Saturday, August 23, 2008

Musings of How to Improve the Hobby - A Top 10 List

Originally written by myself for

This is not going to be a rehashing of the same tired issues that seem so prevalent on Hobby blogs and message boards today. (Don't get me wrong though, the beefs are legitimate.) Instead, I offer constructive criticism and innovative ideas to add value, substance, style and merit to this hobby we love so much. In some cases, these comments will be geared to particular products, and others more generic in nature.

10. Topps Moments and Milestones- This product, if it were to have continued, was crying out for a complete overhaul. For starters, reduce the number of parallels drastically in this and all products; they are becoming beyond gimmicky and losing their secondary market value year after year. Second, eliminate the vast majority of rookies from the autograph checklist. They are rookies, so for the most part, how could they have possibly had a truly memorable moment or milestone at this point in their career? Third, return relic cards to the product however, to add to the theme and title of the product, shouldn’t those game-used pieces be taken from jerseys actually worn during said moment or milestone game? (For more on this concept over-all see #2)

9. When Hollywood and celebrity insert cards are utilized within a product, those inserts should be value added and not replace memorabilia and/or autographs of players from the sport the brand is intended for. In addition, it is not enough to simply produce a generic card with a swatch of celebrity material, WITH NO PICTURE OF THE CELEBRIY. (See this years’ Piece of Hollywood insert set debuting in Piece of History by Upper Deck.)

8. What happened to retired only player products? When the MLBPA changed the licensing agreement a few years ago it specified a reduction not only in the number of total products but also put a cap on the number of retired only player brands that could be produced which wasn’t zero. So what gives? SP Legendary Cuts has become a shadow of its former self. Yes the licensing deal with CMG, which handles licensing of many retired Hall of Famers, hurt Upper Deck’s ability to produce a set like they have with this brand in the past, but what is with the inclusion of active, modern players? That’s just wrong and a travesty to the legacy of this once great brand.

7. Not every product needs a historical, celebrity or political insert set. This is not going to drive sales. It might create cheap PR in mainstream circles but few people, if any, are going to enter the market simply because of the inclusion of these types of inserts. Less is more.

6. Penalize dealers and hobby shops that sell manufacturer supplied incentive material on eBay. The purpose of these programs isn’t to throw the retailer a freebie to make a couple hundred bucks but to drive traffic to their store. The hobby had been clamoring for years for the card companies to help them in that regard and now some have taken advantage of that goodwill and should be punished accordingly.

5. I may not have the answer but something needs to be done about the over abundance and therefore devaluing of retired player autographs. Every time Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Cal Ripken and others appear for an autograph session and signing fee, the value of those signatures goes down. It’s simple Econ: 101, the law of supply vs. demand. Can someone pay these guys a yearly fee to NOT sign PLEASE? (See Bob Feller)

4. Something has to give. Either the Rookie Card Logo or brands like Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects. To have these two contradictory entities in existence doesn’t do anything to clarify the confusion of the rookie card issue that “the logo” attempted to address a few years ago. The MLPBA needs to pick a lane and stay there because as long as those brands still exist, collectors are going to acknowledge a player’s “true RC” as having come from one of the aforementioned brands. Why? See Albert Pujols 2001 Bowman Chrome RC.

3. Bring back a multi-sport product. Five years ago, Upper Deck took on a very daunting task by aligning all four major sports’ licensing bodies as well as golf and NASCAR into a single product called SuperStars. The majority of the collecting public did not receive this brand very well. I however, was not in that group. I am a sports fan and a collector. In truth, the number of exclusive sports fans probably outnumbers those that are also collectors by what 10 to 1? I think this product was simply marketed wrong. Utilizing channels of distribution outside the hobby and the big box retailer’s trading card aisle, this type of product if marketed correctly, could appeal to the sports fan and serve as a “cross-over” product that might turn the fan into a collector. Some of the inserts in 2003 such as “Keys to the City” had only limited appeal and a short shelf life due to factors such as trades and free agency. However, what if this product was produced yearly and sold by sport exclusive pack, city specific set, and traditional hobby boxes? It’s very easy to see packs containing stars from the Atlanta Hawks, Falcons, Braves and Thrashers hanging in the checkout line as an impulse item at area stores in Georgia. The regional distribution would also add to the collectability of the product as secondary market values outside those geographic specific areas, housing out of state fans would most likely, be willing to pay a premium.

2. While this is a topic discussed and commented on with regularity, I have read very little in the way of a solution. The over abundance of memorabilia and relic cards. I am not one of those collectors who hates jersey or bat cards. I still like them but it’s time for a change. Small, single color swatches should be relegated to entry level products only. The new standard for jersey cards in mid-level products should be larger 2-3 color swatches and jumbo 4+ color patches in premium products. Not even player collectors want yet another grey road jersey swatch. I also want specifics on where the jersey came from, i.e. “The jersey material on the front of this card was obtained from a game-used jersey worn by John Doe during the 2007 season.” Or even better would be, “The jersey material on the front of this card was obtained from a game-used jersey worn by John Doe during a game against the Cardinals on June 16th 2006. John Doe went 2 for 4 with a run scored and a stolen base.” Talk about bringing you closer to the game!! In addition, increase the use of the seldom utilized batting helmet, fielding glove, batting gloves, and ball cap. Use the same guidelines as above to provide provenance to the relic card. Come on guys add some validity and creativity to the memorabilia card, PLEASE.

1. Stop utilizing the same picture in multiple products. This is a must! If this isn’t a sign of sheer laziness and disregard for what the card companies are producing I don’t know what is.

So there you have it, 10+ viable things that manufacturers can do to bring back some of the luster, thrill, collectability and value to our hobby. Will they listen?? We’ll see.


Gellman said...

Thanks for condensing six months of my blog into one post...

Just playing around, you really have a good list here.

dayf said...

10 - M&M is dead for 2009. I agree the number of rookie autographs have been ridiculous this year and it seems like the same ones were in every set.

9 - Agree.

8 - I also miss having a Legends only set. Even though I couldn't afford many of them in the past that were sold in tins or 4 cards for 10 bucks packs, it was fun to pick up the base cards cheap after the case rippers got done.

7 - Agree. 2008 Goudey didn't need presidents.

6 - Agree.

5 - Disagree. The demand for autographs is there and if Bob Feller can cash in on that more power to him. In 10-20 years many of these guys won't be around anymore so let 'em sign while they can.

4 - The Rookie card Logo is a scam cooked up by UD And Topps to squeeze Donruss out of the market. A huge part of the problem is that the "official rookie card" designation has changed drastically because Beckett kept moving the goal posts. Back in the early days, Update sets had "XRC" rookies and the base set card was the real rookie. Then in the '90s sometime, Update set rookie became ok somehow, but insert cards were not real rookies. Then when the serial numbered rookie craze hit those became rookie cards even though they were horribly short printed inserts that most people couldn't find. If they had just stuck to First Base Card = Rookie, Everything Else = XRC there wouldn't be a problem, but Beckett screwed it all up (probably to pander to their advertisers).

3 - Multi Stort products just don't sell. There are very few collectors who collect everything and baseball collectors just don't want basketball cards in their packs. Look at the uproar over the new Multi-sport Beckett and other sports in sets like A&G and Goudey for examples of that.

2 - Relics have turned into just another insert card. The hobby is in a really bad spot because of this, which is why they are throwing celebrities and presidents and hair into their set to try keep collectors coming back.

1 - AMEN BROTHA. Topps especially has sucked recently in their photography.

Gellman said...

Topps photos have been borderline amateur lately. I have major problems with that direction.

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