Mint Musings: What Will 2016 Bring? – With 2015 in the books, it got me to thinking about what we can expect from 2016 in the trading card world. As the previous years have taught me, there is no real way to properly predict what the new year will bring, even when we have a list of trading card products and prospective rookies to serve as a blueprint. With that in mind though, here are some things I’m keeping an eye on in 2016.
After several years of being shared among different companies, Panini will gain control of the NFL trading card market as its exclusive license with the NFL and NFLPA will go into place starting with the 2016 season. With this development, every major sport trading card license will be tied to one company with an exclusive. Collector reaction to this development has unsurprisingly been mixed, with more of the feedback seemingly on the negative side. One way or the other, Panini is really going to have to hit it hard and dress to impress with its football products in 2016.
A lot of collectors are going to be upset about Topps’ exit from the football card world, and Panini will have a challenge in trying to convert its hardcore loyalists to buy football from them. As it sits today, a less-than-stellar 2016 NFL prospect class will add heavily to that challenge as the rookie market plays a major part in the sales and flow of product from one year to the next. This may be the single biggest thing to watch this year in the hobby world as it also begs the question of how Topps will fill the void left by its football lines. One way or the other, this is going to make a deep impact in the hobby, possibly more than any of the other sport exclusives.
Another thing to keep an eye on will be the National Sports Collectors Convention. As many of you are aware, its executive director Mike Berkus passed away suddenly this past November. According to some statements from the show, the day-to-day operations are still expected to proceed as normal. Barring something catastrophic, it looks as if the 2016 National in Atlantic City will proceed. That being said, it will bear watching as to how the show will be without Mr. Berkus. While he wasn’t the only talented and hardworking person to ensure its success, I’ve no doubt that his absence will be felt in many ways. Adding to the mix is the speculation of how the show will perform in Atlantic City.
During last year’s show in Chicago, I heard many rumblings that many weren’t crazy about the venue choice due to skepticism that it would not draw in the crowd needed for the show to be successful. Despite some rumored desires from many vendors to move the show to another city such as Philadelphia, it was decided to keep it in Atlantic City. The show’s performance in Atlantic City this year could set the tone for other potential venues in the future. Given the choice, many in the hobby would like to see the National in some different cities other than the usual rotation sites like Chicago and Cleveland. A successful show in 2016 could help pave the way for more venues to become a reality.
Something else worth watching this year will be the interaction between consumers and card companies as it relates to relic cards. Topps recently added an unique element to its Strata Baseball line by including MLB authentication stickers on relic swatches. By looking up the serial number on the sticker, a collector can actually verify the specific game the jersey, from which the swatch was taken, was worn. This is a vast improvement from the generic message that typically accompanies memorabilia cards, basically stating that the relic piece doesn’t come from any specific, game, event or season. Beckett wrote a step-by-step piece on how to use the MLB.com authentication system.
This has been a particular sticking point with me, especially in products like Museum Collection Football, where the lines between game-used and event-used can be very blurred given the amount of first and second-year players in a product. The inclusion of authentication stickers in Strata is a great step in the right direction towards being more informative and transparent with collectors as to where memorabilia pieces originate. I’ll be curious to see if Topps does this with more products and if Panini and Upper Deck implement similar measures with its cards. Given some of the recent controversies with memorabilia swatches on cards, the relic card market could use a boost, and further information and provenance may help provide it.
Finally, I’ll be curious to see what this year’s rookie crop brings to the table. As precarious as it is, the rookie market each year largely defines the success or failure of a trading card line, and often times, the market as a whole. 2015 saw a pretty impressive year for the rookie class, with baseball and hockey in particular seeing the debut of some great players. Hockey is all the more interesting considering that its top prospect, Connor McDavid, has missed extensive time due to injury. Despite that, his sales have still been very impressive as these eBay numbers indicate. The fact that many shops, not just in Canada, but here in the States as well, reported lines waiting for the release of Upper Deck’s flagship hockey product was a welcome sight in the hobby.
Leaf surprised the market when it staked claim to Jack Eichel, which threw a bit of a wrench into the established order of the hockey market. Detroit’s Dylan Larkin has helped add to a successful hockey rookie crop by having an impressive start to his career, spurring sales of his own cards. The same can be said for the Chicago Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin as well as other rookies from the 2015 NHL Draft Class. This has been hockey’s best rookie class in years, and there’s no doubt the folks and Upper Deck and Leaf couldn’t be happier about it. Either way, the 2016 class is going to have a heck of a time trying to top it.
Lead by Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant, baseball had what may have been its best rookie class in years. Beyond them though, the depth of quality in this year’s MLB rookie class was astounding. For a good stretch, it seemed as if teams were churning out top prospects every week, including guys like Carlos Rodon, Byron Buxton and Kyle Schwarber to name a few. While I don’t think the 2016 MLB class will be able to top 2015, there are some intriguing players to keep an eye on. Corey Seager may be the player that anchors this year’s rookie crop in the hobby. There’s already been a lot of buzz around him and the chance to play in a big market like Los Angeles, assuming he’s not traded, never hurts a player’s value.
Anchored by Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker last season, basketball also did fairly well in 2014-15, and the 2015-16 season looks to be off to a good start with Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns and what may be the biggest surprise in Kristaps Porzingis. With the anticipation of Ben Simmons and potentially Buddy Hield declaring for this year’s NBA draft, it could be an intriguing year for basketball cards. If Simmons can put on an impressive performance during March Madness and if LSU makes the tournament, it could certainly add to the frenzy for his early cards.
I touched on this in the beginning, but football is the one sport that is a little concerning. It’s been a rough couple of years for the gridiron since 2012’s class, and the 2016 draft class doesn’t appear overly strong right now. While there are some interesting options in this year’s draft such as Alabama RB Derrick Henry, there doesn’t seem to be a particularly gripping prospect like Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota were last year. That being said, as Odell Beckham Jr. proved a few years ago, it only takes one lightning play to spur hobbyists to buy cards quickly.
Overall, I’ll be curious to see what 2016 brings us in trading cards and memorabilia. It’ll be an interesting year for transition, given the shift with football cards. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I do think 2016 will be a big year in determining the hobby’s future, for better or for worse. Here’s hoping it’s for the better. Either way, good luck with your collections this year. I hope all of you get at least one big pull from a box or add that one specific item that you have been clamoring to have.
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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