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.