Hobby Musings: What is the future of the hobby? – Since the National Sports Collectors Convention concluded a few months ago, the sports card world has been rocked by a number of major announcements. The largest of them all was Fanatics firmly entrenching itself in the hobby’s future by acquiring the exclusive licensed rights for MLB, NFL and NBA trading cards after the current agreements held by Topps and Panini expire.
The announcements sent shockwaves through the hobby and have left many wondering about the future of trading cards. I, myself, was surprised and not surprised by the news. Not surprised because I figured one of the major sports licenses would change hands, or that at least one would become non-exclusive, given the money currently surrounding sports cards.
On the other hand, I was surprised simply because I didn’t imagine that one company would end up with three of the major sport exclusives. It makes sense for Fanatics though, given its big moves into the sports apparel and autographs world. Producing sports cards will allow them to strengthen their partnerships with the leagues and find more ways to create tie-ins with existing merchandise. Any way you look at it, there’s a reason the company is making such a big bet on trading cards for the future.
Whether Fanatics’ rather strong foray into this world ends up being a good or bad thing for the hobby and its customers, I honestly don’t know. I suspect it will end up being a little bit of both. Anyone who has been unsatisfied about the current state of things will certainly get their wish to see new blood and ideas in trading card production. However, traditional collectors, especially those who have dedicated quite a bit of their hobby lives and income to Topps Baseball, may very well be left feeling a little empty. I feel a little saddened myself by the prospect of Topps not producing Major League Baseball cards after their agreement ends.
One thing for certain is that the money is even more firmly entrenched in the hobby. That’s a good thing in the respect that it essentially guarantees the future of trading cards for quite some time. On the other hand, it seems a little saddening, because I believe the sports card world has once and for all lost its innocence, and it is firmly and with finality a business above all else.
I know that might seem like a stupid thing to say, especially in light of the boom of the past two years. While it has always undoubtedly been a business that exists to make money, there at least always seemed to be that underlying fun of it being a hobby. Even at the National this year, amid all the business and money flowing in, you could sense that childlike excitement throughout the convention center. Whether it was people dropping big money for investment pieces, or kids finding a new $3 card to treasure, there was a balance between the two segments of investment and enjoyment.
No matter what, major changes are on the way. The next handful of years will likely be remembered as one of the most significant periods in the hobby’s history and a true shifting in the way business is conducted in this space. While we still have several years to see what the future holds, it certainly feels like a changing of the guard. We’ve lost companies and longtime hobby entities before as new players came into the game, but I daresay that what is to come will leave a bigger fallout than what has come before. I just hope that through it all, everyone who enjoys sports cards today will still feel the ability to do so in the future. It’s a hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone, and it should certainly stay that way.
Hobby Musings: What is the future of the hobby? – More Resources
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.