What Does the Future Hold for Collecting? Has the Next Big Thing ALREADY Arrived?

I have heard a lot of talk lately in the future of collecting, and for the most part, there is no real answer to be given. Collecting will be around as things are able to be held in your hand. That’s just human nature. If there are no new products, there will still be people that seek out the existing stash of cards. The future of the industry, however, is a little more murky, as its clear that there is rarely a new innovation to be had. I want to provide my thoughts on some existing mediums and where they might fall in the future, as well as give some ideas of my own.

Autograph Cards

If you collect cards and dont have an autograph in your collection, you are in a VERY small minority that is out there. The question is, will these cards continue to be the cornerstone of our product base, when you consider that its questionable if the players are even signing the cards anymore? I think that as the players begin to shorten their signatures and prevent companies from really highlighting them in a product, there will need to be unique situations applied. Some how, some way, a player signature will need to change, or it will continue to decline in value. The contrived short printing of certain cards rarely helps anymore, and this SCARES me. Unless a switch to on card becomes more of a focus, autograph cards will continue to suffer the consequences.

My Favorites:

2010 Five Star Drew Brees Auto

2012 National Treasures Matt Ryan Virtuoso Autograph

Jersey Cards

I dont think there is much that can be done anymore with jersey cards, other than making oversized cards with oversized swatches. Everything has been done or will be done shortly, and that will lead to the destruction of the medium. If you fast forward ten years, I dont think jersey cards will be around much without an autograph, and if they are, it wont be close to what it is now. Panini thought adding context to the game in which the jersey came from would improve value, but it just didnt. These cards are not a part of the future.

My Favorites:

2012 Topps Five Star Eli Manning Super Bowl Patch Card

2009 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Rod Carew Jumbo Patch

Shadowbox Cards

When considering the current innovation that is out there, I dont think these cards can be beat – YET. They are the best examples of autograph cards, in my opinion, because it provides more depth to the presentation of the design. As a result the collector gets something they rarely have had before, and as a result these cards are usually more valuable. I think that as printing technology improves, as does the quality of the pens that players sign with, these cards could eventually be more prominent as they get cheaper to produce.

My Favorites:

2012 Topps Strata Ryan Tannehill Auto Shadowbox /40

2008 SPX Chris Johnson Auto Shadowbox

Inscription Cards

Five Star built its reputation on the ability to add more to an autograph than just the player writing their name. They asked the player to bring more to the table by adding extra words, which has proven to be exceptionally valuable. I love inscription cards, but like autograph cards, they will eventually reach saturation. I hope companies take advantage of them more often, but at the same time, I dont want to cheapen the idea.

My Favorites:

2012 Topps Five Star Robert Griffin III Inscription Auto

2012 Exquisite Troy Aikman Inscriptions Auto

Buyback CardsĀ 

I have written about buybacks pretty frequently, especially as of late with both Topps and Leaf using their rich history to obtain some really nice ones. Buyback cards continue to be a renewable source of fun, as there are SO MANY iconic cards out there that should be either repackaged and sold like Leaf does, or bought and signed by the company like Topps has done. Although there is always a significant risk in these types of ventures for a card company, I would love to see more of it. The great part about buybacks is you can actually get them signed at any time because the cards dont actually need to be produced. Have a signing coming up? Bring a few extra cards to get signed for a buyback program. It should be standard practice.

My Favorites:

2013 Topps Archives Originals Joe Montana Buyback RC Auto

2012 Leaf Memories Frank Thomas Buyback Auto

Future – 3D Printed Cards

If you havent seen 3D printers, they are truly a testament to what technology is capable of. As the technology improves and becomes cheaper, I would love to see what the companies can do with cards that actually print a tactile 3D image of the player on each surface. Think about that for a second, you pull a card out of the pack, and the picture actually has a player popping off the surface. Talk about awesome.

Future – Oversized Collectibles

As things progress, bigger is always better. Although I doubt that redemptions for bigger items will be the answer, oversized collectibles are on the horizon. Packs that include more of the memorabilia aspect of the hobby have already started to become prevalent, but only in a repackaged state. If the companies ever decided to produce their own, I think there would be a huge market for it in the casual sports fan market place. Topps has already started developing apps to cater to this crowd and I think its a great idea. They also took the time at events to get hand stamps on a card, which bring an added element as well. Who knows what they are willing to do?

Future – Create Your Own Cards / Crowd Sourced Card Ideas

One of the major problems with the collectibles industry is that it costs A LOT of money to make something the way you want it done. We are usually left to buy other people’s ideas, or settle for something we like but dont love. League licenses usually prevent true creativity from taking shape, as they have too many rules to make it happen. What if the companies allowed collectors to choose from a few different pictures, a few different borders, and then have the player sign and personalize the card at an upcoming private signing with the card companies? Its not out of the question if done correctly, but its not available now for a number of reasons. Custom cards are getting bigger by the day on eBay and I dont think this trend is going away.

Future – Digital Cards

Im not talking about eTopps or even packs of cards you open online. I am talking about creating online environments where collectors can share and discover without joining a forum. Lets say you open a pack of cards and you scan a QR code on the back. That QR code downloads into an online display that showcases you own that card. It may even alert collectors who are looking for it. That would be something we need yesterday. Company driven online communities dedicated to highlighting cards pulled and owned by their end users.

5 thoughts on “What Does the Future Hold for Collecting? Has the Next Big Thing ALREADY Arrived?

  1. I love every article on your blog, but I think this is the best one in quite a while. Thanks for taking the time to look around and look ahead.

  2. I really like the hand prints that Topps is doing… and the old signed contracts they pull out of their vault every now and then… and the favorite play or drawing cards the players make.

    Most people complain about redemptions but I really like the Bowman Reserve a few years back with the auto’d minis or the baseballs. Surprised there arent more items like that coming out of the rookie premiere

    Will we see items that are even more personal like hair relics, expired credit cards, player league id’s, or driver’s licenses, autographed pages from actual playbooks, auto’d real ticket stubs from the players big games, Make somethings that is bigger that I can display mini auto’d posters ……

    I dont like the trend of “memorabilia” that “isnt from any specific game or event”.

    I was intrigued by those Eli 5 Star patches but I dont know where they came from. Are they manu fakes like all the jerseys from the premiere? Im a big Eli and Giants fan and would love something tied to the SBs but those pylon patch cards dont qualify for me…

  3. I like the digital cards idea. It should be as easy as this: company prints a QR code on back of each card, customer scans QR code and then takes photo of card which uploads to database. QR code uploads all the pertinent info–year, set, serial #. User’s account is then automatically updated with which cards they have.

    Users can then buy/sell/trade directly on the site.

    I know this is similar to the Sports Card Album concept but the big advantage the card companies have is that they control the content of the card which means they hold the key to making a really easy upload process by coding each card and maintaining a database of the codes.

  4. I think people put too much into that statement on the back of the cards. Its just CYA text to ensure that no one gets the wrong picture. I honestly dont think Topps or Panini would stake their reputation on a jersey card like that. Could the text be amended? Yes. Does this mean the cards arent game worn? No, not by a long shot. Collectors are naturally paranoid people.

  5. Personally, I think the hobby needs to get back to basics….i.e. well-designed cards at a reasonable price. Boxes are too expensive, in general, and do not provide enough value to the average collector, and too many products are being designed/contstructed with only profit-seeking case rippers and box breakers in mind. When it costs hundreds of dollars in wax to complete relatively low-end sets such as Topps Heritage, Topps Archives, Gypsy Queen etc., you know something is wrong.

    So for me, the future of the hobby is bleak unless its starts designing products which appeal to true collectors (i.e. people who have been collecting since childhood and will collect until they die), rather than those seeking only to make a profit (and who will leave the hobby as soon as a better money-making opportunity comes along).

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