Friday, October 3, 2008

Looking At Where We Are Headed

There are quite a few instances over the last few months where I have read about the trends of the hobby heading this way, or the trends of the hobby heading that way, but no one seems to really understand the true trends. The first worlders claim that the hobby is spiraling to a point where high end products will take over the low end, and their world will cease to exist. Second worlders are claiming that the hobby is losing value and that the higher end products they love to break are not as worth their time. Really, these "claims" are only just sounding the warning bell with nothing more than a thought. I dont think that either of these things are really true, but I hear them echoed more than any other idea or trend. Im curious as to why.

First off, to address the claims that high end is shortly becoming the only end, I want to say that is crap. The amount of high end products that come out every year really doesn’t change. UD and DLP never really just delete a low end product and replace it with a high end one. However, because high end is a much more volatile market, the products change more often. So, when Upper Deck deletes a high end product and replaces it with another high end product, it creates more names on the market, but the number of sets each year really doesn’t change. Plus, with three competing brands in football, that can seem like the price of boxes is drastically climbing, when in reality, its just every company coming out with their own version of high end. I mean, lets face it people, high end is in trouble in today's economy. Retailers are becoming more wary of higher end products because they know its only a sale until the next product comes out, and after that, they may have to dump it at a loss. Its easier to take a loss on a sixty dollar box rather than a 300 dollar box. Its why the middle products like Topps chrome and Icons are always so popular - its easier to afford the loss.

Really the trends are heading towards a bigger gap between the high end and the low end, but not in terms of the number for each. Personally I think that the middle products will start to envelop the low products, and the retail will become all that is left of low end. From there, you will have the majority of the boxes at or around 75 dollars, with the gap being pretty wide then to the few 300 dollar products and above. If you look at it, this has already started to happen. In an effort to bring more content to a person paying for that 75 dollar box, they have put out the retail low end with nothing in it to help offset the massive and growing costs of autos and memorabilia. Even the once expensive Chrome products have come towards the middle of 75 dollars to help them to sell more. Exquisite will continue to be high, but the other products will hover around that 75 dollar mark. The gap will grow.

Secondly, its pretty obvious that cards are not going to be worth as much as they used to be. As long as people have less disposable income, they wont have as much money to spend. Thankfully, content is being added to products to help offset those bigger price tags on the boxes, so to you second worlders, the value is being replaced with both quantity and in some cases quality. If you buy an expensive product, chances are that there will be a guarantee of something good in the near future. Upper Deck is already seeding top tier autos at one per case, and top RC autos at more than that, so that’s a start. I would expect that to come from others in order to compete. So, it will become easier to pull something great when you decide to drop top coin on these things. I also think that the quality of the card designs has increased ten fold over the last 5 years, and really there are only a handful of repeat ugly offenders, and they are usually all from the same company.

Funny enough, I think this epitome of non-essential goods is a depression proof business, so if anything cards will only become more of a way to get away from that awful feeling that things arent going well in this country. Do I think you should go spend 5 grand on a dual logo? Fuck no. But I do think you should ride out any fears that the economy will prevent you from having an awesome collection that is worth a lot of money.


  1. There's more turnover in high end products for sure. There's more drive for turnover with them - if they aren't working they need to be changed. A base Upper Deck set is never going to lose its intended purpose (set builders, people who walk in and look for a 'few packs of cards').

    Also, I think all the major sports leagues have a requirement for a certain number of low-end, introductory products each year. Collectors do have a shelf life, and kids can't start out with Exquisite, so there is no real concern of affordable packs of cards disappearing for good.

    Of course, there are those out there who want affordable packs with Exquisite style hits, but let's face it - that's being delusional.

  2. I can't agree with you on this one. "Low End" products cost more and more each year. It's already at the point where most of the low end stuff, in box form is running $65+ and that's for crap. Most of the decent stuff runs $100+. I'm not sure where youare with your life and what you can dedicate to this hobby, but 100+ for a box of cards where you get 2 or 3 autographs is ridiculous! Especially if they are rookies.

  3. Michael, I think you are missing the point. Your idea of what low end is, is actually what the middle products are. It still only costs 30-40 bucks for Score and Bowman regular, those prices wont change, but you arent going to get more than just base. See the regular topps non-jumbo stuff, its actually come down in price, but you get nothing as usual.

  4. I'm not a fan of low end upper deck, but I like Topps low end. I do like heroes, icons, spa, spx, chrome and finest. The truly high end stuff just annoys me, no real value in my opinion. It's too expensive and the good hits are somewhat similar to the hits in icons etc.

    The above only applies to basketball and football. Baseball isn't dead I guess but there is so much junk. I can't begin to identify most of the rookies. I have read quite a few posts of baseball autos complaining about the 1000th pick of the 2002 draft showing up as a rookie auto in 2007 product.