Klein’s Korner: Always Know Your Hobby Priorities – Recently, there was a good spirited conversation on Twitter between a couple of people who have a tangential relationship to my role in the hobby. The discussion centered around the question: should one be a collector to be involved in business decisions within our hobby?
When the hobby was uber-popular and there appeared to be a baseball card store on every corner and fifty-cent packs ruled the land. I would have thought the momentum we had would continue for another 25 years. To guide us through the continuation there needed to be hobbyists all over this business since we were still basically purchasing the same items for current collecting and future investing.
In those days with such a pool of collectors, why not have collectors at every point along the way so they would understand what their customers go through? Today, the answer is: not as much as then. And the reasons are two-fold: 1) Our pool of collectors is significantly less than in 1991 so we would become too much of an insular hobby and 2) I want the people doing certain things to be experts in their field and when those fields have nothing with collecting per se, then we’ll trade hobby knowledge for their specific expertise.
What do I mean by that? I mean that when Beckett had 175 employees and as long as we had collectors spread out into all areas of the company then each area had some hobby expertise for everyone to draw upon. However, it certainly helped when the analysts were either collectors or dealers (today we would include breakers) in that grouping and the magazine editors understood how to weave hobby materials into their story. As long as someone working on prices understands how the hobby works does it really matter if he or she is a pure collector. No, it matters they know about the business.
I think this was the issue which for the first time more than 1 million baseball magazines were shipped. Note the card on the lower left corner and the lack of text on the cover.
If you hire a bookkeeper or an accountant, they have to know about the tax laws and other things which they think you can provide. Depending on the company size, they could include seeing if their is funding to assist employees on setting up 401K or FSA accounts or knowing the ramifications of the new tax laws or the Supreme Court decision on interstate internet sales. Those issues are not something most collectors in this business follow in terms of the mundane details. Let the financial professional handle that and let the hobbyists focus on the hobby.
When it comes to shipping; one should ensure the person they hire or use if it is not themselves do a better job than they do. A friend of mine handles all my shipping for me and he is far better at the process than I’ll ever be. In fact, he shipped out a big package for our Adat show for one of our former dealers/donators who purchased 100 bags from us. Bags were picked up on Sunday and I’ll drop off the prize box tomorrow at his office.
He happens to be a collector and since the beginning of the year I’ve given him a monster box of pre-1980 commons and will give him a monster box of Heritage commons of all years. He will be using those cards to send mail away autographs which is his current collecting passion. But for those many years he really did not collect, he still did a great job doing all my shipping and his ability as a shipper was why I would use him.
If you have a store and do not have any other income, you better not be a collector anymore. Once you become a full-time store owner, show vendor or mail-order dealer you better not be a collector. Being a collector could mean any profit you garner goes to your collection instead of important aspects such as the electric bills or rent. If you don’t take care of those details, you can’t keep your store open so you have to know your priorities. My dad was a vest-pocket stamp dealer before I was born but he subscribed to various stamp publications and the advice was always the same. If you are a dealer. do not be a collector!
A Random Cover from a 1940’s Stamp Magazine
Here is an even better example of why you don’t want everyone involved in the hobby to be collectors. Last year, when the Industry Summit was in Dallas we took a tour of where Panini produces their cards. The production facility was fascinating (and I could walk there from my office) but do you really want collectors on the production line? You really don’t because you don’t want material disappearing before it arrives in packs.
Ergo, hiring an honest printing press and employees could be a case where you don’t want any collectors because the less they know about the hobby. I remember back in the 1980’s one of the dealers I would regularly see at shows seemingly had a never-ending supply of 1985 Topps Kirby Puckett rookies at $2 each. He would only sell 10 at a time to anyone but the supply never seemed to cease. Do you really want someone taking out some of the really good Panini inserts and selling them before they hit packs?
Perfect timing for this 1974 photo of ladies on the Topps production line to be released.
So there are tons of other opinions as well and other aspects of this business and you could make your own arguments either way. This is a jumping-off point and not the be all and end all column. Love to hear other opinions from our readers.
For more from Rich Klein, follow him on Twitter @sabrgeek.
Klein’s Korner: Always Know Your Hobby Priorities