Klein’s Korner: How Will Corona Virus Impact The Hobby? – Do you remember where you were on August 12, 1994. I sure do. Why? Well because I was headed to upstate New York for a three-day show trip, followed by a few days with my father and then attending the East Coast National. And do you know why I remember that date so well? Well, as it developed, it was the first day of what would be the longest baseball winter with no games until 1995.
At the first show I attended, I did find the area’s “market maker” and as we were talking he mentioned there had been absolutely no interest in any of the players we considered “HOT” in terms of baseball cards. Now I could understand if the interest in Jeff Bagwell had decreased since his wrist had been broken two days ago but there was also no interest in Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr. or anyone else who might be young and popular.
Griffey had just belted his 40th homer the night before and we were all hoping this would be a weekend blip and everyone would return. Little did we know what would really occur. While there was nothing I could find on YouTube of August 11, 1994, there are these highlights from two days before the strike. Notice the Bagwell injury is included in this clip:
The saddest part of this long winter was in addition to losing the conclusion of the 1994 season we also lost a good deal of the 1994-95 hockey season. While I understand why some people in NHL management might have thought the hockey lockout was a good idea I always thought it was a lost opportunity.
Why? Well remember you sill wanted to have nightly sports programming and for the month of October, hockey would have nearly center stage except for football and then only have to share with the NBA. Instead of trying to save some money, I thought one should realize what a great marketing opportunity this was for the NHL and go full steam ahead. This is a great article from Grantland which espouses what I just said in more detail and nuance.
I personally think with more than 25 years in the rear-view mirror we can consider this the first real hobby winter. Although there had been some bumps and a few minor setbacks over the 1977-94 time period, the hobby as a whole had experienced nearly two full decades of explosive growth. While the print numbers for Beckett Baseball were down slightly from the 1993 peak in which more than a million copies were printed each month, the interest in the latest Beckett prices was still at or near the peak in August, 1994. And yes, the store count was probably down a bit from what we projected at 30,000 or so in 1991 there were probably still 25,000 in the summer of 1994.
Needless to say after this first hobby winter, all these total were significantly reduced. And while it’s cliche to say the Internet played a big role at the same time, in reality it was probably 2-3 years before most dealers understood and started selling more through non-traditional (read shows, stores and mail order) selling ways. Of course, today if you sell a card from your website or post cards for sale on eBay or COMC or any of the other myriad ways of selling things you are doing what is perfectly normal.
Again, with some bumps. most notably the great recession of 2008, the hobby has been on an upward track since 1995. The question is, will this Corona Virus situation just be a short-term blip or will this set up what was projected to be our next version of “winter is coming.” And, to be totally honest with you, I have not a clue how this will play out. Will this end shows for a short or long term? Will this reduce how, or even if, we make trips to our LCS? Will the unemployment figures get so high that more collectors will need, as a good hobby friend of mine surmises, that they cards are going to be sold cheaply so they can afford true necessities?
So far, everyone I know is doing this as to how they feel it is best to handle. I actually stopped by two of my local card shops today to purchase 3,200 ct. boxes for the massive mount of cards donated recently and they both will honor whatever local government wishes. Joe Davis posted he is closing his retail outlet while Mike Fruitman posted various changes to how he does things. Also, and I understand his frustration on the subject, Kyle Robertson had to cancel his very successful monthly show. I did post congratulations on doing the right thing but one thing about shows is they bring people together with a common bond and now that’s gone for a while. There’s a hurt to not being to say hi to my hobby friends and fellow dealers.
I just want to conclude by saying, I wish I had the magic bullet for the hobby future but I’m cautiously optimistic. Many collectors will have more time at home and without sports they will delve into cards. And if you have the money for cards I suspect your buying power will be far more than you anticipated. One major positive about this for the hobby as opposed to 1994 is neither the players nor owners are at fault and thus there is no reason to be angry at anyone and the good will towards sports figures will last a bit longer.
As for me, I’ll be working as long as I can, and may adapt my writings to more of the nostalgic times because we will all want to remember the good times and not worry about the world around us. And I’ll leave you with this tweet which won the internet earlier this week.
For more from Rich Klein, follow him on Twitter @sabrgeek.
Rich’s vast experience and knowledge of the hobby has been well documented through the years. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Klein’s Korner. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
Klein’s Korner: How Will Corona Virus Impact The Hobby?
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