The NFL is a league that is built around uncertainty, mainly due to the overall injury concerns that come with every snap of the ball. As we see every single year, there is one player or one rookie that seems to have a major injury and miss significant time on the field. Even more common is when that injury leads to that player never being the same. As a result, the NFL has gone and done everything in their power to protect the Quarterbacks, the position that many teams are built around. Some rules have also been put into place for defenseless WR, and other similar situations, but for the most part, its all about the QBs being safe.
Since that change, there has been a complete shift away from building around star players at every other offensive position, and as a result both WR and RBs have both become expendable. When that happens, collectors latch on, and therefore cause the quarterback position to be even more valuable in the hobby than it already was. We no longer have as many star backs or receivers that command huge value. Almost every top value guy is a QB or a guy that has so few signatures that it is supply/demand, not production.
This has also led to a significant drop in value surrounding non-rookie content in most of the products we bust. Where there once were a bunch of non-QBs to be able to generate box price value on the secondary market, there aren’t many anymore. However, the veteran guys and HOFers that played during the previous period in NFL thinking, are the only ones left that companies can build around. Obviously, these guys know they are hot commodities, and charge through the nose for each card they sign. As a direct correlation to signing price, their content is limited naturally to preserve bottom line on each product they appear in. So, the question becomes, what can be done to create more value for existing stars where there is none?
Build Better Multi Signed Cards
There are quite a few players who have built themselves into future HOF candidates without a doubt. As long as they play 5 to 7 more years, they will be in. That is saying a lot, as mentioned above, but it does create a unique opportunity for the card companies. If I am at a card company, I choose a position, and start pairing people up. It cant be rookies all the time, because the average shelf life of an NFL player rarely extends past 5 years. It also means that 90% of the guys at the rookie premiere wont turn into star players worthy of being on a card with a big value guy like Emmitt Smith or Joe Montana. So, that being said, its time to use resources correctly. Pair guys like Arian Foster with Barry Sanders, or Adrian Peterson with Jim Brown. Hell, put Jerry Rice on a few cards with Calvin Johnson. Its time to focus the investment into the right place, because Arian Poster cant bring box price on his own. Pair him up with a big name, and all of a sudden there is a reason to buy more boxes if the checklist is good enough. This also means each player on the card needs to be a sure thing, we cant have two players on a card just because they play on the same team. This can KILL value long term. The players need to complement the value of the card, not detract from it.
Hard Signed Autographs
Stickers aren’t special, and they create massive issues with collectors. I don’t think they are always a bad thing, but they are used as a crutch when they shouldn’t be. The more cards signed on the cardboard itself, the more value it will bring on the secondary market. Veteran and HOF autographs are a lost art, and when value is dropping across the board for all non-QBs, card companies should take a stand and try to aim for more on card. I know it can be a logistical nightmare, but it means all the difference.
Plus, they just look better:
As much as I used to advise against it I have changed my tune. Its crazy, but 1/1s sell, no matter how many of them there are. Slap a 1/1 on something and it becomes a valuable card. More autographs and parallels need to be numbered out of 10 and below, which should help value increase more than just random numbering above 50 and 100. I think that rookie content will never be able to be moved out of the products we buy, due to licensing, so I would give up on that now. That doesn’t mean we cant add veteran content in paralleled form, which should allow for more cards and more autographs from the veteran players who drive value.
Create Unique Content
I have said MANY times that unique content above and beyond normal will drive the market in the future. Because everyone has a million autograph cards, things like rarity of the card (contrived or otherwise), and the connection with unique aspects of the hobby will drive value. Topps did it right for 2012 Chrome Baseball with the buyback rookie autos and in Tier One with the clear acetate ones. Five Star is notorious for awesome inscriptions, which will continue to command a premium whenever included. I think playing to nostalgia for collector interest is a great idea, as both Panini and Topps have history to build on.
Right the Wrongs of Products Past
Upper Deck had it right when they did a set of cards for players that didn’t have an SP Authentic Rookie Patch Auto. It was wildly popular, because it righted a “wrong.” I think that subsets built around forgotten players in popular sets should be a mainstay of a new product. A guy didn’t have a chrome rookie auto – get a throwback built and make it happen. Without a rookie patch auto for National Treasures? No matter, get it built and signed. It plays back into the nostalgia factor, which drives almost everyone, but we also need some creative solutions to these challenging situations.
Collector Bounty Reward Redemption Programs
Collectors function on vanity, in most ways and shapes in this hobby. Its why photobucket is as popular as it is with collectors. We all need to show off. Therefore, card companies should reward the people who display their dedication in the best possible way. If a collector is able to complete a milestone for a certain player, team or type of card, they should get rewarded. Lets say you collect a rainbow for Roddy White in chrome, Topps should offer that person a special Roddy White autograph card for completing the set. Same thing with teams, or sets. Make it worth people’s while and they will increase value to achieve the milestones.
Commemorate Big News
Adrian Peterson is on the verge of rushing for 2000 yards, and Chris Johnson did it a few years ago. Were there any cards commemorating his achievement? Not many outside of cards like this. I think that we need to have sets built around awards for the year, past winners, and big games that defy the record books. Player collectors thrive on accomplishments, so we need to take advantage of that in more products.
Avoid Gimmicks and Design With the Player in Mind
We collect cards for the players on them, at least that’s what I believe. Although collectors have shown they love ridiculous patches, I think nice looking cards that showcase dynamic action do extremely well too. If cards are designed to showcase movement and action, the subject can jump off the cardboard. So often, veteran cards are relegated to leftovers, and are rarely designed to make them into the titans of the game they are. Rookie content may sell boxes, but veteran content that looks amazing can do that too. Its all about photography and the way its used, and card companies haven’t quite figured that out yet.
There are many more ideas out there, some of which Im sure you all have stored in your heads. In the end, it falls on our shoulders to speak with our wallets, because right now, we are saying we will stand for things as they are.