Mint Musings: Sticker Shock Causing Some Alarm in the Hobby – One of the biggest gripes in the hobby today is the rising cost of pack and box prices. This is especially true of people who are just getting back into the hobby after having previous experiences of only spending a few dollars, if that, on a pack.
Even among seasoned collectors, there has been an underlying sense of worry that many are being priced out of the trading card world. That notion has intensified in the past few months with the release of high-cost products such as Panini’s Eminence Basketball line and Upper Deck’s All-Time Greats Master Collection multi-sport product.
When Panini first released Flawless Basketball a few years ago, one of the things that got people’s attention was the product’s price tag of well over $1,000 for a single box. Pricey as the product was, it proved to be
popular in the collecting community, leading to an extra year and an expansion into football. I remember thinking what a bold and risky product it was at the time, given the high cost.
Other companies such as Super Break and Heroes of Sport had released much costlier products, and Upper Deck had previously released Master Collection sets with high price tags, but it has been rare for a mainstream trading card company to put out a regular trading card release with such a high cost.
That all changed when Panini released Eminence with its $6,000.00 price tag and only 7-10 cards per box. To say it was a stunner would be an understatement. While it has yielded some fantastic cards, there have been plenty of people who believe that the product didn’t come close to justifying the price. One of my immediate reactions to Eminence was simple in just wondering what would come next. If Panini would dare to release such a pricey product, could a $10,000 product be far behind?
When writing up my predictions column for 2016, I thought about including a bold prediction that we would see a mainstream product retail for at least $10,000. I was getting ready to write but stopped myself, thinking that while a product at that price point was a likely reality, I didn’t think it would come for at least a few more years.
Then Upper Deck came along with its $15,000 Master Collection set, considerably upping the cost ante. While it’s an impressive product with some unique items, a lot of the initial reaction has been shock, and outrage in some cases, at such an expensive product.
While the high prices on products like these are a bit alarming, I’m not inclined to believe they signal the end of the hobby like some are claiming. While rising costs are a worrisome trend that I believe will eventually have to be addressed on a larger scale, products like Eminence and All-Time Greats Master Collection are the exception and not the rule.
They are limited-production products that are geared towards a smaller audience of those with the capital to outright buy the product or breakers who are willing to take a relatively smaller gamble by buying slots. Now, it would be alarming to me if the card companies released their high-cost products while simultaneously announcing they were doing away with their lower-priced releases.
To do so would fuel into the speculation and fervor that a lot of people are being priced out of the market. While there’s no doubt that box prices have risen at sometimes alarming rates, it’s important to keep in mind that there are still good products to be had at economical prices. This is especially true when they’re put on sale at various times throughout the year.
I understand as well as any collector how frustrating it is to see these awesome cards placed into these high-end products and not having the ability to afford them. To me, that’s where the biggest bit of collector anger comes in, seeing the “cream of the crop” of card production being placed into something that the majority of the collecting community can’t hope to buy. While there are lower-cost alternatives to these cards, it can still be a kick in the teeth to see the easier odds of pulling these cards going into high-cost products.
With all this being said, I do find myself concerned at the prospect of what will come next in high-cost products. If Upper Deck releases a $15,000 product now, who’s to say that Panini or Topps won’t come out with a $20,000 product or something even higher than that? I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but it seems that all bets are off when it comes to the ceiling for product prices.
Hopefully, if that does come to pass, the card companies will step up and offer something in the box that offers collectors proper incentive to want to spend that kind of money. One popular idea making the rounds on social media is offering someone a chance to meet an athlete and see their item signed in person. Whatever the next high-priced product is to come on the market, there’s no doubt it will get people talking for better or worse.
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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