Hobby Musings: The Good and the Bad of 2019 in Trading Cards – 2019 proved to be an interesting year for the hobby. While there was a lot of good, there was also a fair amount of bad. With that in mind, before we get too far into 2020, here’s a look at some of the notable hobby events of the previous year.
By most accounts, 2019 was another strong year for the hobby. Sealed wax continued to be cracked at unbelievable rates throughout the year for most sports and products. While that has created a conundrum for some hobby entities (more on that later), it also shown just how strong the hobby is. A few years ago, it seemed as if the prevailing sentiment was that there was too much sealed wax/product out there. Now it seems to be that there’s not enough to meet the demand. All in all though, the buzz around the hobby and the financial opportunities to be had seemed like they were at a peak over the previous year. Whether this is a good or bad thing, (and believe me, I’ve heard and read both ends of it) there’s no denying the hobby has predominantly been on a roll the last few years, and it doesn’t seem as if it’s about to stop any time soon.
A successful 2019 was on display during the late summer at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. Featuring huge crowds every day, sealed wax and vintage were once again the hot items to be had at the show. Making his presence known at the show was Gary Vaynerchuk. A well-known entrepreneur who made a big splash on the hobby in the previous year, Gary Vee was generous with his time at the show as he took plenty of pictures and signed autographs for anyone who visited his booth.
The rookies also continued to provide serious hobby buzz in 2019, thanks in large part to the NBA. In 2019, Luka Doncic and Trae Young had collectors scrambling to find all of their rookie hits thanks to exceptional debut seasons. While Young has continued to perform well, Doncic’s strong start to his sophomore season has vaulted him into upper-tier discussion among the league’s current hobby darlings. In addition to their singles, the continued success of both has also caused what is left of sealed products featuring their rookies to draw premium prices.
As good as those two have been, 2019 has been largely about Zion Williamson when it comes to rookie cards. Though an injury has delayed his NBA debut, his impact on the hobby has been undeniable so far. Several of his collegiate and NBA-licensed cards have already sold for big money and with Panini’s bigger products like National Treasures still yet to hit the market, it’s fair to see that we’ve yet to see what Zion can really do. There will be no athlete more tied to the hobby’s fortunes, good or bad, in 2020 than Zion Williamson. If he plays well, there’s no telling how high his hobby market can go. If he doesn’t play well, then a lot of people are going to have buyer’s remorse.
Trimming was the word on almost everyone’s mind when it came to the ugly side of the hobby in 2019. One of the bigger scandals to rock the hobby in recent years, the gist of this is that people knowingly altered cards by trimming them in order to achieve a better grade. In a trading card industry that generates millions of dollars a year, a scandal like this tends to be heightened even more because of the money attached to it. It’s a story that has been a big black eye for the hobby and has continued to make headlines even now.
As bad it was over the course of 2019, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. As more information comes out, especially if the legal aspect of these cases brings to light more details, it will be interesting to see what impact it has on the hobby. While I do think it’ll survive this scandal as it has others in the past, it will be interesting to see what impact it has on buying, especially for the collectors and/or buyers who may be chased off from spending big money on graded cards.
Another bad of 2019 was the practice of shill bidding. While it’s nothing new unfortunately, it’s something that continues to plague the industry. For those who don’t know, shill bidding is when someone bids on an item to artificially increase its price.
Unless auction sites can find a more effective way to combat shill bidding, It’s something I don’t think will go away any time soon. And that’s a shame as it leads to collectors paying more than they should for their goods, while also creating a false valuation for collectibles across the landscape. There’s enough paranoia and distrust that goes on in the hobby without having to worry about something like this.
With all that being said, we find ourselves in a strong hobby world overall as 2020 begins. Whether that is still the case by this time next year remains to be seen. With Zion mania still poised to fully take over and an intriguing NFL rookie class on the way, I would wager on it being another good hobby year. With any luck, we’ll get solutions to some of problems that plagued the hobby this past year.
No matter what your role in the hobby is and whatever you choose to collect, I wish all of you a great 2020 in life and in your hobby endeavors. As always, sports cards and memorabilia are meant to be fun, even with all the dollars attached to them. That’s something I had a tendency to forget at times last year and am hoping to remedy this year. Any way you hack it though, it’ll be interesting to see what the new year brings us.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.