Now, 20 years later, things havent gone THAT much further when you consider the grand scheme of things. I mean, Apple can only produce so many computers before everyone tears them apart for not going further with their creativity. Why do you think iPad and iPhone exist? Its not like Apple was ever a phone company before they decided to innovate.

Reason 4 – Too Many Rippers and Flippers

Because of reasons 2 and 3, many people dont buy wax to collect what they pull. This leads to more people buying wax, hoping to hit the big fish, and the selling for nothing when they dont. Because of this vicious circle, fewer collectors are out there to pick up the pieces, which means that prices are soft all around. If 2 and 3 were different, and there were reasons to collect that Durant auto, maybe we would see that fewer people would open boxes JUST to sell what they get.

Being a rip and flip person isnt a bad thing, either. These people need to exist or the collectors wont have access to buy what they want. The only thing is that the collectors need to outnumber the rippers by any margin for the model to work. If there isnt anyone left to buy, all the prices take a hit. If the stuff for sale is all the same as it was the previous 18 products, there is no incentive to buy THIS card over those previous examples.

The worst part here is that this isnt something that a card company can just go out and change. It has to be a wholesale situation across many different categories. A card company can maybe stave off some of the ramifications by avoiding the pitfalls of what is going on with product construction at the moment, but its not easy. Money doesnt grow on trees in the card industry these days.

As mentioned above, there are a lot of stakeholders in this business that need their fill, two of which are only involved with cards because they can be. The leagues and many of the players DO NOT need to sign to stay afloat. Some players do, but the leagues really dont need cards to be successful in the slightest. Considering the number of complaints lodged against card companies, its probably more of a hassle than we would expect.

This creates a vacuum where products are built with shitty parameters, shitty design, and shitty content, leading to less interest, less people that want it, and a bunch of people looking to sell what they have. Its not a good situation all around.

Because all the companies are swimming in debt, minus Panini, its not like they can fight back without serious issues. Panini’s card business is barely profitable as it is, and they can think their Italian sugar daddies for having any sort of stability at all. Without that, who knows?

Reason 5 – eBay

I love eBay, I love the real time pricing it provides, and I love that at any time of day, you can pretty much get whatever you want. That part of it is not in question. The part that is in question is their rampant desire to look the other way when people work outside the lines.

Even though hundreds of thousands of items are up for sale at any given time, there are a ton of people who refuse to deal on eBay because of how buyers and sellers can take advantage of the system. Buyers can report issues without fear of negative feedback. Sellers can shill auctions without penalty. It has devolved into a wasteland of good people who are left with a landscape littered with unethical douchebags.

If the hobby’s biggest marketplace functions more like Mad Max and less like an actual store, that is a very bad situation. Its clear that eBay needs rules in place for all categories, and cards just happen to be a casualty of some of those changes, but it is what it is.

I cant even count the number of times on two hands where I have had a negative experience buying and selling on eBay. This is exacerbated by the fact that each time I have known someone was playing me, but was helpless because of eBay’s archaic policies.

Top sellers are even more at a disadvantage, because of how their items are displayed in searches if they dont maintain a flawless record.

Additionally, the prices set by eBay are volatile. People will use this as a bedrock for a pro-price guide argument, unfortunately. Price guides arent the answer in any way, shape or form, but im starting to form a sentiment that eBay is causing more problems than ever. As I have said above, all the other reasons listed in this post contribute to each other’s prominence on the list, and eBay is no exception.

Because there are fewer people looking to buy these days, prices are even more volatile. When prices jump all over the place, products can suffer or flourish. Sadly, a flourishing product has become the exception to the rule rather than the rule. Most of the time, a set can tank mere days after release for many of the points already referenced. That puts eBay in a bad light, but its more than that.

Overall, there are a million different reasons why things are the way they are. Not surprisingly, people’s opinions on this matter have reached butt hole levels. Everyone has one, and most of them are pretty smelly. Im not saying I have all the answers or even as good of an understanding as many others that are out there either. We need more discussion, we need more suggestions, and damn, we need things to change.

Next, ill be talking about the five reasons collectors should be excited, so dont think this is going to be all doom and gloom.