Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ARTICLE - Is The Hobby Dying?

This news story aired on CBS Sunday Morning recently and created quite a bit of dialogue within the collecting community.  Before I get into my thoughts, take a few minutes to watch the piece.

Now it would be impossible to accurately show the 20-25 year history that the sportscard industry has gone through in a 4 minute piece.  A lot of what was said just scratched the surface of what this hobby was, is and looks to become.

Some things that caught my ear....

"The youth are missing."  You know what - they are.  And why is that?  Is it because the industry has changed so much that it's priced the youth right out of the market?  Is it that the kids are just not interested in sportscards?  Or maybe they aren't 'missing', just smaller in representation?

I think it's a bit of all three with other factors coming into play.  At the end of the day, I believe this hobby is geared more towards the 16+ crowd.  I don't know if there is anything that can be done to capture the youth movement in huge numbers.

I don't think the card companies have done anything to help that 'concern' (if you could call it that) either.  After all, they do cater to those with a little deeper pocket than a 8 year old.

Case in point, this CW33 story (that Panini posted on their blog as a response to the CBS story and the notion that the 'hobby is dying').

To Panini, not only is the hobby not's radically transforming  for a new generation.

In my opinion, they're right.  Transforming for a new generation of people who can afford the cards.  Did you notice in the second story that all the footage of cards used were 'hits'.  I didn't see a single inexpensive card in the lot.

They say it themselves...

"Of the 60+ sports products Panini America produces in a year, 10% are targeted to kids.  This is no longer a wax/bubblegum category.  Males 18-55 drive the category."

So the youth are missing.

I'll admit, I was surprised to see Panini take such a stance against the CBS story.  They seemed almost insulted by it.  While I don't think the CBS story dove deep into stats and such, I do feel like a good chunk of what they said had some merit.

Again, it's a 4 minute news story....not an hour long documentary.

Panini even went so far as inviting the reporter to be a guest of Panini America at the upcoming National Sports Convention in Baltimore.  To me, a giant show like that is just as much of a misrepresentation of the health of the sportscard industry as the card show shown in the news story.  Giant annual shows are a beast that most people don't have the way, means or money to attend.  So how can these shows represent the broad cross-section of the hobby.

They can't.

Speaking of shows, in the CBS story, a comparison is made between a current day card show and a show that occurred in the mid-1980's.

First, I'd like to say that yes, sportscard shows just flat out aren't the same as they were during the boom of the late-80's/early-90's.  Did you notice that the current day show occurred on a weekday?  Attendance would surely be down for something like that.  Optically, it's going to look like night and day no matter what.

What I find most unfortunate is that I love card shows.  I love them even when they aren't busy.  Why?  Because I get to 'talk shop' face to face with other hobbyists.  Because I get to window shop for cards I'll never own.  Because I get to chase those cards still making a dent on my wantlist (holding out hope I'll find one).  But mostly because local monthly card shows are truly what's dying in the hobby.

I predict that in less than 10 years, monthly card shows (in most cities) will be a thing of the past.  Ebay, online forums and hobby boards have taken over the secondary sales element of this industry.  I cringe for the day when I no longer have a show to go to.

Sure, those giant yearly shows are still there (and will still exist), but not everyone can fly in from out of town to go hunting for hockey cards.

While I felt the CBS story was lacking in real teeth when it comes to the subject of sportscards, I was especially disappointed at one of the reporter's last comments.....saying the cards on the table were "worthless".

What a blanket statement to make.  They're worthless to Armen Keteyan (who I've got good money on that he's not a card collector).

All cards have worth.  Not all cards are worth something to everyone though.  To me, a Linden card is worth something.  To the next person, it may be worth nothing.  So who's right?  We both are.

Thanks for that 'objective' statement Armen.

The final phrase I was left with from the story was "kids don't care".  Again, I feel that's a bit of a blanket statement.  There are kids who do and kids who don't.  There kids who collect because it's fun and there are kids who collect because it's profitable (it's a business as opposed to a hobby).  Hey, they learn by watching the adults.

At the end of the day, I feel that the hobby is not dying.  The hobby is evolving.  This is my hobby and I'm not letting it control me.  I dictate how I want this hobby to work.  I buy what I want, I ignore what I choose to ignore.  It's up to me.

Just like it's up to everyone else when it comes to their own personal hobby enjoyment.

If the feeling that kids need to be attracted back into the hobby, then the card companies will have to work to make that happen.  But I just don't see that happening.

I could go on a lot longer, but I'll leave it for now.  I might come back to this subject later on down the road.  For now, I will leave you with this final thought.

To me, a news story is an opportunity to ingest some information about a subject and then come up with your own conclusion.  Don't believe everything you see and don't discard everything you see either.  News stories should create thought and create discussion.  They should help you form your own opinion rather than you just believe everything that is said as truth.

What are your thoughts on the news stories?  What are your thoughts on the health of the hobby?  Have you seen any other hobby related news stories/documentaries that made you sit back and think?


  1. I don't believe that the hobby is dead. I instead believe that it has been constantly transforming since the 1900's. Fact is, the early 90's were the height of popularity and the hobby will never see anything like that again, but changes are always occurring even if they are occuring at the evolutionary rate of some species.

    Companies try different things, new things, old things, but in the end, I believe there is a transformation that is happening both good and bad. Collectors should focus on what they like about their hobby and continue to celebrate that. The don't like will go extinct if unsupported and progression will continue!

    Hope that makes SOME sense as I feel I began to ramble there a bit.

    1. Definitely makes sense.

      Focus on what you like about the hobby.

      Don't worry, I felt like I was rambling a bit too. Thanks for stickin' with me.

      Thanks too for the comment.

  2. Great post. I have to say I agree with just about everything you said. I wonder if they tried to interview Keith Obermann, probably one of the more famous and visible card collectors out there. I'm sure that the economy has something to do with an industry that is based primarily on disposable income. Lets face it, I need food, I don't need the thousands of cards stuffed in my closet. And it absolutely has to do with cost of product. As for the health of the hobby I think the story focused on collectors, but lets look at it from a company stand point. There are pretty much the big three, with a few smaller players on the outside. There's been a big three since the 80's when Fleer and Donruss broke in. But neither one of those companies is still around, yes I know that they were absorbed into UpperDeck and Panini. But in the late 80's and early 90's how many companies were putting out cards? Tons. Pinnicle, ProSet, Pacific, Playoff, ect. Where are they now. Gone or part of another company. I think Upper Deck has been in the downward spiral for a couple of years, which is there own fault and a shame because Upper Deck set a pretty high standard for design and product, just not business practices. But I see promise in companies like In the Game and the new Leaf. Still putting out high end stuff, but putting out some nice stuff. How do we get the youth back in the market, well it's not with crappy card games and $200 packs of cards. Whew..ok i'm done.

    1. Thanks for the comment and the insight.

      I agree, disposable income is a huge factor. Especially when you're paying the type of pack prices you're seeing out there these days.

      Yeah, I don't know what it'll take to get the kids back into the hobby. It might just have to skip a generation or something.

  3. Nice write up and videos!

    Here's my humble/jumbled opinion (advance apologies for the rambling):

    I am a somewhat former collector. I still dabble a little, but most of my collection is from the early 80s when I was a kid who loved hockey. I dropped out of it as time wore on to the late 80s, then got back involved in the boom of the early 90s, and slowly dwindled out of it again until recently.

    My first thought is...if card companies are not marketing to the young collector, they are killing themselves. Guess what? Those young collectors get older and if they didn't have an interest when they were young it's pretty unlikely they will develop one when they are older. That business model just doesn't make sense to me. There's no harm in marketing to the older collector who has more money to spend, but you HAVE TO market to the young! They are your future!

    My second thought...the cost and availability of cards sucks. Back to my younger days when I first started collecting: Back then I received a whopping $1 per week allowance. (Eventually I "conned" my parents into doubling this to $2 and I felt as rich as a king!) Anyway...with that $1 I had some limited choices: a couple of chocolate bars, a few packs of gum, or maybe 4, YES FOUR, packs of 25 cent hockey cards! The decision was easy. My parents could always be talked into buying us kids a chocolate bar or pack of gum here and there. I spent my money on hockey cards! The gum came with them! And they were easy to find! Every corner store and 7/11 had them! Nowadays...where do I find hockey cards? As I said, I am not as big a collector as people on these boards. Maybe I am just out of the loop. Here's where I see hockey cards: at Walmart. Which is awesome! Every town seems to have a Walmart nowadays. But, they don't sell single packs for a quarter or even a dollar. At least not at my Walmart. They sell boxes and 'blaster whatchamacallits', etc for at least $10 a pop. When I am going through the aisles with my kids, they aren't going to stop and spend every cent they've saved or their birthday money they get once a year on a box of hockey cards. Actually, now that I think about it, I may have seen some cards at the occasional 7/11, but not at them all. Am I missing these cards? Are they easily out there? Beats me. Maybe it's the area I live in. I don't know. I just know my son does not have easy access to them and therefore is not likely to become a collector. The same goes for me, too. I've often thought about getting into collecting a new set again. But, it seems that would mean special trips to a card shop in another city.

    I thought it might be fun to get us all a Panini sticker album this year and work on it together. Kind of get them into the fun collecting world that way...on the cheap! The album was easy enough to find at a local dollar store, but the stickers are nowhere to be found! I've even gone to some dealers/shops. They are sold out. I guess that speaks to the popularity of them, but again, if they aren't available easily for kids to collect, then they will lose interest. If the kids aren't collecting, the hobby is doomed.

    Rant over. :-)

    1. You bring up some good points Dave. At some point, all us 'older' collectors will keel over and die. Without that next generation of hobbyists, it's pretty easy to do the math on that one.

      There are times where I hate that the simple days of 1983 are gone. Days when all I had to worry about was "Do I go to the 7-11 or do I go to the Turbo gas station to get my packs of cards".

      Nowadays, there are so many options, so many price points, so many shiny new products that it's overkill for someone trying to enter the hobby without feeling that bombardment.

      And yes, if you don't live in a city that has a local card store, it becomes even tougher (unless you want to go the online route.... which has a completely different feel to it - one that is definitely not reminiscent to the 'good ol' days').

      I believe though that there are always options and it comes down to how much one really wants to pursue collecting. What level of commitment and what level of investment. Knowing that gives a good ground level for building the hobbyist inside.

      Thanks for the rant Dave. Have a good rest of the weekend eh.