Now that the Jersey card is approaching its 20th anniversary in the hobby, we have seen them go from a treasured part of a product to a throw in for the sake of filling out a set. Prices have tanked on relic cards in general, mainly because of supply and collector confidence in their authenticity, among other things. In fact, the decline of the Jersey card over the last few years has been so drastic, that the product configurations are almost unrecognizable when compared to sets released less than 5 years ago.
I would go as far as saying that the rookie player worn jersey is as much to blame as anything, as manufacturers have found ways to artificially create value in their products with more crazy content.
Here is what I mean – check out these crazy logo cards JUST FROM ONE PRODUCT:
The problem isnt that the jerseys arent game worn, its that collectors expect rookie quality content throughout a relic set that includes non-player worn content. My connection may be a wrong, but to me, it looks like the lack of crazy patches in game worn jerseys has made them worthless, even though the artificial supply just cant support the demand of the collecting base.
Because Panini and Topps can have a 40+ team logo patches for any given rookie who attends the premiere, collectors almost expect that type of content to be available in EVERY jersey release. It has made normal content that is game worn seem cheap and worthless, when in reality, its what is available at the cost most people are willing to pay. Sure, manufacturers could secure 40 Peyton Manning jerseys, but the cost of doing so would be prohibitive. But, when his plain white game used swatch is available, its worth nothing because its white and not 8 colors like Blake Bortles' Jaguars event used logo patch.
Authenticity questions are also a huge part of devaluation, as language on the back of the jersey cards has changed almost 100% since I started collecting jersey cards back at the turn of the century. That doesnt mean that the cards are any less game used, just that companies dont want to be liable for any mistakes made by their suppliers or their own employees in acquiring and executing relic content. It has rightfully led to questions from collectors, and that will not go away until the language changes. At the same time, game sourced relics that have been used in some sets dont sell any better, so there is really no incentive to do anything different.
This new shift in the way rookie relics are done has also opened the door for patch fakers to take back the market with relative impunity. Bascially, because every parallel has the potential to be a logo, they can change the patches in cards and no one will notice. Not good.
Overall, I have said for a long time that relic content is a crutch that needs to be ripped from under the arms of the manufacturers. I would much rather see value restored to non-hit based cards, even though I am a person who only collects those types of things. With Topps likely exiting football, it puts another sport in the hands of a company that has completely the opposite viewpoint. Panini injects more worthless content into their sets than anyone else, and it will only serve to hurt the market more.
I sincerely hope that something changes, but it doesnt look like it will.