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  • State of the HOBBY

    Is card collecting dead?

    The site's activity is way down and it seems like more and more people are getting out of the hobby these days. There are many things to consider why this is happening. Lots of negatives driving down the fun hobby

    #1 The economy being what it is most people are either out of work or just don't have the extra money to spend on a box/pack of cards.

    #2 Lack of competition - Collectors use to complain about too many sets being produced by 5+ brands. Now it seems with just 2 major players, things are lacking and it's driving people away.

    #3 Cost vs reward - Pack/Wax pricing has reached a ridiculous plateau. Your not going to capture young collectors when it costs $10+ for a pack of cards. The companies are looking to maximize profits now and that's fine since there are still a large enough pool of collectors like myself that have been doing it for 20+ years. But Topps and Panini need to scout the local shows and see what's going on. The attendance is lacking in the 7 to 15 year olds. Compare it to no longer having a minor league farm system, once your current players retire you have nobody waiting in the wings to replace them.

    #4 Postage costs - It use to cost under $1 to send out a nice stack of cards to a fellow collectors. Now it's almost twice that amount for a single card. The USPS isn't helping the situation any, but this really only factors for the set collector who relies on sites like this to complete their sets. We no longer trade for single cards unless it finishes a set.

    These are just my opinions, please share your thoughts.
    Comments 53 Comments
    1. rotorob's Avatar
      rotorob -
      Pete Ė
      Good thought provoking questions.

      The short answer is no, it is not dead, but has changed drastically over time. Iíll address my opinions in the order you raise the questions\comments.

      Down economy. The high end of the market doesnít seem to have been affected by the economy, many, certified autographs especially, cards sell in excess of $100 each, quality vintage is available, but the price is steep, rare cards of star players still bring a great payoff. Having said that, the low end of the market is nearly dead. Set builders, team and player collectors are the ONLY market for base cards, and they need only 1 to a maximum of 3 (one each for the set, team and player) base cards. The rest sit in boxes.

      Even with only 2 major players, there are still more sets that come out each year than I (and probably other collectors) can keep up with. Topps Series 1, 2 and Update, Topps mini, Gypsy Queen, Bowman, Bowman Chrome, Bowman Draft, Allen & Ginter, Archives, Tribute, Sterling, Triple Threads, Museum, 5-Star, Tier One, Opening Day, Topps Chrome, Finest, Sticker Collection, Heritage, Heritage Minors, Pro Debut, Bowman Platinum, and Iím sure after listing 20+ brands that I missed a few. Not to mention differences in how they are bought, retail, hobby, on-line exclusives, redemptions for even more sets. Just typing that makes my head spin. I collect several players, but doubt that I could get 1 BASE card from all brands of the guys I collect from each set; letís not get started on parallels, inserts, game used, autos etc, etc, etc. If youíre trying to be a player, team or set collector, it is nearly impossible to complete a single yearís worth of stuff. Iím not advocating going back to the early 80ís one base set and hundreds of little oddball sets, but something has to give. It is similar to a game, if it is too easy people will lose interest, if it is impossible people will lose interest; the game must be challenging, difficult even, but not impossible.

      This is where the rubber meets the road. In my area (Louisville, KY) there is a monthly card show an hour away (Lexington), 2 roughly quarterly card shows here in town, a monthly show in each of 2 places roughly 2 hours away (Indy and Cincy), plus a major show about twice a year at Moeller High School. My experience (not scientific) is that most of these shows thrive on dealer to dealer sales. The true collector is a rare breed. I set up at a few of these places and will buy cards I think will trade well here or fit my PC, other dealers buy from me because I have cards one of their customers (or dealer buddies) will buy from them. The kids I see at the shows are no different. If the card does not carry a large book value, there is not much interest. I have encountered resistance to GIVING low bv cards to kids at shows, they are polite enough with a ďno thanksĒ, but still.

      The only way I can think of to re-invigorate the hobby is to engage the true collector. The person where just owning the card(s) because of their sporting passion is exceeded by any monetary value the card may have. This is much easier said than done.

      Box\pack prices have something to do with this because if we spend $x on a box, we expect $x value out of the box. We are all elated when we have that big hit, even if it is not a player or team we collect. We are elated because we have that gambling thrill of beating the house.

      I covered this a bit in #1 about base cards sitting in boxes, but the postage prices do have impact. I have several times not replied to threads where set builders were trying to complete sets because the cards I would receive in return would be bought for less than the postage amount to send my end of the trade. In that scenario, I spend more cash AND deplete trade bait than if I just bought the cards I would be receiving outright.

      I still love the hobby, Iíve tried to pass that love onto my children, but cardboard isnít nearly as exciting as their Nintendo 3DS or Netflix. Because of some of the reasons listed above, my trading is sharply down from when I first joined the site. Part of it is that my needs have narrowed, part is sometimes I donít match up with other traders and part is a little bit of all of the above factors.

      My $.02
      Thanks for letting me sound off.
    1. BoomerSooner's Avatar
      BoomerSooner -
      I don't think the hobby is dead, nor dying. I think we're seeing a natural curve of activity here- site traffic may be down in relation to what new product is/isn't available. if it's still down when 2013 Topps pops in a few weeks, then there should be concern. I personally think product drives this hobby now and if there isn't one that stimulates sales, trading and collecting, then we all feel it.
      2012 was not a banner year for products- besides Heritage, Ginter & Archives (FanFavorites), there wasn't a groundbreaking new product that people HAD to have, IMO, nor one at a nominal price point.
      A few weeks ago, I posted a question regarding the lack of new product on store shelves and how it was affecting us, creating boredom with the hobby- I just feel that the products that aren't licensed- without logos, uniforms, etc, will never, ever replace what we have come to call baseball cards. And that lack of competitive product does hurt the hobby.
      I think traffic will flux with new product, but it's becoming harder & harder to trade stuff, and I'm not sure why.
    1. greyminis's Avatar
      greyminis -
      When baseball starts, trading will pick up with the new releases.
    1. grinningplowman's Avatar
      grinningplowman -
      I will always believe that the hobby of sports and gaming cards trading is the absolute KEY to rejuvenation of your youth! I will be 52 years old next year,and have NO gray hair,NO wrinkles,and NO doubt that I will be the same at 72..I hope to open up an old-fashioned brick and mortar store by the time I am 72...and live forever to pursue every new product that comes along...So,in other words...the hobby is dead,or dying..but I am not
    1. dp33's Avatar
      dp33 -
      I think everyone has made great points, but I find myself a bit rejuvenated by the fact that I have now added football cards to my collection. Partly due to the insane publicity of this year's rookie class, and partly due to the fact that my LCS has way more football collectors than baseball collectors. I've started opening more football packs at pack wars nights, and of course Packermania is (was) running high, so it's just been kind of a natural progression into football.

      I have to say that football really blows baseball out of the water in terms of what I find appealing in cards. Certainly having more licensed companies is the number 1 reason, as I'm with most people in having no to little interest in the logoless non-Topps baseball cards. To someone who has been collecting footballl for a long time, maybe there is a boredom to it by now, but I find lots of the ideas fresh and interesting. Football has certainly done a nice job of filling in the baseball lull for me for the last few months.

      ** I don't have a lot to add about Pete's original points as I agree with what's been said already, but I will touch on the youth movement. It is pretty nice that at my LCS, our Pack Wars nights every 2 weeks have anywhere from about 5 to 10 kids in attendance (out of anywhere from 15 to 30 total people). Lots of dads (and some moms) coming into the store with kids, and the kids are really enthused about cards. I will say that there aren't that many kids at the monthly show, and agree with Rob that I bet a lot of it is dealer-to-dealer transactions. I probably spend around $50 to $75 at each show, so no one is making a killing off of me there.
    1. JDOE's Avatar
      JDOE -
      The hobby certainly isn't dead. It has changed, but the hobby has changed several times and I bet will change again in the future. I just hope future changes and generations improve upon the industry.

      I think the hobby of card collecting (much like any business in general) is much like the line on a heart monitor, or the serrated edge of a saw blade or even a stock's performance. It's erratic, with ups and downs. Different factors play a part in creating peaks and valleys.

      As far as a card company goes, I imagine there is a fine line between making a profit off of a product line while attempting to retain value in the product and meeting the targeted market's demands of quality and satisfaction for the right price. Manufacturers will try new things or tweak favorites to make money and keep things fresh and interesting. Forget competitors. Their own myriad line of products compete against each other.

      If I could change some things, limiting the amount of products while concentrating on improving quality and desirability, would be my first wish. I will admit at least many times it makes it easy and affordable to find cheap cards of players and sets I collect because the market is over-saturated with products. It's just finding the quality stuff out of the ocean of fluff that makes it difficult, if not fun.

      I have no real complaints about the card collecting community in general, though. So far, all of my interactions with collectors online and the infrequent times in person have all been positive and fun. I know from the other trading sites I'm on (same screen name) that it does look like the hobby has slowed. I don't know if interest in the hobby has slowed. I'd say it's more of a slump, where lack of money has led to more interest in "safer" investments like high-end, vintage, hof autos, etc..

      I do find myself just talking more about the hobby now, since I too can't afford to buy like I used to love to do. I've refined my tastes and just enjoy talking about cards more now.
    1. VeRTiGo91's Avatar
      VeRTiGo91 -
      I agree with the statements above, once 2013 baseball sets start coming out, we'll spike up in site participation. I usually use the off season to finish the holes in sets from the previous year. It does seem to get a little variety in companies making sets, mostly baseball. It's hard to track down SP's, and even SSP's are out of a lot of collector's budgets with a strapped income. Our LCS has odd hours, it's in a storage facility..you have to call first to see if he's open, and get the 6 digit number for the security gate! That takes some of the fun of going out, especially if he's closed. He sponsors the card shops we have in town, but like stated above, mostly football. I've gotten into more than baseball, but it's just disappointing when young collectors can't even afford 2 packs of cards.

      We'll get out of this funk-slump, just wait til opening day!!
    1. rrd111's Avatar
      rrd111 -
      I was thinking about this last night after I read it and I have a feeling some of it is due to when specific releases come out..most of Topps main sets are out by Summer with the exception of the bowman products which are later in the year. In my opinion the last big set that collectors really want was Allen & Ginter or Archives (I forget when they both launched) but I know A&G at least was out in June-July. their other big sets, Topps, Gypsy Queen and Heritage are all out by April-May. The only set that really got my interest was Topps Update but I really passed on the Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome & Draft products as I feel like they are getting more and more watered down. With that being said I would expect a spike starting next week and lasting until at least the summer as the bigger releases are coming out and baseball season is starting.
    1. Tankp's Avatar
      Tankp -
      There are a ton of dishonest people you feel a sense of uncertainty in trading. Unless you see they have a safe track record. Then again how long is someone supposed to hang around for? That is totally up to the person collecting. I have done it for 46 years it's time to do something else I enjoy. Leave this for the young kids, they
      have the time and energy to invest. In my opinion this was meant for the kids. There comes in a time when people say enough is enough. You are not married to the cards. Once it losses it luster it's time to look for something else to do with your time. In my opinion the money you have to spend today it's a bit much for plenty of parents to spend on baseball cards today. With the uncertainty in the weak economy that doesn't help either.
    1. Dilferules's Avatar
      Dilferules -
      I feel like site activity has been way down since the board changeover in September. Is it possible that some people got confused or frustrated and just left? I feel like I'm still making a decent amount of trades, but it's with fewer and fewer people.
    1. Champs96ws's Avatar
      Champs96ws -
      It was already in decline before the change over. I'm sure some people didn't like the change (lot's of people in general are opposed to change). Nothing I can do about that, if you don't like it move on, but the site is still the same, links are in different places and it takes a bit to get readjusted.

      Then I was told we know look and feel just like the "other" sites. Well then if that's the case, you would think they are already use to the layout

      We didn't re invent the wheel. Just wanted to bring the software up to date (old site was at the end of cycle and no longer supported) and some new tools/features (blogs,albums).

      We shall see when baseball season picks up and the new sets hit the market.
    1. Dilferules's Avatar
      Dilferules -
      Not blaming you for changing it, I like how it looks right now. I just noticed some people complaining at the time and it seemed like a steep drop-off in the week or so after the change, or when the site went down for a couple days. To be honest though, in my experience it has slowly been coming back since that low point. Don't know if that's what the overall numbers show but I have been making a good amount of trades in the past couple months even without prowling posts 24/7.

      This is the only site I trade on and I've thought of trying trading on other boards as well, but I haven't gotten great first impressions. I wonder if other trade sites have had similar declines? It seemed to me like the hobby overall had a strong year in 2012, but it was really prospect/rookie focused and the traders on this site seem to be more oriented towards set/team/player collecting (which is why I'm here).
    1. JJLevitsky's Avatar
      JJLevitsky -
      My trading has been down but not for the reasons you note. I have been SUPER busy with work and there are no sets that I am really working on at the moment. What little free time I have right now I want to spend with my family. I should pick back up some next week or the week after when Series 1 comes out but it will slow again right after I finish up what I am looking for. I just dont have time right now to search out trades for things I might want but dont really need for a set. Because of this, my Red Sox collection has suffered a bit but my sets streak is alive and well - 2013 will be my 44th Topps set year and I have all of the Heritage and A & G sets. Really looking forward to those 2 this year.
    1. brewerfan34's Avatar
      brewerfan34 -
      I’m glad some of the members here have optimism about site traffic and 2013 baseball releases, I don’t share that optimism. I realize that at 4.5 years I haven’t been around as long as some of the members here but I have been active the entire time trading a few times each month. The drop off of member activity has been huge; some threads in the “sitting on the bench” section will go without comments and less than a dozen views, 4 years ago that would have been near impossible. To blame it on the new site layout is hogwash by the way, members should be grateful that Pete puts so much effort in the site.
      It think it is a combination of money, time required for the hobby, and an ageing base of collectors. The unfortunate side effect is a growing lack quality traders. As long as there is online trading there will be collectors that do not reply to PM’s or say they will complete trades and never do. HOWEVER, the last six months have been horrible in regards to traders that tell you they want your cards and will make you a deal and never do. Also traders with a sub 5.0 trader rating seem not to care anymore, in the past a 4.8 or a 4.9 rating would be the mark of the beast and the trader would do whatever he/she could to get back to a 5.0…not anymore. The lack of quality traders is easily what is keeping me from trading more, I simply do not have the time to PM back and forth to get blown off by the other trader.
      I hope this is just the bottom of the curve of the industry, I would really like my son to trade cards in a few years.

    1. ian_kell's Avatar
      ian_kell -
      Good points above and only one to add, it is becoming harder and harder being based in the UK as no one seems to want to trade over here purely because of postage.I am sick of hearing oh i dont want to trade with you cause your not in America! I pay those costs as well!

    1. marinersfan's Avatar
      marinersfan -
      I haven't been here as long as most of you and i have been very active in trading and unfortunantly my 5.0 went to a 4.8 which was my fault even though i have other feelings about that trader i left them good ratings but they left me something other than 5's but that's okay it hasn't affected my trading and my mission is to get my 5.0 rating back no matter how long it takes. I love this hobby that is why i am chasing 4 different chrome rainbows now it's a fun challenge.
    1. mlbfan85's Avatar
      mlbfan85 -
      i agree economy does help as well as lack of a youth movement within the hobby although i am trying my 2 and 3 yer old loves opening their cards and watching me open mine. I have added mms, racing and hockey to my list of collecting and have enjoyed the additions although MMA is a little pricy and hard for me to find.

      My big problem is i will ask questions or ask for recommendations and some time never get anything. I think you will see a lot of increase as tops releases but we need a few more brands then just topps and paniani to make cards
    1. ArodYanksFan's Avatar
      ArodYanksFan -
      If you look at my trades they have been dwindling. I spent a lot of time on Ebay selling off a lot of my cards and selling them on other sites. I needed some extra cash and needed to clear room fast. Now that I have my collection back down to a manageable size, I'm going to be focusing on finishing my sets.

      The cost has gone way up and I do think that it's having a very real impact on collectors. But it didn't kill the hobby. Mass production, to many set, costs of cards and cost of shipping has all had an effect on the hobby. I'm not sure which to blame more. But I remember in the early 2000s when you pulled an Auto or GU card it was a shock of a lifetime. Now when people pull a 1/1 it's not even that exciting (For those who bust a lot of product). It's been over kill in my opinion in the hobby.

      I have also seen with trading that everyone wants to trade "UP" and trade base for autographes, then when someone says no, they get offended and stop trading with them. So with that attitude, I think trading is becoming so much harder for so many of us.

      I don't know though, the whole world is a mess haha
    1. Braves95's Avatar
      Braves95 -
      Mine is strictly a time commitment problem. Once I started back to school, along with this past summer's work schedule (coming summer will be worse), my time commitment to the site, in general, has dwindled to nothing. I still love the hobby, love trading and love the site but it may be awhile before I can trade more than 1-2 a month.
      I suppose my argument is the economy caused me to change directions in my career and life and that has altered my trading habits.
    1. bouncer's Avatar
      bouncer -
      I spend most of my time on another site, but one thing I noticed about the hobby is the cost of boxes has turned off a lot of collectors. For example, topps is going to be released tomorrow and a jumbo box is over $100 or I can buy the entire base set on e-bay for $20. I enjoy busting boxes, but I find I’m not getting as much value for my cards as I have in the past. That’s just my opinion.