Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Going the Way of the Dinosaur...

Welcome to another Dinosaur theme week post.  In case you missed it, I featured one of the best mini sets of all time in yesterday's theme post.  Today's post has a dinosaur theme as well, but not in quite the same way...

The question to be answered:  Are baseball card collectors going the way of the dinosaur?
Image source: http://www.rtfa.net/2008/12/09/nsfgov-volcanoes-not-asteroid-may-have-taken-out-the-dinosaurs

Now, if you believe in the Mayan calendar's apocalyptic prophecy, you might answer "yes" thinking only about incoming meteors or something.  That's not what I'm talking about here.  What I mean to ask is:  Is the trading card scene a dying entity?

In my typical analytical fashion, I present both sides of the argument.  Feel free to chime in (and help out either side of the discussion in case I missed some things - which I'm sure happened)...

Opinion 1:  No - the baseball card industry is alive and well.

  • Topps recently introduced a club open only to members who spend $10,000 or more a year.
  • Topps has (seemingly) created a new, successful avenue to sell cards - directly on their own website.
  • Topps has a monopoly which helps to keep the various card choices from becoming too confusing (except Bowman of course).
  • Topps keeps bringing in older collectors with programs like the Cards Your Mother Threw Out online giveaway.
  • Topps found out collectors go gaga for squirrel cards.
  • Topps has managed to create several successful lines of cards in the past few years including Heritage, Allen & Ginter, and Gypsy Queen.
  • Topps has struck "retro" gold in the past with sets like Stadium Club.

Opinion 2:  Yes - the baseball card industry is dying off.

  • Topps is running out of gimmicks to keep people interested (sparklys, pink cards, online giveaways, etc.).
  • Topps has all but abandoned the child collector - the true lifeblood of almost any enduring hobby.
  • Topps has essentially told anyone who doesn't spend $10,000+ dollars on their products annually that that person isn't a "true collector."
  • Topps has dipped into the relic/autograph well for too long already, so much so that relics can be found for under a buck or two for almost any player.
  • Topps has a monopoly which stifles creativity in the marketplace.
  • Topps has made a last minute money grab with both the Topps Mini online exclusive sale and the High Number Heritage online exclusive sale.

What do you think?

The collector in me wants to believe that the industry isn't dying off but rather maybe going through a molting phase.  Unfortunately, my particular area of the country is void of any hobby shops - so I don't get to see if there are young people frequenting such establishments.  I do know, however, that not a single one of my students in my various college classes has ever put that they collect baseball cards on their day 1 information sheet.

I suppose the better question might be "What can be done to revive the hobby?"...

Clearly, the online only sales didn't work (at least according to the prevailing sentiments on most of the blogs that I frequent).  I know the Five Star club or whatever Topps called it seems like a slap in the face to those of us who might "only" spend a hundred dollars or maybe 1,000 over the span of a year.  Heck, if I were Topps I'd want to court ANY collector, even those that maybe only buy a blaster a year or a few rack packs.

I think it's fairly obvious that relics, patches, bat knobs, autographs, etc. CAN excite collectors - but over time that excitement will turn into a *yawn*.  I don't think people get overly amped up when they pull a David DeJesus autograph or a Carlos Pena jersey bit anymore.

I don't have the answers - but I am interested to hear what you have to say.  Is the hobby going the way of the dinosaurs?  It sure seems like it at times - after all, many of the "loyal" bloggers have turned to other diversions (myself included with Legos and the like).  Or, is the hobby more transient - meaning that while individual collectors may burn out over time, there is a constant stream of new collectors taking the old collector's place...and getting excited about jersey bits all over again?


The Chop Keeper said...

They do seem to be alienating a good part of their customers- the set collector. I'm done with putting sets together, and will instead focus on team sets. In my opinion, unless they (Topps) stop doing the same ol', same ol', they will see a gradual drop in sales. Gimmicks will pull some in, until they see it for what it is-and then they'll get out of the hobby. We seriously need a second licensee!

Ana Lu said...

When first I read about the club I thought it would come out as a good thing even for people overseas. I thought it would be a group that would bring people again to the hobby since I read in some blogs that people are getting back by buying some packs here and there and this woudl be a bonus. I thought this would be like a stargate to people that cannot get to hobby shops or expos because simply do not live in US or even near that.
I thought it would be a group to get people together around something in common.
Well it will be fair from it.

If you count that I have to pay online for the products I get from eBay and the shipping I have to pay for it I'd say I spend probably more money on cards than a US citizen. But then I usually don't go only for Topps products. I like to have a variety of cards that the many high-end products Topps is offering don't make it.

I want to collect cards freely. Without the constraints of a single brand offering them.

So I think the hobby might survive like the dinos didn't (are we sure of this?) but maybe it's in our hands to get it alive.

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