"Sports card manufacturer Press Pass is closing its doors. Hard to stay healthy these days."
The statement has yet to be substantiated by a hobby related news source. Additionally, no comment or statement has been made by Press Pass executives. The company's website and social media channels are still live.
In actuality, Press Pass' social media activity and engagement has been among the worst in the hobby. The company's last Tweet was in May of 2014 and their last post on Facebook was just before Thanksgiving.
Sports card manufacturer Press Pass is closing its doors. Hard to stay healthy these days.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 2, 2015
The writing was on the wall for the company's demise several months ago when the company lost the brains behind the operation in hobby veteran, Tom Farrell. Add to that casualty the loss of longtime employees Jesse Leadbetter and Tonya Clarkston and it didn't take a crystal ball to realize it was when and not if, the company would fold.
In an ever complicated and expensive marketplace, Press Pass became a victim of their own success to some degree. Let me explain.
Unlike the hobby's major four sports, which rely heavily on rookies to drive product sales, NASCAR is a different animal all together. In the other sports, trading card manufacturers not only have the luxury of having a deep well of veteran stars to build into their products, but also an annual infusion of new and promising young rookies.
Press Pass made excellent trading card products. They always have. Even before the collegiate licensing landscape became so expensive, their NCAA football and basketball products were highlighted by on-card autographs and boxes loaded with value.
The company's portfolio of NASCAR products was perfectly balanced between entry level and premium brands. NASCAR fans and collectors had no shortage of card products to open. And that became a major problem.
Through the years the market became flooded with autographs of top tier drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.. The consequence of this was the constantly decreasing valuation for autographs of the sports best drivers. It also accentuated a significant problem shared by all trading card manufacturers and that is the fact that, in this case, a driver's signature isn't worth considerably more when it originates from a $200. This is especially true when the same driver's autograph can be pulled with as much frequency in an $80 product.
While initial demand for premium NASCAR products was received with all the passion as that of collectors from other sports, it couldn't last. How could it?
When your product configuration and value proposition is based on the same formula multiple times per year, year-after-year, what you have created is an unsustainable business model.
It's a shame. The aforementioned people at Press Pass are good people and were an asset to the hobby. Unfortunately, when you are a company in the business of manufacturing a product whose very existence decreases in value with every new release, sooner or later you are going to go bust.
So what's a NASCAR collector to do? It may not happen immediately, but somebody will probably pick-up the license if the price is right. Will it be Upper Deck, who once held a NASCAR license under the MAXX brand? Or maybe the always aggressive, Brian Gray, at Leaf will look to enter the market.
While it certainly will be tempting given the popularity of the racing circuit, a prudent and careful product development team will need to avoid the aforementioned pitfalls while still delivering a product consumers want.
Chances are this will not be the last shake-up in the trading card landscape. It's become quite clear that Topps parent company, Madison Dearborn Partners, is looking to liquidate the company.
Couple that with the fact that Upper Deck is set to lose their deal with the Collegiate Licensing Company and you have some interesting possibilities taking shape for 2015.
All the best to the remaining and former staff at Press Pass.