Hobby Musings: Hobby’s mainstream coverage not always ideal – The sports memorabilia industry, like many other hobbies, has been fortunate to have multiple print and online publications dedicated to its coverage. Besides the service GTS Distribution provides with this blog, mainstays such as Beckett and Sports Collectors Daily have provided fans extra coverage and information about their trading cards. Other online forums, including the one run by Blowout Cards, give collectors and critics a chance to voice their opinions and share notes about various hobby topics.
By and large, the content provided by companies like Beckett and SCD tends to be informational in nature. Editorial content often leans toward a positive story. If it’s a negative story, it is typically related to a negative circumstance, such as a forger, rather than a direct criticism of the hobby or its manufacturers themselves. There are some hobby media outlets that shine an uncomfortable light on the more negative and seedy aspects of the hobby, but those remain a minority.
One example though of outlets where the hobby still tends to get a bad rap is when it comes to mainstream media coverage of trading cards. Unlike a hobby-based platform like Beckett, these stories are often written for business and sports platforms where trading card coverage is a small part and not necessarily a focus of the publication. Sports memorabilia and vintage card auctions, oddly enough, seem to avoid this trap. Given the high-profile and often high pre-sale estimates for the items often featured though, it’s not surprising that it gets better press.
To be clear, these negative takes on our hobby are certainly nothing new. I’ve been reading and hearing death pronouncements for the trading card industry for well over 10 years. Typically, they come from people who used to collect cards or had friends who collected as kids but lapsed and haven’t kept up with recent trends.
On the chance they come back into the hobby, they’re either amazed by what cards now entail or are completely turned off by the much higher price tags. More often than not, it’s people who are disenchanted that cards packs don’t typically cost less than a dollar anymore. Often times, these are the same people that are also dismayed and angered by the fact that the same rookie card they spent $30 on back in the 1980s is now worth a dollar.
To be fair, a lot of the criticism directed at the hobby today is valid and can be legitimately argued. The case can be made that overproduction of cards and autographed items is an issue that has led to declining values. One can also argue that the relative lack of brick and mortar stores today compared to the hobby’s boom period is a dangerous sign. You can also point to a seemingly higher disinterest from younger collectors compared to the glory days. At the typical center though are higher pack and box prices that keep people of all ages, but especially children, away.
The problem with all those arguments is that they have to be looked at with a balanced lens to be properly argued before making a summary judgement. Like many other businesses and hobbies that have seen hard times, there often aren’t black and white reasons, but rather a variety of circumstances for the failures and successes.
Hobby Musings: Hobby’s mainstream coverage not always ideal
Children not being interested or financially having the ability to be active in the hobby is a misunderstood concept. I do agree that many younger kids don’t seriously collect trading cards like the generation that did during the hobby’s boom period. However, that can be attributed to a slew of reasons, including more technology being available and the rise of popular, more interactive gaming cards like Pokemon and Magic.
When it comes to sports cards though, the notion that it’s a dead hobby among children is one I find laughable. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been pleased by the amount of younger collectors in attendance with their parents. Going to my local hobby shop here in Connecticut, I’ve often seen children under the age of 15 in the store. I’ve found myself stunned on more than one occasion when these kids drop $50 or more to buy packs or a single card they wanted. I and many other collectors no doubt sure as heck didn’t have that kind of money growing up for baseball cards. However, my dad was supportive of my hobby habit.
Every year for Christmas and other special occasions, he’d purchase an autographed item and/or some boxes of cards I wanted. That early love and support from my dad basically kept me interested long enough until I got a job and could purchase what I wanted myself.
Hobby Musings: Hobby’s mainstream coverage not always ideal
The reason I’m making these points for this week center around a headline for a story in a recent publication by a sports site. The headline was centered around the assuming question of whether Aaron Judge could save a dying baseball card industry. I admittedly did not read the full article as I’m not a subscriber to the site, but the headline alone was enough to make me think.
As I mentioned, I’ve seen this same argument/headline for years now. The narrative is almost always seemingly the same. The author looks at high modern hobby costs, decline of physical stores and lessened values of overproduced trading cards as hard proof that the card industry is dying.
The Aaron Judge tie-in and headline to the dying baseball card industry is especially puzzling. If you think baseball cards are dying, all you had to was go to a hobby shop or baseball card show last year and see people plopping down big money for anything Aaron Judge, or Cody Bellinger or Andrew Benintendi for that matter. It’s not just baseball either. Given the high amounts spent for football players like Kareem Hunt or hockey players like Connor McDavid in recent years, I think it’s a safe argument that multiple hobby sports are thriving.
What truly bothers me is the limited scope that these authors seem to base their opinions. It’s not often feasible for them, in terms of time or resources, to get more information on the matter. However, it would be nice to see them spend some time in a card store on the weekend or go to an event like the National. Heck, check eBay and see the kind of money being thrown down for sports cards. While events like the National are an extreme on the positive side of the hobby, it most certainly can’t be discounted. That would be like someone bemoaning the decline of the comics industry but not taking into account an event like Comic-Con.
Are there problems in the hobby today? Absolutely. Is it as strong as it once was? In some respects, no, but in others, most definitely. If it that wasn’t the case, there wouldn’t be any hobby stores left at all and there wouldn’t be large companies manufacturing and selling them. Also, how many hobbies today can say that they haven’t experienced some type of significant downturn at some point or another? The comic industry was in the same predicament as trading cards until the slew of successful movies by Marvel and DC helped generate mainstream interest again.
Will the hot cards of Aaron Judge and Dak Prescott going for hundreds and even thousands of dollars today be worth that much a few decades from now? Most likely not, but that’s the inherent risk of purchasing any type of collectible. Truthfully, there’s no real way of telling what the value will be years from now. As I wrote about recently, Jimmy Garoppolo cards that were generating minimal interest a year ago are now selling for hundreds of dollars. Tom Brady rookie cards that weren’t even afterthoughts when they were first released are now some of the most sought-after items in the hobby. Vintage cards that not long ago were only the interest of hardcore collectors and lifers are now routinely being sold for large amounts. Not just collectors either, but people outside the hobby who are looking for new investment opportunities.
I’d be lying if I sat here and told you if I knew where the card industry would be 15-20 years from now. That being said, I do know it will be around. Maybe not as strong as it was in 2017 or perhaps even stronger. But it will be around. Despite the misgivings and doom and gloom takes from these mainstream outlets, the hobby isn’t dead or dying by a long shot. 2017 by itself proved that, and there are enough people out there vested in its survival to keep it around for quite some time.
Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
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