Sticker shock could be scary sight for some

There was a time a decade and a half ago when I walked into a card shop and wondered what the hell happened to my hobby. I had collected cards for 17 years (from 1987 to some point in 2004) and then took an 18-month break. When I returned, I found that rookie cards — which made up most of my collection — had been somewhat placed on the back burner for autographed prospect cards.

As a result, the stuff I knew was worth collecting had fallen out of favor to a degree and prices reflected that as a new wave of collecting had begun. True, $2-$3 packs still existed, but much of the hobby had turned to bigger and (maybe?) better things. I never felt so out of touch. But I powered through, and got caught up on the information and trends that I missed during my hiatus. I vowed at that point to never let the hobby leave me behind.

It was at that point that I welcomed the new style and dabble in signed cards, but I also doubled down on rookie cards by buying older ones as well.

Over the last decade and a half I have meandered through this hobby in various ways. Along with that have been many life changes which also have impacted my participation. While my level of activity has varied, I’ve never felt I was out of touch.

And then Saturday happened.

My son and I walked into a card shop — one at which I had been visiting on occasion for more than three decades — and I was absolutely floored by the prices. I legitimately had sticker shock, almost as if I were seeing boxes and blasters for the first time, which of course is not the case.

I’m fairly active on Twitter, and listen to a podcast or two. I’m not ignorant to the recent surge in our hobby. I know prices have been skyrocketing in recent months and they’d been trending up for almost two years. But there was something about this specific trip that really made me feel … lost.

I see the posts all day long on social media, the ones offering blasters at double the MSRP; and of course the seemingly endless supply of OnDemand product that’s being priced anywhere from five to ten times as much as they cost direct from the companies. But seeing these prices today in person made me stop and think about where we are right now and where we are going.

Again, this isn’t new territory. I swear this is not just another post chastising flippers and businesses for profiting where they can. Hell, I feel for card shops like the one of which I speak. This specific shop has been around since the 1980s. I’m sure they enjoyed the surge of “the good ol days” and are making good coin now with the hobby hotter than ever, but they also had to live through the times when things weren’t so profitable; an era in which shops had to shutter doors because it didn’t make business sense to stay open.

So while the sight of a $49.99 2020 Bowman blaster is drawing my ire, I know that the shop probably has close to $30 or $35 into each one — so they have to turn a profit to stay in business.

There are lots of ways I can go with this post. I actually hope to cover many of these things in the near future as I return to writing. But I want to focus really on the feelings I am working through, specifically those of being a father raising a kid who likes cards.

It’s a bit disconcerting to look at the prices and wonder how we expect another generation to enter this market. This hobby ceased being “for the kids” about two and a half decades ago — I get that. But even when I was paying $0.75 to $2 for a pack between ages 9 and 12, it was still something I could figure out how to finance. If my 9-year-old wants to buy anything these days, he’s going to need a week’s worth of lunch money … and that’s if he’s lucky.

My son is fortunate that I’m in such a place in my hobby career that I get more out of his enjoyment and experience than I actually do from the cards these days. So I’ll buy a blaster that guarantees a hit and let him open and keep the pack that clearly is three times as thick as the others, or that I’ll order stuff and let him keep everything if he wants them.

But can you imagine yourself being a kid trying to break into the hobby these days?

Again, this isn’t new territory. I’ve expressed some feelings around this before on Twitter and may have covered a bit of it here, but today just felt weird — it took me back to 2006 when I returned to the hobby and felt as if I was a newbie all over again, only this time I was dragging my son into some financial foray with little fun involved because the stakes are so high.

One Response to “Sticker shock could be scary sight for some”

  1. It’s getting even more ridiculous with the Topps Project 2020 that, in my opinion, will be worthless in a few years when the market is over-saturated and people lose interest in “popart” cards.

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