Thursday, August 13, 2009

High End From The Horse's Mouth

Every time a super high end product comes out, many of the blogs tend to focus on how terrible it is solely because of the cost. Not because of design, not because of content, but because of how much you spend for the amount you get. The problem is, many of the bloggers are one sport baseball collectors, who have grown up collecting cards in a vastly different fashion. So, rather than hear about the evils of high end from people who dont really collect it, I think its time to see some different opinions from someone who is a part of this hobby because of how great it is.

A common sentiment is that high end is killing the hobby. Why? I dont see how offering a product for a HUGE part of the collecting base is bad. Does it create a situation that puts a burden on other collectors? No, Base Topps is still around, Ginter is as popular as ever, and the Heritage products have not been axed from any calendar. In fact, more and more low end products, especially in baseball, are being added to the releases for the year. So, if that is the case, what difference does it make? Why not give everyone what they want when you have the ability to do so?

To that, most people say that kids are being driven away by the pricing structure of the industry. Why is that such a big deal? Kids didnt drive the collecting boom of the 90s, adults did. Kids dont drive current revenue for the industry, adults do. Why arent we focusing on adding more people who have disposable income to the demographic? The kid friendly rallying cry makes no sense, because kids dont produce the revenue any more. There are too many other sources of entertainment that are becoming more readily available, and non-interactive mediums are falling by the wayside. The card industry will never be able to compete with video games or the internet, and when the landscape is dominated by adults, kids find other ways to get involved in products and businesses they can access in a more widely supported industry.

Now, a lot of people seem to think that subtracting products and adding extreme low end products for kids will solve a lot of problems. I cant tell you how frustrating that way of thinking is. So, you would rather take away the products that thousands love for a demographic that is non-existant? What business would do that? Also, this industry thrives of the value of its products, and a extreme low end product would hold no value. Do you think kids are that stupid? No, they would still buy all the products they buy right now, only then, they would have less of them to buy. Great.

High end products provide access to wonderful looking cards with autographs and jerseys that appeal to even the most casual of sports fans. Autographs are worldwide collection pieces that span more than sports, and people find prestige in having them. That means when you offer amazingly designed pieces that are accessible to many adults who want autographs of their favorite sports players, you draw people into your demographic. Thats why adults populate the collecting pool, and why the industry has changed to cater to them, not people who collect sets.

Plus, when you bring adults into the market, you also have direct marketing access to their kids. The best advertisement for a product is word of mouth, and when kids have parents who are hardcore collectors, they are much more likely to stumble upon the hobby, or have it bred into their early life. Considering that many parents will collect the autograph part of the hobby, the kids will too. Autograph cards are also more valuable, especially from high cost products, meaning that kids will want those more. Thanks to parents who are collectors, they can have them.

Lastly, a lot of people seem to think that high end is a rip off. When you buy a product that costs six hundred, and only get five cards, they think its the worst thing in the world. Well, in terms of quantity over quality, that is definitely true. However, most of the time, the quality is so high, that a price tag of 600 seems reasonable to the people that can afford it. Mario may tell you what you can buy for the price of a box, but the reality is that those things arent of interest to people with massive amounts of disposable income. Yes, there may be people who buy and cannot afford it, its not the fault of the manufacturer that these people make poor decisions.

Does this justify someone being disappointed when they dont get back their money? Yes, because anyone who has spent their money on any chance will tell you that human emotions dictate their response, not the price of the item they bought. Just like when you buy a 50 dollar product and get nothing, the feelings are similar when you buy a 500 dollar product. Disappointment in your pulls comes with the wax busting territory. The tangent to this feeling is that the experience of the thrill is what drives many people in all gambling industries, just like with cards. People need to understand that the only sure thing in busting wax is that you are going to end up with some cards, not that you are going to end up with your money back. If you are looking to make money on a break, regardless of price, you are going at your investments the wrong way.

Bottom line is this, you dont have to buy any product you dont want to, but its unfair to address the merits of a product just because it costs more than you personally are willing to spend. Feel free to comment on design, player content or whatever, but cost should not damn a product. The fact of the matter is that there are many people who love spending their money on high end stuff, and many of them dont shit on the way low enders function anywhere close to the way certain people act with unwarranted disdain for the high enders. If you dont like high end, thats fine, but dont use unrelated and outdated reasons to justify your points. At least frame your argument in the correct reference range, while not exploiting paradigms that havent been true for 20 years.


  1. That was seriously the best post I have read on a blog.

    Good job

  2. NIce post, but I think you could have summed it up in a few less words. Mainly, don't like it? Then, don't buy it.

  3. Pretty much sums up the thread you and I were arguing against others in. It is amazing how narrow minded some of these baseball collectors are. "OMG GUYS IF YOU ARENT COLLECTING KOUFAX ROOKIES YOU ARE STUPID AND NOT KNOWING THE GAME AND OVER PAYING DURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR". Sigh. I don't even know how to respond to these people anymore and its depressing.


  4. Didn't say anyone should collect Koufax rookies. Didn't say anyone was stupid for not knowing the game. Didn't say anyone was overpaying.

    My point solely was this: discounting cards of players out of hand because YOU never saw them play, to me, is another definition of being "narrow-minded."

    People can collect whatever they want. They can pay whatever they want. Not that they need my say-so. I have my personal collecting preferences. I'm not going to force them on anyone. I just think some card collectors could be a bit more respectful of history. That's all.

  5. You say people should collect what they want, which I absolutely agree with. But I'm narrow minded because I don't collect a older players cards because I didn't see them play? That is pretty contradictory. I don't collect them because I have no connection to them.

    I have no disrespect for history, I have disrespect for being told I'm narrow minded because I do not like collecting older players cards. We seem to both agree you should collect how you want so I find your statements very puzzling.

  6. I agree 100% with Gellman's post. All are excellent points and articulated quite well. I think one of the great things about this hobby is the versatility of the collectors. I enjoy higher end products myself, but I enjoy seeing the satisfaction that others get from completing a set - regardless of how much it cost.

    Also, Jeff is right Night Owl - you are contradicting yourself. In one breath you say that people can collect however they want, while at the same time calling someone narrow-minded for choosing to collect in a manner that you don't agree with.

  7. A box of high end for $650 does not encourage new people to get involved in the hobby. When people get involved in a hobby the thrill of starting the next great collection is what keeps them involved, the chase of hitting those gem cards. But when they realize that the starting price for the top cards out there is $650 a pack and it can be discerning and a deterrent in continuing to collect. I realize the High Enders out there don't care about us budget collectors but we are the ones that will keep the hobby alive. Not the few of you with the disposable income, and that's where I disagree with you Gellman as far as the kids are concerned. I would venture to say that 75% of us got back or stayed in the hobby because we started collecting as kids. So to keep the hobby alive why wouldn't we worry about the kids?
    My solution is why not take a set like Exquisite throw it into one of the cheaper sets as an insert and then in my opinion you'll create the thrill of the chase again and encourage more pack buying which will get the cards back onto the shelves in front of more people faces instead of just being in the corner or in one lane at the super centers stores. You high enders will still spend your $650 but instead of it being on a pack of 5 cards it’ll be on 2-3 hobby boxes with the Exquisites seeded into it. Not only that will that encourage the hobby to thrive but it will also maintain the value of what you guys are now breaking when you drop $650 on a pack of Exquisite. The High enders will probably beat me up for this post but I feel that if this card industry doesn't start making big changes that in ten years or so we won't be able to bust anything of value because more and more the hobby will move to memmorabillia rather than cards.
    It just my opinion but it is a great discussion about the nature of our hobby and future. Plus these topics are the reason I read SCU I don’t agree with everything you write but it’s always a great read. Good topic

  8. Great post. I've always wondered how people could afford the risk of these high end cards. Sure, I've bought a few singles, but I just can't imagine paying for a pack/box where each card is about $100. I mean, I get buyer's remorse often enough with the $80 boxes.

  9. I just don't understand the big fuss being made over high-end products. Just about every line of merchandise has products for people with smaller budgets and people with larger, homes, etc. If I make $250,000 a year (I wish) and have money to burn, and I want to collect cards, I don't want to be forced to buy $60 boxes of cards when I can have a better product...I want the good shit. Stick to what you can afford. Don't get all pissy because there are collectors out there who can afford more than you.

    I admit, some of these Exquisite boxes have been horribly bad for a product claiming to be hand-packaged to ensure value...but busting any kind of wax will always be a gamble at any price point.

  10. I collect mainly vintage baseball and football, but I do like to buy high-end football every now and then. It's not overpriced if you wait a year to buy it. Got some great deals on 2007 National Treasure boxes and 2007 Exquisite Football Cases from Atlanta Sports cards over the last year. However, I will never drop good money for those products when they first come out. Only suckers do that. Patience is a virtue and it also saves you money.

  11. "Don't get all pissy because there are collectors out there who can afford more than you."

    I don't think this is the issue.

  12. It's not about having more money than someone else it's about what it does to the hobby. High end product keeps the kids away, discourages new people from getting involved in the hobby.
    If these companies were smart they would throw the high end sets into their mid-range sets as inserts then you'll see the hobby grow you'll see the chase as people try to complete high end sets. Look at the allure of the Allen and Ginter sets of the past few years. Throwing these cards in lower priced products will get everyone involved and grow the Hobby.

  13. It's not about having more money than someone else it's about what it does to the hobby. High end product keeps the kids away, discourages new people from getting involved in the hobby.

    I would like you to explain HOW it prevents people from coming to the hobby. Considering that there are well over 100 products to choose from, I fail to see how 10 products are causing this to happen.

    I explained above why this sentiment is incorrect, as kids should not be the focus of hobby expansion. Especially considering that most expansion comes from people 18 and above.

  14. Gellman, the issue at hand is high-end itself. The companies understand that you can sell a 600 dollar box of cards. There are people that will buy it, and people that will post it on eBay.

    Unfortunately, the problem is giving these people value for their money. I have a question for you, is high-end getting better? Not really, you can only do so much with a signature and a patch, or a logoman.

    This leads to companies purposely putting out inferior products, even if it's well within their infrastructure and profit margin to put out cards that look a hell of a lot nicer.

    Exquisite has to be so much nicer than the 100 box/100 pack/100 card/ -type stuff, and you can only make a card look so much nicer.

    Cards of these quality could be inserted into fucking flagship based solely on cost analysis. The only problem is that no one would buy a 600 dollar box if they could get the same shit in a 100 dollar box.

    This is the problem, and there's basically no reason that SPA couldn't include all of the exquisite cards at the same price-point.

    With Exquisite, Upper Deck isn't promising you anything other than really nice looking cards, which is something they should be promising for every product. The odds of pulling Shit vs. Rose are still the same.

  15. My problem only was with this statement: "I never saw Sandy Koufax play 1 single game because I wasn't born then, so why the hell do I want his cards?"

    That implied to me: why would ANYONE want cards of someone who didn't live in the same era as the collector? It reminded me of folks who I have run into where if you talk to them about anything that happens before the year they walked the earth, they immediately tune you out. "I wasn't born then" is their common response.

    It has a "the world revolves around me" vibe even if that wasn't the intent.

    Again, collecting is a hobby. People can collect whatever they like. If they don't want a history lesson when they collect that's completely their prerogative. Collecting should be fun in whatever your definition of fun is. I find it fun to learn about old players.

    The quote, to me, seemed to imply vintage folks were dumb because they collected old dudes. And that set off the fire alarm. Guess I got defensive.

  16. It doesn’t prevent people from getting into the hobby but it does persuade people on how to spend their money. I fully believe that someone who wants to connect to their childhood passion of collecting will purchase what they can afford. However for someone just entering the hobby they’ll see that brands like National Treasure, and Exquisite are the “Holy Grail” of cards and for most people that’s too much money so why bother with the inferior products available. It’s my opinion that this is not good for the hobby. Forget the kids fine but how will you get more people buying cards again not with that price. Like Max Power said he’s scooping up good deals if this high end stuff was flying off the shelves why are they getting discounted months after they hit the shelves with all the value in the pack. It’s a 650 dollar gamble which in the long run will not be good for the hobby. Once again throw them in with some lower –priced stuff give everyone a chance, people on a budget, kids, the high enders, the casual collector. When you give everyone a chance you’ll get everyone more involved in the hobby and ultimately that’s what we should be worrying about.

  17. Kris, thank you. Your argument holds much more water than the idiotic "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" type argument.

    As for my response, I dont really have any way to comment on whether or not a card of this caliber can cost effectively fit into a mid-end product. I think if it could be cost effective, they would try, but then again maybe not. Im not sure, to tell you the truth.

    Do I think that design should be improved for everything? 100% yes, not even a question. You are completely correct on that front.

  18. GK - I think your argument, at this point, is a jumbled mess that is standing on the leg that people making their own choices on what to collect is a bad thing. If people choose high end, that's exactly what they feel is best for them. Its not like they HAVE to choose it. Freedom of choice and variety exist for this reason altogether. Who's to say that if high end werent available they wouldnt come in the first place? I wouldnt have, thats for sure.

  19. Gridiron king,

    I really want a Mercedes McLaren, but I have never owned a car. I'm not in a position where I really need a car, but would like to have one. (I am 16 with a lot of disposable income, but obviously not enough to buy a McLaren.).

    Here are my options:

    1)If you really want the car, you save your money up and then you eventually buy it.
    2)The McLaren is too expensive for a 16-year old, so you should buy something really nice used or a decent new car. Then, if you discover you really love cars, you'll save your money up and buy one.
    3) I will NEVER buy a car because I can't at this moment afford the one I want. I will ride the bus or take a bike wherever I go. If there are cars out of my price range I will never want to own a car again.

    (BTW, you are arguing choice #3).

    Yes, there is tons of product out of kids range, but you make it sound like if the average kid can't afford a $650 box, they will not want ANYTHING. That's so silly.

  20. Many people - including gridironking in this thread - have referred to high-end card collecting, sometimes collecting in general, as a gamble.
    So let me speak in terms of gambling I know, sort of.
    Go to a casino poker room. They'll have no-limit games starting at blinds of 50 cents and a dollar, with different levels ($1-$2, $2-$4, etc.). If I want to play limit hold 'em, I can do that at a few different limits/price points as well. And if I'm rollin', maybe I step way up in limit for a bit, or go to the high-limit room.
    Do the $10-$20 no-limit games ruin poker? Do they keep people away from the low-limit tables? No, and no. Different strokes for different folks.

  21. Thats actually a pretty good analogy Matt. Haha.

  22. To the last few posts my point is If i need a car I buy what I can afford obvisouly. However people don't need cards, so if they are going to put money into the hobby to realize that they can't afford the best then why bother. You guys are more concerned about buying the Quality of Cards that you want where as I'm more concerned about the future of the hobby because it is on a downward trend right now. You guys love cards and collecting and have the right to get buy what you want but if the industry keeps going the way it's going they may not be much to buy in the future unless more people get involved.

  23. First of all, I need a Cliffs Notes version (I have the attention span of a 4 year old). I don't get why people think high end, or variety is bad. Mario's original post was fine, he'd rather do X things with $665, but then it always devolves into this "what I don't collect sucks and ruins everything" bullshit. I honestly think people choose one side or the other just because when most shouldn't care. Heritage, National Treasures, and SP Authentic brought me back to collecting. The common denominators are vintage and a nice clean design. Then some of the early-mid 2000's Donruss football releases were some of the best values I've ever seen with wax. None of these things are limited to high end, low end, company or even sport for me. What we should all be mad at are exclusives for players and sports. This LIMITS products that otherwise would be enjoyed by collectors low or high end. 2010 makes me very upset, as I particularly enjoy baseball cards and college football uniforms in football releases, the best autograph design in 08 and 09 for college players (Press Pass) won't be the same or gone, I get fucked. No Bowman draft as is, even though it's a horrible line of product, it's guaranteed now to suck or be gone for what I like. Donruss School Colors, gone. Who gets screwed? Me. Baseball, no Tigers logo on UD flagship, Goudey, Goodwin, and whatever other release that will be good or would have been good. Are you kidding? What if Topps replicates 2007 baseball releases, I'm screwed, and screwed out of potential good products. So while some of you just hate what you don't love, there are real bad things going on that do matter that affect all of us. This is coming from a guy who doesn't buy exquisite, but not for the money (I blow huge dollars on National Treasures) I just don't like the product.

  24. Oh yeah, and if you think the dollar amounts ruin the hobby, add up what you spend on low end. When I add up low-mid priced wax versus high end that I buy, it's about 3x more for the cheaper ones, so am I ruining the hobby with low end buying? -Jeff W

  25. oh geez the sky is falling. I have been collecting for 20yrs. I have seen one downward trend. Right around the time erlay nineties when everyone who opened a shopped stocked with 88 donruss closed down. This hobby is going nowhere. I mean nowhere. High end drives this buisness. Without that it would be bankrupt.


  26. Dude, are we all dying next week or what?

    I'm only 30 and plan to keep collecting for quite some time.

    You are also argueing KB and Matt's analogies to a tee. That same analogy could be applied to anything. There are myriad items that people don't need that are available at many different price points. TVs, computers, tennis rackets, golf clubs, clothes.

    Am I going to stop wearing pants because I can't afford True Religion jeans? Do I stop watching TV because I can't afford the 103" plasma? Do I just never play golf because I can't afford Callaway irons?

    Absolutely not!

    You are basically argueing against having choice in the marketplace, and frankly I don't see the point.

    Topps has been around for 50+ years. They are not going to suddenly make a rash decision that is going to put them out of business.

  27. If you want to buy high end, then buy it.
    If you want to buy Topps, then buy it.
    If you can't afford it, don't buy it.
    If you can afford it and want to buy it, buy it.

    If your going to complain about a product because of its price, you are in the wrong hobby.

    There will always be high end, and there will always be people who will buy it.

    If your happy with you UD Collectors Choice boxes, by all means don't hate on high end.

    There are collectors who would shit on products that cost $1 pack. But they don't complain about it.

    If it was up to them, they would probably rather have high end only.

    Buy what you like, and don't complain about what you dont like.

    end of rant

  28. Amen! What I enjoy most is opening a pack of higher end cards hoping to find that one relic card I wanted.

  29. Dudes.... It's just cards, relax!

  30. 100 % Agreed! An I'm not a person that agrees with everything you do say or your outlook. As far as kids to me being one of those kids around the Time... I spent ( an my mom!who was a serious collector from 82' - 91 or so ) 40K + chasing steroid freaks at least I have 30 of EVERY Griffey RC! Seriously.. High end low ends starting to all really get to be 2 much! I just got back into the hobby not that long ago could someone give me an honest reason I should stay ( besides the love of the hobby? that wears out due to all the B.S.) maybe not stay but keep my love for the hobby? ( I know cheesy right! ) high end low end mid range I don't FN care! just give me a reason PLEASE! I see so much seperation from the hobby and the products and manf. VS. True collectors, Convince me otherwise! honestly with all the fake auto's, crap products ETC... other then being dedicated to OUR hobby what's the point anymore! ??? seriously help an old school collector! Do have a reason to be involded anymore? all I hear is complaints and scams. I hope someone would understand why I ask these simple ?'s. Grant " old school pack buster"