Friday, November 20, 2009

Innovations and the Industry

Over the last few years, we have had a handful of innovations in cards that have spread the market to the point of nauseum, much to the dismay of many collectors. However, despite the fact that these cool innovations have become over done by each of the manufacturers, one thing has yet to undergo any real innovation since the early part of this decade. For the cards, we have had logo patches, letter patches, manu-patches, shadow box cards, PETG cards, etc, but for the boxes themselves we have seen the Tin, the one pack box, and the Exquisite style box. The card tech has actually explored different limits of printing, while the box itself has improved little more than just modifying the packaging.

What if new packaging and configurations could bring new life to the thaw that has happened in the industry lately?

As an example, an iditter (a twitter idea) came to me yesterday, one that isnt the answer to everything, but could be fun for those of us who break at hobby shops. What if the manufacturers took the hobby content that was normally in a box and developed it into an organized pack war type configuration? Instead of splitting the box with arbitrary means, the new pack war configuration would be set up to deliver equal chances at advertised content for both collectors, and would have bonus packs or something for the winner. For instance, you have two individually wrapped mini boxes a la finest (thanks Cardboard Icons), with both having special content configuration inside. There would packs as normal, but each side would have equal numbers of hits. In addition to the two boxes themselves, there is a winner box with extra hits and packs. Point system and instructions could be included, and it could even bring about organized play. Aside from people just breaking up the content and selling it, the cards would present an interesting draw for card shops. It would encourage collector competition (already an inherant thing for us) and the cards themselves wouldn’t be any different than a normal hobby box. The winners box could have extra perks, but I think this is something that needs to be at or around the level of a normal box to be successful, rather than the pack war stand alone product from Topps a while back.

Another example would be the packaging itself. Rather than opening packs and cards, what if companies went back and took a page out of fleer's book and offered signed jerseys, footballs, helmets, etc. Each box a collector would buy would contain a claim card for a specific product that could be shipped to them like a redemption. Tristar has already done amazing with the Hidden Treasures mini helmets, but taking it a step further would be awesome. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to create a set around it, but the focus needs to be the full size shit.

Going further, with high end products, I have preached pretty extensively that card protection and seals need to be included with the cards. This means pre-emptively encasing the cards in holders with seals, thus preventing counterfeits and damage in transit. I approached some of the high end producers a while with the idea, but the general consensus was that packaging and supplies would raise the cost of production way too much to make it worth it. To that, I pointed out Sportkings and 2007 Topps Chrome, which seemed to have it all down pat. Either way, I don’t think this will be a reality for a long time.

Regardless of the lame ideas I can come up with in a few minutes off the top of my head, I think it bears notice that packaging should be just as much of a focus for innovation as the cards. Considering that a cool looking box like 2006 National Treasures can change people's mind about possibilities, it becomes essential to get shelf marketing to the top of the priorties list. This means for Target and for Wal Mart as well, as many shoppers who may not be collectors are the sports fans that the companies are chasing. If you can get your products noticed by team fans, this could be an untapped resource.

What if you had a product based solely on players in a certain division or on a certain team? No more busting wax and walking away with stuff from teams you don’t collect. Im not talking about team sets either, Im talking about actual hobby boxes with team themes. Not bad for us team collectors, right?

Now, I am not in any way tuned into the cost of producing a product, but these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg for what is possible. I think we need to shift our thinking and prevent thinking from ceasing once you get to "outside the box." Lets start thinking FOR the box.


  1. Several of these ideas have been tried in the past. I just don't think they caught on industry wide.

    DLP Prime Cuts has always had the "box hit" encased and sealed with a sticker, which I think adds to the appeal of the card.

    And there have been plenty of team-centric blasters for the larger markets, but I don't know how hobby boxes would work out.

  2. I definetly like some of your ideas and of couse it would come down to costs. Maybe offline you and Steven Judd @sportscardfile could lay out a product in concept with a true cost analysis.

    In addition the team product is long, long over due, I have posted on this as well. It would create inherant secondary market value if it was not just produced but distributed geographically as well and made retail only, no big box stores or online, hobby store only. You are a perfect example. If you couldn't get the the Vikings and Twins at your local shop in Cali etc.

    This way you could attract the casual collector and die-hard sports fan as well.

  3. Also the Parkhurst Original 6 Hockey product bu UD awhile back was Hobby only AND by team and it did very well if I remember correctly. I bought 2 boxes to complete the Blackhawks set