Mint Musings: Observations from the Industry SummitMint Musings: Observations from the Industry Summit – Over the course of the last few days, representatives from the trading card industry and several shop owners have been meeting at this year’s Industry Summit. In recent years, the annual event has been held in Las Vegas.

However, this year’s conference was moved to Hawaii in honor of the show’s 30th anniversary and its origins there. As is typically the case with the Summit, there has been a lot of news coming out that will affect collectors and the industry as a whole moving forward.

I unfortunately was not able to attend this year’s show but thanks to the miracle of social media and online transcripts, I was able to keep up with this year’s happenings. That said, here is my take on some of the bigger issues that transpired at the 2016 Industry Summit.

Panini dropped arguably the biggest news with the announcement they’ll be producing NASCAR cards this year. Vacant since Press Pass’ closure, there has been a small, but consistent clamoring for the return of NASCAR trading cards ever since. The news has predictably been met with mixed reviews from the collecting community. On the plus side, there are fans who are ecstatic at the return of NASCAR to the card community. On the flip side, there are collectors who are worried about a plethora of sticker autographs and redemptions with Panini products.

Given that Press Pass was almost entirely an on-card, no-redemption company with its NASCAR products,Mint Musings: Observations from the Industry Summit it’s easy to understand why collectors have high expectations and some trepidation. I think Panini is going the smart route in only announcing four products off the bat. As good a job as Press Pass did with NASCAR, it’s a property that can get repetitive quickly due to the relatively smaller amount of bankable names and the lack of infusion of new drivers.

Having a bit of a break in between releases has helped to settle the market a little more and should, theoretically, help rebuild demand. I’m also not concerned about redemptions as Panini revealed live versus redemption inclusion numbers at the Summit that were actually fairly impressive. According to their numbers, all of their live autograph rates for their four major product lines rates were over 95% last year. As far as stickers in forthcoming NASCAR products go, that’s a distinct possibility, especially given the products they were announced for, so that may be a pill that has to be swallowed.

Mint Musings: Observations from the Industry SummitTopps also made a big announcement of their own in declaring the return of National Baseball Card Day in 2016. It’s currently expected to happen this summer around the All-Star Game. Similar in concept to Upper Deck’s National Hockey Card Day, it allows collectors to receive a free pack of cards, with a final card available via purchase. Hobby reaction to this announcement has seemingly been universally positive, with even representatives from Upper Deck praising the announcement.

From my end, I can’t think of any complaints with this. Promotions like National Hockey Card Day have been great for the hobby in getting people into more shops and raising more awareness. It’s fantastic to see another sport in the fold again with baseball.

While handing out their awesome autographs to attendees, Upper Deck revealed some more about their hockey strategy for the next year as well as announcing the revamp for Goodwin Champions. Upper Deck has taken some heat for their lack of licensing, but I’ve always felt they do a heck of a job with what they have, especially when it comes down to hockey. They announced a new hockey brand for this season in Upper Deck Portfolio Hockey. This release appears to be full of some sweet hockey hits, and it will be interesting to see how it does among the collecting community.

Leaf also made some waves with more high-profile autograph acquisitions. I do have to admit I was surprised by their announcement that they had come to terms with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for Daisy Ridleyautographs. While there will undoubtedly be the usual grumbling of how the cards will have less value due to not including NFL logos, I do think it will give more collectors a chance to own Brady’s autograph at a more cost-efficient price.

Even more surprising was their acquisition of Star Wars star Daisy Ridley for their upcoming Pop Century line. Leaf CEO Brian Gray was quoted as saying that the cost they paid for her autograph was higher than any other female entertainer they’ve signed in the past, including Britney Spears. Somewhat surprisingly, Leaf also announced they aren’t planning on doing baseball products in 2016, so it will be interesting to see how that impacts the market.

There was also a licensing panel made up of representatives from the card companies and the sports leagues. One of the topics brought up was related to trading card exclusives among the various companies. Based on the transcript of the panel, it doesn’t seem as if exclusives will be going away any time soon. In particular, Karen Bush-Austin of the NFLPA remarked how they are looking forward to working with Panini once their exclusive takes effect in a few weeks.

Interestingly though, Marty McQuaig of the NHLPA did say that if there was a push in the market for more licenses, they would address it at that time. Either way, if you’re not a fan of exclusives with the card companies, it seems you are out of luck for the foreseeable future. One other interesting thing out of the panel was the large amount of agreement as to the importance of digital card properties in the future. I’m not the biggest proponent of online cards, but as the interest in them continues to grow, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them.

Whatever feelings you have about the Industry Summit, it is one of the biggest news making events in the hobby and helps to serve roughly as a halfway point to the National in August. While some things do unfortunately seem to remain constant in the card world, I do feel that some of the changes enacted in the past couple of years have helped to shape a better future. We’ll just all have to wait and see how all of the announcements at this year’s Industry Summit unfold throughout 2016.

Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan as the producer of ESPN’s Mint Condition has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on the hobby in Mint Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.

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