Friday, February 19, 2010

The Wrong Face For The Public

Ladies and gents, we need to advocate a change. A change in perception. Its time for the manufacturers to stop marketing the hobby as an investment and start building on its EXISTING strengths rather than its previous ones. After watching a recent episode of Pawn Stars as well as Cal Ripken's recent media tour, it becomes offensive that the only thing anyone cares about is the investment potential of their favorite cards. Don’t get me wrong, money will always be an aspect of this hobby, but it cannot be the ONLY aspect. There is fun in it, and its up to the manufacturers to rethink their strategies.

First off, let me say that I love watching shows like Pawn Stars and Antiques Roadshow because of the items that get brought before the cameras. Whether it’s a collectible or a family heirloom, the shows interest me because of the appraisal aspect of the program. Yesterday, I was finally able to watch my marathon of Pawn Stars that was stored up on my DVR, and I was shocked to see that one of the episodes featured a guy with Pete Rose cards. That’s where the fireworks started.

From the first frame showing the cards, it was obvious they were fake. Not only did the guy have five vintage rose cards, but they looked in perfect shape and were without cases. Red flag number one. As if the look of the guy wasn’t suspect enough, the first words out of his mouth were about the (assumed) authenticity of the cards. Red flag number 2. Lastly, his story and storage concepts were like nothing anyone had ever heard of before, which signalled to me that this guy was a bad liar. Red flag number 3, you are out. The owner of the pawn shop immediately recognized the cards as fake, and the guy swore at him and walked out after arguing about how they "sat in his garage for years!" Really, he had no chance, but he was going to try to go sell them elsewhere. Good luck, douche.

My issue was not with the cards themselves, but the way the guy presented the hobby on TV. Again, baseball cards make it onto TV in a national setting, and again, its someone that is trying to peddle his wares without knowing a single bit about the culture of the hobby. Because there are so many people out there who have collected cards at one point, there is an untapped resource of community building outside the net that should be focused on. What this will lead to is a new rise in culture that isnt sparked by someone like Cal Ripken going on FOX news. This is the face of a company going on national TV and saying his second year card is worth "a couple hundred bucks" while throwing around a 52 mantle like a ragdoll. I get that he is a player and not a collector, but it looks like he has enough of a vested interest that he should have been educated on the matter.

What people's perceptions stem from is what they see on TV, and with the way Baseball cards are presented, its rare that collectors receive positive attention outside of worth. Even after coverage of the National Convention, the face of the hobby was regularly smeared with egg thanks to a few people who just werent educated enough to make worth while commentary. This is more because of a national perception that cards are to only be thought of as an investment rather than commuinty of people striving for the best cards. I blame Beckett some of this, because their price guides are so far off and so out of touch, that when people look for information, they get it all wrong. Then when something like the Million Card giveaway gains national attention, it always becomes more about the value of the cards than about the fun of collecting.

If the manufacturers really wanted to build new customer bases, they start trying to appeal to the sports fans that like autographs and getting closer to the players. Instead of constantly going after the long lost young demographic, they should instead go after the people who like signatures of their favorite players. I havent met a lot of sports fans that wouldn’t like to have a signed piece of memorabilia from their guy. That’s where I think the gain is to be made. Forget about how much the cards are worth and start marketing as to the GUARANTEED authenticity of the cards. Once you create demand, values will automatically go up.

On top of all of that, the autograph and memorabilia industry is already a thriving business/community, and if they were tapped by the manufacturers as a target demographic, they should get more penetration. Right now the companies are spending too much time trying to recapture a group of kids that are NEVER coming back. They just arent, and no one seems to get that they have been gone for years without a problem. Instead of worrying, they should be dedicating time and resources to garnering interest in the greatest national pasttime - watching sports. Those fans are the unlimited resource, and getting your products in front of them should be item number one on the agenda. Because there are also so many fans out there that love the memorabilia aspect to the game, they are the cow that needs milking more than any other group.

People often cite the fact that kids will help to renew the hobby, but really, that’s a pipe dream. It becomes even more of a pipe dream when 99% of the TV coverage out there talks about the investment and money aspect of the hobby. Its time to get educated spokespeople into different markets and give up on this idea that money will bring whales.


  1. Totally agree. I posted the video of the Pete Rose cards on Pawn Stars over at Sports Card Info

  2. Nice touch Gellman. Preach it brother!