Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is the Hobby Dead??? Are You Kidding Me??!

Normally, I love it when our Hobby of Sports Card Collecting gets press with the mainstream media. It gets people talking about things we who are knee-deep in it already know about and it may possibly get people interested in the Hobby.  From the Billy Ripken thing from many years ago, to Skip Schumaker's right foot (oh yeah, there was a squirrel involved), from former President G. W. Bush appearing making an appearance in Derek Jeter's card to anything involving the legendary T206 Wagner, people are made aware that the Hobby is still around.

Then something like the story CBS Sunday Morning comes on.

Boom goes the dynamite.

The story can be summarized in four very simple words:


Thanks to video of Mr. Mint, stock video of 1990's baseball card productions, and a comparison of the National in the mid-90's to a recent Tuesday night in Parsippany, NJ, Armen Keteyian showed the world that our Hobby is dying.  Quoting the transcript, "The card business struck out."  And it is the Internet, video games, and "soaring prices for glossy gimmicks" that is bringing the Hobby to a likely death.

Since this story aired, many of your favorite Hobby bloggers and sources in the Hobby have weighed their opinions on Twitter and their respective sites. The consensus is this:
  • The story was poorly researched
  • No balance to disprove otherwise
  • The use of stock footage from a mid 90's National was a joke
  • Mr. Mint is not the definitive Voice of the Hobby that he once was
  • That if the idea was mentioning that the Hobby we know is dead, they did an excellent job of selling their case
Armen Keteyian has been defending his story on Twitter.  Some of the highlights (he is responding to tweets directed towards him...his words begin after the ">"
  • @armenketeyian ya think??!?!??? Countless new cards regularly sell for $1,000 and up ...> not the sale, the demo. It's dying.
  • @armenketeyian guess u don't fact chk like used 2. Like saying shoe sales are down & not interviewing Nike, Reebok & Adidas>Topps declined (my note:  smart move on Topps' part...last thing they need is to have been party to this)
  • @sportsmktgguy: Look any biz that worked in 80s & everyone will tell you way they do biz has changed>no debate, biz down 75%, few kids
  • We @PaniniAmerica personally inviting @darrenrovell & @ArmenKeteyian 2 join us & 30k collectors @National in Baltimore-Aug #sportsbiz”>kids?
  • @sportsmktgguy: Going to hotel for show & saying category is inaccurate: look at mass retail, hobby & internet>>disputing Rosen, book?
  • @sportsmktgguy: @ArmenKeteyian down 75% from what? its evolved. Males 18-55 drive category.”> from $1.2B in 1991. And 18-50 shell of past
  • @cmc918 agree on hobby. Just nowhere near the 1B industry it was. Without fresh blood - kids- you're on a respirator.
  • @SCUncensored obvious to you. Not SM audience or me either, who did a lot of card/autograph stories in 80s and 90s.
So basically he is now saying that because there are no "kids" taking up the Hobby, it will die with those of us who are presently collecting.  We've heard all of this before. And you know of the many efforts EVERY company (from Topps to those other card companies) has made to attract more kids to the Hobby.  They are meeting this initiative with somewhat moderate success.  But who said this could be done overnight?  It takes time.

I will be one of many to say that the Hobby as we knew it in the 80's and early 90's will never be back.  And to that I say, "Good Riddance."  Thanks to the speculators who thought that their 1987 Topps cards would hold the same value as a 1952 Mantle (not his rookie card by the way) in time only to realize that this would not become the case nearly crippled the Hobby, sending it to life support.  The same could be said with comic books.  In fact, take out the words baseball cards from the piece and replace them with with comic books, and you get the same news story.

But what Mr. Keteyian failed to mention was that while the Hobby we knew then is gone, the Hobby has evolved to what it has become now.  Thanks to the Internet (the same driving force that supposedly is killing the Hobby), many collectors have become a bit more selective in what we collect. We are able to pick the players we collect by doing a bit of research.  Information about sets from days gone by and cards coming soon to the market are at our fingertips.  And yes, kids are coming.  Not in droves as once before.  But if CBS had taken a bit more time to record the Sun-Times show last weekend (and they did for a bit...they should have done more), the average viewer at home would have seen a good sized crowd with LOTS OF YOUNG PEOPLE in attendance. Yes, the target market is the adult collector.  They have the money to spend on mid-to-high end products.  But there are still products (like the eponymous Topps brand) that are catered to and priced for kids (see Opening Day, Attax, et. al). 

Sales may be down 75 percent, but that's comparing today's total to the mid 1990's, when there were tons of companies making tons of cards to meet the demands of tons of people. I think (no, I don't have the numbers in front of me) that if you figure in today's factors (less companies, less cards, less people) that the sales in today's world are about the same if not more than they were twenty-plus-years ago.

The Hobby as we know it is not dead.  The sky is not falling.  I wish Armen Keteyian or someone else could do a counter-point story, featuring all the good things that are happening in today's Hobby.  Because there are a lot of good things going on in our Hobby.

I leave tonight with one final pair of tweets.  It certainly shows how united we are as collectors in this crazy world of Sports Card Collecting:
  • Cardboard Connection ‏ @CardboardRadio If there is anything positive to take from @CBS piece, it's that in 24 hours we've seen #thehobby unite to prove them WRONG! #collect
  • SportsCardBlog.net ‏ @SportsCardBlog @CardboardRadio Some of us may differ on opinions of #thehobby, but when push comes to shove we're all in it together. #collect
Truer words have never been spoken/typed.


JayBee Anama


William Regenthal said...

The hobby clearly isn't dead. I have seen it myself at the last few shows I've done. The crowds are coming more and more and with each passing show, more and more kids are there with their dads. Comparing now to the 90s isn't going to work. Your reference to the comic book industry was spot on as well! Great job, JayBee!

Oh, and I'm glad Mr. Mint is less than relevant now, good riddance to someone who makes card dealers look like used car salesmen.

Paul Hadsall said...

The hobby isn't likely to die anytime soon, and the CBS story lacked depth and balance.

But the sports card industry is in no way as healthy as it was in the good years... otherwise we'd have more companies than Topps & Panini making new products.

Ryan H said...

Kids are the future of the hobby. William and I talked to a kid at a show in December who was half our age (We're not that old!) and he seemed to know more than we did! The hobby is definitely being passed down from father to son.

night owl said...

Anytime you compare any period of collecting to the early 1990s, you will come up short. It was the greatest period (in terms of making money and participation) of collecting ever and it will never happen again.

Sports Illustrated did the story as CBS at a more appropriate time -- 15 YEARS AGO.

Oh, and I see kids all the time when I'm at shows.

Anonymous said...

Really...Mr. Mint is the last guy to interview as a positive for the hobby. That guy has bought millions of dollars of cards and bought them for pennies on the dollar....yea...greed was in the hobby....but card companies started exceeding the demand and MLB said keep sending us the checks for the rights to print cards.......by the way happy 40th anniversary to me opeing my first packs! Spring of 72.....


Anonymous said...

Really...Mr. Mint is the last guy to interview as a positive for the hobby. That guy has bought millions of dollars of cards and bought them for pennies on the dollar....yea...greed was in the hobby....but card companies started exceeding the demand and MLB said keep sending us the checks for the rights to print cards.......by the way happy 40th anniversary to me opeing my first packs! Spring of 72.....


Fuji said...

Great post. You've actually opened my eyes a little on this topic. I'm sure I've written "the hobby is slowly fading" at some point on my blog.

But you're absolutely correct. It isn't dying, it's evolving.

As for Mr. Mint... I lost respect for him after seeing a video where he bought a huge collection off of an older gentleman at way below the market price. I know it's part of his business and he has to make money, but somehow I felt a little ashamed and embarrassed for him.

lifetimetopps said...

I agree with everything you said - the hobby is changing, not dying. Like any collecting - stamps, comics, coins, it's a lesser part of overall consumer spending than it used to be.

I'll take a corporate real world example here. Limited Brands doesn't actually own the store called Limited any more. They spun it off nearly a decade ago. Does that mean that Limited Brands is dying? No - it meant they made a business move to raise capital and focus on their real money makers - Victoria Secret and Bath and Body Works. And even if you look at it from the perspective of Limited Stores - those are still around.

lifetimetopps said...

One thing I would pick on in your write up (still agreeing with the overall premise) is when you say "if you figure in less companies, less cards, less people, the sales today are about the same as twenty-plus-years ago."

You're pointing out that the people who do buy cards spend more per person, but that seems like it's making their point - the point is that there are fewer people.

There are fewer people collecting today, but my thought is "that's OK".