Monday, 2 December 2019

What I Want from the Hobby in 2020

Here are ten things I'd like to see from the hobby in 2020. I'm not just limiting my grievances to the card manufacturers themselves, but basically any business involved with the hobby, as I see much room for improvements all over the place.

1. Less pointless game-used cards and sticker autographs. Seriously, I don't need sticker autos in my box of 19-20 Upper Deck Series 1. Most people who buy that product, for example, are doing so to collect Young Guns rookies, or looking to build the base set. Almost no one cares about sticker autos. Companies are including crappy sticker autos and "event worn" memorabilia in low-end products (and some higher end products, too) to pad the amount of hits so that they can produce even more boxes to increase sales. But it's just garbage. Not every product needs autographs or memorabilia cards, particularly when those cards are garbage like sticker autos and memorabilia cards that aren't even game worn. Stop it card manufacturers. You're simply watering down your products to make short term sales at the cost of long term damage to your brands.

2. Less parallels. I'm fine with certain products being parallel heavy (Topps Chrome, OPC Platinum, Donruss Optic, etc), because there are collectors that like them and companies ought to release a wide variety of products to suit different tastes. But like sticker autos and crappy memorabilia cards, not every product needs a million parallels. Again, this is another way for the card producers to pad their products with so-called hits, so that they can produce more boxes and generate more revenue. But it once again waters down the product to achieve short-term sales growth while sacrificing long-term brand loyalty. Plus, who wants a parallel serial numbered to 250 copies, when there are other parallels of that card numbered to 200, 150, 99, 75, 50, 25, 10, 5, and 1, not to mention parallels without serial numbering? It defeats the purpose of serial numbering when a company simply releases the same card with a slightly different design. That card serial numbered to 100 isn't really only 1 copy of 100. It's 1 copy of a slight variation of thousands.

3. Pro leagues and player associations need to stop with exclusive contracts with card manufacturers. Competition breeds creativity, and exclusivity breeds malaise. You don't need to give out contracts to everyone on the block. Just two companies for each league would be fine, allowing these companies to compete with one another to produce better cards. I'm sure the companies would cry that sharing a contract would mean less product releases and less revenue, but that sounds like an issue of streamlining your business model to meet market demands. If a company needs to release fifty sets each year to turn a profit (many sets of which are garbage), then that is a problem with how the company does business. The video game industry has done well with the "less is more" release schedule approach, and the card industry card do the same if they shared exclusives. I would like to see each sports have two companies. Of the four major sports, that would be eight contracts. Topps, Panini, and Upper Deck are the big three. That's two contracts for each company, and three for two more. By releasing fewer products for each sport, but releasing for additional sports, then that is going to help the bottom line. Topps and Panini can have MLB. Upper Deck and Topps can have NHL. Panini and Topps can have NFL. Panini and Upper Deck can have NBA. Only Upper Deck has two contracts, and we have a wide variety of creative products to collect.

4. The USPS and Ebay can both get stuffed, seriously. When I returned to the hobby a couple of years ago after a lengthy absence, I couldn't believe how expensive it had became to ship something from the US to Canada. It's not the fault of sellers, either. USPS and Ebay make it prohibitive for international buyers to purchase anything from the United States. Mailbox services have popped up (I use COMC), but they are expensive, and when you throw in the Canadian exchange rate, it makes collecting untenable. This isn't just for cards, but for buying anything on Ebay that is being sold in the United States. It makes being a collector outside of the US a frustrating experience. There has to be a better solution for international shipping.

5. Ebay needs better seller protection. As a seller, I have been the victim of fraud so many times it is at the point I no longer want to sell on Ebay again (see my previous post on this blog). It is virtually impossible to defend yourself against fraudulent buyers on Ebay. You can't even leave a buyer negative feedback anymore! I'm not sure why Ebay thinks all of this is a good idea, because if sellers stop using their service, then Ebay has nothing because the entire business model is based on selling other people's stuff. If other people stop using the service, then the service stops existing. 

6. COMC and their pricing for base cards is asinine. Who the hell purchases base cards on COMC? COMC generally is more expensive than other options, which is why I stick to only buying on COMC during sales. But their base card prices are ridiculous. Sellers on Sportlots usually list base at $0.18 a card. I will frequently see the same card on COMC at over $1. And this again isn't the fault of sellers. It is the model COMC is using to make money off sellers, making it impossible for people to list base cards at a low enough price to be able to make money and entice people to buy. Sellers, please, stop sending base cards to COMC and instead use Sportlots. In fact, Sportlots is better in nearly every way compared to COMC, with the exception of Sportlots outdated interface and search methods. If COMC can't lower prices on base cards, they should stop accepting them.

7. I want better memorabilia card tracking by card companies. Topps does something cool with the stickers they put on jersey cards in products like Topps Tribute, where you can actually look up info online about where that swatch originated from. But there are so many examples of errors in manufacturing where the wrong jersey has been put in a card (Panini, I'm looking at you) that this should be an industry standard for all game-used pieces. I would like to see a database of all game used materials owned by the trading card companies, and which materials are being used in which sets. The entire game-used process, from the company's acquisition of memorabilia to the manufacturing of game-used cards, ought to be transparent. Why bother owning memorabilia if you can't even be confident where it came from, or whether it is authentic?

8. Like better memorabilia card tracking, graded cards need to improve. There has been so much fraud over the years with grading companies (PSA, I'm looking at you) that I am surprised so many collectors still put their faith in these companies. I own a few graded cards, but the idea of paying a premium for a graded card in all but a few cases seems asinine when so many of these graders have proven they cannot be trusted. I mean, the famous Honus Wagner card that established PSA as the most popular grading company all those years ago was a sheet cut card. Bill Mastro, the man behind the popularity of the card, ended up going to prison. Prison! Yet the card continues to exist in a PSA slab. It should be seen as a massive embarrassment for the graded cards industry, but instead no one seems to care. This strikes me as the greater fools theory working at its finest.

9. There is a theme in this list about fraud. Ebay fraud, postal fraud, memorabilia fraud, grading fraud. I just want less fraud. If you can't do business honestly, then you shouldn't be in business at all. It isn't hard. Right now, there seems to be an increase in fraudsters and hypesters (Gary V, I'm looking at you) in a way that mirrors the early nineties boom. This should never happen again, but memories are short. Don't believe the hype and stay out of the investment craze, because the hobby is rife with fraud and you will only end up hurting yourself.

10. And the last thing I want to see for 2020 is for all of you to have fun in the hobby. In the end, the hobby is just that: a hobby. It's meant to be a fun diversion from the stress in your life. Don't worry about making money. That's why you have a job and investments. Enjoy the hobby, whether you like ripping wax or buying singles or whatever. Don't blow all your money on it, stick to a budget, and have fun.

What do you want to see from the hobby in 2020?

5 comments:

  1. I have a solution for items 6-7-8 on your list, email me @ antmj2317@comcast.net

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  2. Lots of excellent points here and definitely things I've thought about a lot too. My buddy and I were just talking about eBay not protecting their vendors. He's made a career out of selling stuff on eBay, but has slowly been transitioning to auction houses.

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    1. I think Ebay's management has allowed a missed opportunity with their platform when you compare it to the success of other ecommerce platforms over the last decade. I think the way Ebay treats their sellers is one of the big reasons.

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  3. Thank you for telling me about Sportlots. As far as I can see, the one big difference to COMC is that COMC handles the distribution, but it looks like the sellers handle distribution directly on Sportlots. As a buy, doesn't COMC offer me more protections?

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    1. If you're paying through Paypal, you should have buyer protection through them anyway.

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