When it comes to normal people ranting about the state of hobby, its usually about a small group of topics that I cannot stand. Kids need to be brought back to the collecting ranks, the hobby needs to go back to the way it was, and box prices are too high for what is inside are the three I cant stand the most of any of them. There are other things like redemptions, and other crap, but the explanations of those are easy and short. These three I hate seem to pop up everywhere, and they burrow deep down inside my brain to ninja slice my patience gland.
The first one I want to address is the kids argument, mainly because I just got a long email blast from the Vegas summit who’s sole focus was on using kids as the solution to dwindling sales and numbers. My face was in my palm at just about every word in the email, mainly because I know that the stupidity they expressed is common in just about every corner of every nook in our favorite past time. Kids are not the answer, and personally, I think it’s a stupid idea to even focus on them as a target demographic. I realize that I have said this a million and a half times, but its completely the truth. First off, targeting male children to collect cards is going to lose out to video games and other entertainment providers almost every time. Cards arent relevant to them any more because the way they get their sports fix is through Madden and MLB the Show. Back 25-30 years ago, those mediums werent around, therefore other less technical hobbies were kind. Now that the technological age is here, technology like video games and television will have a ten fold advantage over tangible collecting like cards, stamps, or coins.
For the kids you do hook at a young age, due to their parents or by random luck, they arent going to want junk. They will want high end autographs and game used cards because that is the generally accepted collecting tendency around the hobby. Kids arent going to be want to be treated like kids, they are going to want the best cards and the highest cost product. Not only that, but most of them are going to find a way to get it. This means they will use eBay and the internet just like everyone else, and when they get on the internet and eBay, they are going to become more solidified in the tendencies of everyone else they see. Manufacturers need to stop trying to cater to them, because it wont work. Then, when the hobby media and manufacturers blow smoke up the ass of the people who are hurting in the industry, saying that they are the ones that will make the jump, those downtrodden people will latch on, because that is the way it was 30 years ago. 30 years ago, kids were the lifeblood of the hobby, today they are gum on the bottom of the shoe of the big market demographic: adults.
Adults are the people who have the money and they have the means to spend it on cards. The reason that numbers are down is not because of kids, its because of two other unrelated things. Obviously, the economy is one, as less disposable income means less people that are able to drop coin on cards. The second is because card design and concept have become stale and boring in most cases, something I was discussing yesterday. If a manufacturer is going to come out with the same shit year after year, people are going to get bored. I have become so bored with most of the releases, that even I can relate to people who have thrown up their hands and left. If manufacturers are going to sit on their laurels and expect people to buy no matter what, they will lose business. If those manufacturers continue to ignore ethical business practices, it will get worse, and Im not just talking about Upper Deck.
Don’t tell me that kids grow into adults either, because that is a shitty argument to begin with. Of course kids create longevity, but its become obvious that hooking them as kids is practically impossible. Hook them as younger adults when money and value start to mean stuff to them. Most young adults are casual sports fans, and casual sports fans are the gateway to bigger participation. If the manufacturers switched all their marketing focus to grasping what casual sports fans are looking for, it would bolster the ranks more effectively. This also means that Joe Shop Owner should not be the face of the hobby, nor should Beckett even be in the picture. Both present a completely unrealistic view of collecting itself, and the manufacturers should do everything in their power to overshadow the diarrhea they spew daily.
Then you have the people who say that the hobby needs to go back to the way it was and everything will be peachy keen again. That is complete crap, especially when you consider what it meant to have 4 sets a year back then versus having a similar calendar now. The hobby was a niche area back then, and it was easy to use existing resources in order to keep that smaller amount of people happy. When the collecting boom of the late 80s and 90s hit, more products needed to be produced for more people. Then, when the jersey and memorabilia cards were released, it brought a ton of new people who wanted to be closer to the athletes they root for. Autographs furthered that obsession, and it continues to this day. People say that we need to go back to the cardboard dark ages, but to strike the progress made would be a death blow to a struggling industry. Nothing would be fixed, nothing would be okay, it would be worse than it is now. Then, when media sources say that fewer cards would be less confusing to kids, we circle back to the original argument. People arent stupid, and variety is exactly what is needed. Plus, when you add in the amount of dud products to the amount of good products, there is nothing in my mind that suggests that manufacturers would be successful only releasing one to four products per year. This is a different era, and it’s a result of a bigger demand for cards. Sacrificing variety will not create more demand, bolstering design and creativity will do more than any of that.
Lastly is this argument that people are touting box prices and their relation to content as a reason why things need to change. The main argument centers around the amount of scrubs and junk cards in products that cost a lot of money as a reason why it’s a bad idea to continue down that path. I agree that having products filled with Adrian Peterson, LeBron James, and Albert Pujols would be great, however, I don’t think people understand the cost of what it takes to get those players into a product. We hate pulling scrubs as a box hit, I get that, but there is no way around it due to the amount of money everyone charges for their signature. Players at the top of the ranks charge so much money, that it sometimes prices them out of a product. Pujols, Peterson, Emmitt Smith, Montana, all are notorious for the cost of their inclusion, especially when you factor in the astronomical licensing costs. Even the rookies charge a complete shit ton for their autos, as evidenced by the Football Jesus, Tim Tebow’s, recent signing in Florida. If you think their autographs are easy to pay for, you are sadly mistaken. We complain that our box of Exquisite didn’t return our investment, but that has been the way it is since forever. Boxes have always been a gamble, but now its easy to see that they have taken that gambling to people who can afford to spend more money. If you don’t like the high end products, don’t buy them, its that simple. You have the choice over what you buy, so stop complaining when the manufacturers want to market to the people with a ton of money to spend.
In all reality, if all products looked good, there would be less complaining over box content. Ill give you the example of Topps and Bowman Chrome. The amount of money usually returned on a box of Chrome is much less than the cost of the box itself. People don’t complain as much because the cards they do get look great, and there is enough to keep them interested in the bust. If Panini actually took the time to think out their products the way Top
ps does with their low end releases, I can tell you that I would not blast them as much as I do. Instead they charge 120 dollars for boxes like Elite and Prestige which look like donkey poop and hold their value like an AMC Pacer. If those sets looked much better, delivered on card content like we know is possible, not as many people would complain. Design is the gateway, not price. Instead we get foilboard bore-fests with those idiotic signed cloth patches, and I walk away wondering who would actually want that junk.
Guys, the main factor here is that the mainstream media wants you to think its everyone’s fault but their own, and are directing your gaze away from the laziness and corrupt practices that every company deals with. Stop falling for their “LOOK OVER THERE!” technique and actually get on the right track in terms of how you feel. Its not the kids, its not the changes from thirty years ago, its them. Its our job as consumers to let them know that, and I expect that when the doors at the plant are being locked for the final time, they will finally start to see exactly what the fuck I am talking about.