Friday, July 17, 2009

They Cost How Much?!?

Recently, one of the readers of SCU emailed me about an idea for a product based on the idea of eliminating scrub autos. He was concerned about the amount of value one gets out of a box in relation to the price one pays for said box, a feeling that many of us have on a regular basis. In most cases, when you pull an auto of a backup's backup, you wont get more than a dollar in return if sold. Considering that these types of hits litter the products year round for all three companies, he wanted some justice in his wax buying.

What most people dont understand is just how much players actually charge for the autographs that the big three put into their products. Its this type of misunderstanding that lead to people's poor attitude about busting wax as a way the companies are screwing them out of their money. Although the attitude IS justified, there really isnt a way to fix it without ridding products of autographs completely in some cases. We all know that wouldnt fly with most of the collectors out there, myself included, so there is a resulting high profile dilemma on what is happening in terms of signatures.

Just to give you some of the information, player autographs are one of the most expensive parts of a product. You already knew that, though. What you may not know is the degree that this cripples parts of some releases. Players like Emmitt Smith and Joe Montana charge so much for their autograph, that they have almost priced themselves out of many products. I have heard figures as high as $225 per card, but nothing lower than $150 for every signature they sign. How crazy is that?!? Think about it for a second, and then think about how many players like that are necessary for a checklist to be considered viable. Even younger players like Adrian Peterson, Matt Ryan and Reggie Bush also charge a ton, with cards costing the companies as much as $150 a piece just to have them sign.

It doesnt end there, unfortunately for us. Even for rookies that will most likely never play a down, card companies are forced to pay them more than you would expect. I have confirmed figures as high as $35 per card for the lower tier of the rookies who attended the premiere, a figure that surprised me to no end.

What all of this leads to is higher prices on boxes and more and more scrubs being used to fill out checklists. Why? Because its required by the league to have X% of the set being rookies, and because its too expensive to do it any other way. There are always exceptions like Paul Hornung and other older people who charge very little, but the majority of the athletes want a ton.

This also factors into stickers versus on card, as I have been told there is no difference in price paid for the auto. Im guessing this is the main reason that Upper Deck has pretty much done whatever they could to avoid stickers, as it seems like more of a waste to pay for an auto if it isnt directly on the card going into the pack.

As long as this is forced to continue by the players, wax prices will never drop as long as they contain autographs. Personally, I am happily able to accept the trade-off due to my love for autos, but a portion of the older collectors have sworn off wax altogether because of it.

Im not sure what the future holds, but I dont think it will ever be like it was, especially in terms of price. With the subjects of the cards becoming more like primadonnas every year, its not always the fault of the people who produce the products. Yet, because of a lack of info that is out there, most of us just blame them anyways. Maybe its time to show us what's really going on.


  1. Back when I worked in minor league ball I had a conversation with Fernando Nieve about signing for the card companies. I can't remember how much he told me he got paid per card, but I remember thinking it was something ridiculously high, especially for a guy in High Class A.

    People don't want cheap hits, but they also don't want expensive packs... those types will never, ever be pleased.

  2. As a comsumer, then, isn't the easiest and most obvious option just to buy the cards you want on the secondary market? At least for most of the stuff I buy, the cost of a given box is only exceeded by a handful of inserts. The "lesser hits" can usually be had for next to nothing, like you said.

    When you factor in the odds of pulling the rarest autos, shelling out 4x the cost of a single box for a single card is actually pretty cheap compared to 4 hits worth next to nothing on ebay.

    I understand the bind the companies are in, but ultimately this is the cheaper way to get the hits you want. Just my two cents.

  3. It's a catch-22, though, CCC. If we all wait to buy stuff in the secondary market, then the card companies will be forced to charge more per pack to recoup costs, or they will be forced to drop product altogether because fewer people are shelling out for primary market boxes/cards.

    I think something we will see in the future is some kind of secondary market sales percentage. I'm not sure how it would work, but I imagine it something akin to the crazy used car tax we have here in Arkansas. Here, you buy a new car and pay sales tax - makes sense. You turn around and sell the car a few years later, the buyer pays tax AGAIN on the same car (tax on used car agreed price). I think eTopps is already trying to figure out how to make money on the back-end, other companies will follow suit.