Thursday, May 17, 2012

On-Demand Trading Cards- Your Thoughts?

If you could order the exact trading cards you wanted from every product released, direct from the manufacturer, would you spend more or less on cards than you currently do? 

Many collectors have abandoned box purchasing in favor of waiting for the cards they want to appear on the secondary market through a source like eBay or Check Out My Cards. While the manufacturers may have already made their money on the boxes purchased from whence these cards were pulled, are they leaving money on the table by not offering singles direct? Is it just the fact that fulfillment would be a logistical nightmare or are they afraid of loss of box sales in doing so? 

The formula for any given product consists of a ratio between big hits from star players to the worthless jerseys and scrub autos to produce enough boxes to meet a desired print run and therefore gross margin. However, what if manufactures in “hit” oriented products simply eliminated base cards, parallels and inserts and sold the hits direct to the collector? 

Manufacturing costs would drop in terms of labor, packaging and materials, albeit costs would potentially increase on customer service due to fulfillment but certainly not to the excess that you wouldn’t save any money in doing so. 

So the question is, could a manufacturer make enough money to meet their revenue goals on the hits alone to employee this model? I don’t know but I’d sure like to see someone give it a try. 

How nice would it be to look at a sell sheet and/or checklist identify the auto, patch, or other cards you want and purchase them direct with no waiting for their availability or middleman. I have no problem going from the concept that “this card is limited to just 10 copies” to “we will make this card for whoever wants it at x price”. 

I might be crazy but who knows. What do you think?

9 comments:

Kev said...

i like to open packs of cards.

lifetimetopps said...

I would spend less, because I likely wouldn't buy much new stuff if I couldn't buy packs/boxes of the product, I probably wouldn't collect it. I'm a set collector, and while I'm probably now the minority, it's not an insignificant minority. I like opening packs - and I think a lot of collectors still do to.

I think you've made a couple of generalizations that I don't 100% agree with. Disagree would be too strong, because the landscape certainly has changed.

Yes, hits are often the most important thing driving value. But not the only thing - at least not in every product. What about a product like Topps Heritage that doesn't have a great prospect of a big hit, but does sell very well - and SP's always sell for 2-3 bucks.

And yes, many collectors have stopped buying wax - but there still are plenty who still do.

lifetimetopps said...

Topps tried a version of this - eTopps - that obviously didn't make them enough money to stay afloat. Shipping costs were a big factor, I think. If the model was more hit driven, the shipping cost would be less, but...

Making a wholesale change like that might make more money in the short term for collectors (though I'm not sure it would) - but it would probably be negative longer term. Card companies would essentially become like Steiner Sports - Memorabilia companies. This would lessen the number of "collectors".

Also - the middleman issue doesn't have to go hand in hand with selling SINGLES direct. As the model goes more toward internet and less to brick and mortar - Topps could quit shipping to online dealers like Dave and Adam's or Blowout. And instead ship directly. Shipping one box picked out of 25-50 product offerings available to a consumer would be easier than shipping the 3 cards picked out of the 25,000 individual cards on a site.

GCA said...

I'm a set builder too, and would continue to buy stuff like flagship, GQ, Heritage (if they'd change it up a little), etc. But I might be persuaded to buy singles of high end stuff for my player collections direct from sets that I would never consider buying boxes of.

Fuji said...

Interesting concept. I think it would be cool if they did this for one product each year... maybe call it Topps Custom or Panini Made to Order. They could have a time frame where collectors could log on and custom build their cards by adding autographs and memorabilia pieces. Players who had a larger fan following would have higher print runs, while lesser known players would have smaller print runs... which would help maintain their secondary market value.

However, I think it's important that the card companies continue to sell boxes for set collectors and team builders. Even collectors like myself who don't bust boxes anymore, still enjoy the chase of hunting down singles.

dogfacedgremlin said...

Set collector's would become rabid! Do you know how much it would then cost to put together one year of UD's O-Pee-Chee if we had to buy them individually? I don't even want to think about it.

Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Who doesn't like to open packs? I didn't make myself clear by saying that the idea be one or the other. You couldn't do this for every product. Set building is what the hobby was founded on and certain products lend themselves to that. However, other products with a base set of 200 or less cards, in those types of products the base cards are just filler, so why not sell the driving force for those particular products?

lifetimetopps said...

That's true - I think things like this may start popping up, but hopefully if it does, it stays toward the high end cards.

Ryan G said...

I think everyone's already said it all.

Sets like Heritage, flagship, GQ, and A&G always sell well at the set level, because effort goes into producing a quality product beyond the hits. However high-end issues like Tribute and Triple Threads don't gather many set builders because the money is on hits.

Plus, many here pointed out the interest in opening packs. High end product is fun because there's a chance for the chase. A 1/1 Babe Ruth cut auto is worth a lot not just because it's Ruth's auto, but because it's a once-in-a-lifetime pull. To stick an (essentially meaningless) 1/1 on a chopped up Ruth autograph won't hold the same interest and value. At some point, it's just an autograph with an authentication sticker on it, like Steiner's products. Nothing wrong with that, but you lose a majority of collectors' interests when there's no chase and no set definition.

I like the idea of card companies selling direct to consumers on a box-by-box or complete set basis, but individual cards are generally meant to be pulled from packs.

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