Friday, April 25, 2014

Time For a Change When it Comes to New Products?

More and more collectors I personally know, have stopped purchasing unopened boxes of new product. Thankfully the hobby has seen that void filled, in recent years, by the case breaking phenomon. Without them, the amount of new singles on the secondary market would be at an all-time low.

For the most part, I have outgrown the need to purchase boxes of the latest "hot" hobby product. Sure, occasionally I get sucked in like everybody else but more often than not the post purchase experience is one of regret and not satisfaction. Why? Because, I'd rather take that money spent on a box of the latest and greatest and just buy the singles and hits I want from the product direct on the secondary market.

I'm not alone in this feeling or practice and I don't believe it bodes well for manufactures and retailers. So what can be done to harness the dollars being spent on the secondary market from a manufacturers standpoint? I believe it's time to re-envision the product configuration of a box of trading cards.

Let's face it, most people collect teams if not specific players. So why not give the collector what they really collect? Using Topps Museum Collection brand as an example, what if they planned it as normal but instead of packing it out randomly with a set box/pack configuration, it was packaged out by team? They would obviously need to adjust production numbers with an increase of Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, etc and a decrease in Mariners, A's, Astros, etc.

The new pack-out configuration would be team specific with the same elements of chance for the "big hit". It could be sold by the mini-box with "x" number of mini-boxes per case. Cases could be team specific to cater to individual markets or an assortment. Each mini-box would have the team base set, (1-2) parallels, (1-2) inserts, (1-3) autographs and (1-2) memorabilia cards. The autographs and memorabilia cards would be cards normally produced for the specific brand, not dumb downed single swatches and autographs of players no one cares about. Pricing would be commiserate with the type of product. $20 for a team set of Topps Baseball with (1) memorabilia card or $40 for the same team set, all team parallels all team inserts,  (1) autograph and (1) memorabilia card. Or whatever, you get the idea.

A higher-end product like Museum Collection described above might be priced at $75-$90. Triple Threads $125-$150.

I would buy that type of product for every Chicago team I collect: Blackhawks, White Sox, Bears, and Bulls. Could people still just wait for cards to show up on eBay and other secondary market sites? Of course but I'm willing to bet, that, more people who are currently not buying new wax, would do so with a reconfigured product as described here.

I'd like to see a major manufacturer give this a try for a couple of products for a few years and then compare P/L statements on those products from the new format to the old. I truly believe they have nothing to lose in the long term and potentially much to gain from a fundamental paradigm shift in how we, as a hobby, look at new wax.

What do you think? Would you buy it? What problems, if any, do you foresee with this type of distribution?


Tony L. said...

I like this idea a fair bit, but I would like it limited to the higher end products.

Ryan G said...

I have an idea that would possibly work, but let's face it, with less sales of A's, Marlins, and Astros sets and increased sales of Yankees and Red Sox sets, there would need to be more Yankees signers and fewer A's signers. Or the odds of getting an Astros signature will be pretty high, while it would take several boxes to get a Yankees signature. The hundreds of autographs and relics of "scrubs" carries a product, and it's the chase for the best that drives these high-price-point products.

You couldn't do this for just a couple products. It would require a rethinking of the entire Topps line.

And I don't like this idea anyway. Buying complete team sets issue by issue without any chase involved rips the fun out of collecting for a lot of people. I don't want to buy boxes of most products because I don't want to pay the inflated prices for the chase after cards I won't ever pull and don't really want. But I love opening packs.

The key might be one release per team with several cross-branded inserts and parallels. I think I'll write an entire post with my idea when I can get the time. But that set should be pack-based. People love packs. Team fans could chase a complete set or master set for their team. Player fans have a smaller number of sets overall to search through.

Have you ever thought that case breakers with team sets have been the reason why more collectors stop buying boxes? Sure, someone somewhere said "I want a (team/base/specific insert) set only." And the sellers listed them. Really, busting cases is the only way to get a consistent shot at a profit, with most of the "value" of boxes these days in the biggest hit.

But I digress. I'll have more in the future. You have a start but I don't think it's feasible as is.

Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Ryan- There would still be a chase element as you would not get all the team specific parallels and inserts in the pack. It would drive repeat sales because you are still getting additional team based hits. Plus it's still a pack opening experience plus what's better is that I actually WANT all the cards in pack because they are from MY team. I don't think it would hurt to at least try. Wax sales can't continue to decrease without something changing.

Ryan G said...

Rob - so you're basically calling for the creation of team-specific box sets, with random inserts included. That's a fairly common occurrence in Japan, and seems to be pretty successful. Some people open several boxes to go after the inserts, and the extra base sets are then sold off pretty inexpensively ($3-5 each) for those of us who can't afford or don't want $40 boxes.

I think this still requires redoing the entire Topps line, and an end to most of the "brands" Topps has. I don't see a problem with that because while I collect a few specific brands (flagship, Ginter, GQ), most of the releases have very little design appeal.

I'm behind this idea, with some tweaking, mainly because Topps' current approach doesn't really support this. Could you imagine a dealer trying to coordinate a release of 30 different products? Two or three times a year even? Going online-exclusive is an option in that case but I'd hate to put more shops in peril.

As I said, it's a concept I support, because I've seen a (seemingly) successful similar version of this here in Japan.

Unknown said...

I think this is a really interesting idea especially for team focused collectors, which, let's be honest, there are a lot of them.

Wouldn't this model cause a lot of duplicates? How much repeat business could there be if the base cards are reduced down to team?

Collectors are resourceful and are coming up with new ways to make the hobby work for them (trading online, group breaks) but I think you are spot on that some creativity when it comes to box composition is needed because there is just nothing like busting packs.

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