Hobby Musings: What to make of the current state of the hobby world – Reading colleague Rich Klein’s article a few weeks ago speculating on the future of the hobby got me thinking. My first reaction was that it was refreshing to see Jason Masherah’s comments urging caution about the future of the trading card world. It’s not often you see something other than the party line that things are going exceedingly well. I tend to agree with Rich that more of a fall rather than winter is on its way for the hobby.
The trading card world is undeniably going through a boom phase right now that few would have thought possible even a few years ago. Thanks in part to case breaking and top sale prices for cards of players like Zion Williamson, collectors and speculators alike have been enthusiastically engaging in the card game. Throw in high profile personalities like Gary Vaynerchuk and former athletes like Phil Hughes getting in the game too, trading cards are popular in a way that they haven’t been for some time.
While this has been great for the business as a whole, it has also created some cause for concern. The increased demand for sealed products has led to a scarcity not often seen. This has in turn significantly heightened the prices for boxes. It also raises the question of what happens to the single cards that may not have as much demand as players like Zion and Ja Morant. When you have certified HOFer autographs selling for $5 or less, it can be a great thing for collectors, but not necessarily shop owners who are left trying to move them.
I understand why the hardcore segment of the hobby audience has its concerns. Unlike many of the new people just getting into cards, the veterans have seen the leaner side of the card world before and what it does for the market. Having been through it before, it’s no shock that they don’t want a repeat. A bad hobby market carries very real consequences for people who don’t have the luxury of being able to cut and run when things go bad. For them, these great years won’t mean much if it’s followed by a period of terrible fortunes.
On the flip side, the hardcore hobby elements, including collectors, have to understand that we need this infusion of new blood. And new dollars to put it bluntly. Like any other business, the audience has to grow to continue survival.
While I think we’ll see an eventual decline in the hobby, I don’t think we’ll see a crash as bad as before. I’ll caveat that by saying it depends on the overall economy. If that bottoms out, all bets are off. Things will eventually cool down though as they can’t stay hot like this forever. Not this year mind you. Between the amazing 2019-20 NBA rookie class and a very promising incoming NFL rookie class, people are going to continue to rip sealed cards at a ridiculous pace.
Optimistic as I am about the hobby, there’s not going to be a Zion Williamson and Joe Burrow every year. As 2013 showed us, a lackluster rookie class can be disastrous for a trading card year. Conversely, truly bad rookie classes tend not to happen year after year either. Bad as 2013 was, it’s been pretty strong in the years since.
While 2021 isn’t likely to top this year, keep in mind that new prospects like Trevor Lawrence will be coming out next year. Barring a disastrous season, collectors will be clamoring for his cards akin to the way they’ll chase Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa this year.
Looking even further ahead, new Yankees teenage prospect Jasson Dominguez already has collectors heavily anticipating his autographs. If he puts up good minor league stats, he’ll make the fervor for recent baseball prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. look like nothing.
Trading cards have existed for over 100 years. The hobby as a serious business has been going on for decades. It’s not going anywhere. It may not be as strong in the future as it’s been recently, but it’s still going to be around. Some of the new blood coming into the hobby will likely decide to exit down the road. Whether it’s frustration at bad financial results or just losing interest, not everyone will stay in for the long term. Trading cards are like any other hobby in that they go through periods of popularity and decline. However, as long as the card companies play it smart, the hobby and market will endure and continue for decades to come.
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.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
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