“Are we selling cards or lottery tickets?”

I was listening to the MojoBreak podcast “The Hype” today and co-owners Dan and Doug were having a spirited conversation about Zion Williamson and the recent Panini Contenders Draft product.

During the conversation targeted mostly about Zion base autos topping $1,000, and a parallel that was at $99,000 on eBay, Dan said: “Are we selling cards or lottery tickets?”

There was a pause and then the talk continued. But in this one quote Dan really hit it on the head my thoughts on the current state of the industry.

There has always been an element of gambling in what we do. We buy an unopened pack of cards with a chance that we pull something we want, or something we think may be valuable to someone else. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. But the difference between now and 5-, 10-, 20-, 30- years ago is that the stakes have changed.

We’re not talking about lunch money being saved and then used for cards that we throw into boxes and place on our school binders. We’re talking about car, rent and mortgage payments being spent in stores and with online breakers everyday with a hope that the participant is the one who hits the jackpot card that can be resold for a handsome profit — very few are buying and/or keeping with the idea that they added a true PC (personal collection) item.

The issue of course is the industry has shifted more away from being what we’d known as our traditional hobby, and more toward being akin to gaming and an exercise in stocks or day trading, as Ben from “About the Cards” podcast like to call it.

Now, of course I am speaking in generalities. There are still plenty of people who buy and enjoy cards for what they are — the same as they had been since they were kids. But this industry is trending toward the risk takers, the ones who will put it all on the line to feel that high of watching a box be broken online (or in their own home) which is then followed up by figuring out how to either minimize their damage by immediately selling what they got (if anything) or trying to figure out when the profits are at their highest.

And this is where I struggle to reconcile how I feel about the future of this card world. Because I do feel in a sense that guys like MojoBreak, or your favorite breaker, or your local card shop, are really dealing in commodities that are essentially our version of lottery tickets. Because we all hope that one day we will pull the golden ticket — no pun intended — or pull something that turns out to be the second-chance lottery ticket if we hold onto it long enough.

And then the secondary market has become a game of high-stakes “hot potato” where we buy at a level and move items as quick as possible for a profit in hopes that we are not the ones who are stuck holding the card that is depreciating.

This is why for the life of me I cannot figure out if I like Gary Vee.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong per se. I’m saying this is a difficult world to navigate when as a longtime collector you’ve got to figure out if you’re too old school for this new style hobby and find yourself asking these questions: Am I failing to adapt? Am I doing this wrong? Or am I doing it right by staying the course? How do I teach and share this hobby to my children?

These questions, of course, are facetious because there is no one way to do this hobby. I suppose what drives me crazy is that there is so much focus on what’s new, and who hit the big card today, that much of the fun of the hobby sometimes feels like its sucked out — unless of course you’re one of the winners.

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