State Of The Hobby Roundtable

Topps recently asked for input from various hobby enthusiats and bloggers. We were lucky enough to be one of the 15 bloggers ot participate in Topps first “State of The Hobby” roundtable.
Essentially this was an opportunity for Topps to throw out a series of questions and hear what we had to say about those questions and topics.
The questions that they asked us and our complete answers are below. You can find the complete roundtable discussion here on Topps Blog where you will also be able to find the answers of the other bloggers that participated.
Warning..answers are long so be prepared for some long reads!
Play Ball America!
Cesar

1. How long have you been collecting? What are your favorite players, teams, sets, etc. to collect? Which card in your collection means the most to you and why?
I’ve been collecting since 2004. I collect any and all Mets cards but I have centered my main attention around David Wright and Jose Reyes. I also like to collect one set each every year of all 3 topps flagship products as well as one each of Finest, Topps Chrome and Allen Ginter. Currently the one card that I would not sell is the BGS 9.5 2007 Topps Derek Jeter error card with Bush/Mantle. That was the card that really fueled my love for the hobby and since then I have gone from a casual collector to a more serious collector.

2. In the time that you have been collecting, what is your favorite story, memory, experience, etc?
Every case rip that I go through has its own memory or experience. There are so many pulls and stories I’ve shared with other hobby enthusiasts. One memory stands out the most for me and it didn’t have to do with a high end pull or anything in my personal collection. My memory was when the late Corey Lidle’s wife purchased all of his singles from my store. She said she wanted keep sakes for her kids. That struck me and I obtained more singles for her. To me, it just showed how life can even be remembered and preserved through baseball cards!

3. What are the effects on the hobby of major card companies moving toward exclusivity deals with sports leagues? Given that this could be the direction that the industry is headed, what should card companies do to continue to provide a quality product to collectors?
I will focus on baseball since that really is my only interest. Since Topps now is realistically the only company liscenced to print baseball cards many hobbyists think that Topps will try to monopolize the hobby and put out products that won’t really interest or dazzle collectors. Its a tough position to be in I must admit because since there is no competition, Topps must be very careful of not doing just this. If collectors start to get this impression they will more than likely simply stop collectors cards and the hobby may very well fall into a serious decline. Now more than ever Topps will need to step it up in terms of innovations and fresh new ideas. A couple of unadvertised surprises could only help the situation as well. Now more than ever Topps truly holds the fate of the hobby in their hands!

4. Pick a timeframe- 5, 10, or 20 years. In that timeframe, what has been the single best and worst development in the hobby?
In the last 5 years the inclusion of cut autos has been the best thing that I have seen. Autographs are cool but cut autos just make a collector feel all the more special about pulling one. Typically they are from a historic document so the fact that not only do you have an autograph but some piece of nostalgia makes it all the more enticing. Also in the last 5 years, two things stand out, the over saturation of game used jersey swatches in cards and the devaluation of bowman prospect cards. Topps should really step back and see how many jerseys they should be inserting and how they select prospects into a product. True a class may be weak but maybe instead of cluttering a product with no names, just limit the checklist and production for that year? No one want to pay good money to open up a box of older prospects who will never break in.

5. What are your thoughts on prospecting? Do you do it personally? Why? Has the clamoring to find the next big rookie affected the quality of products, either positively or negatively?
I personally do not prospect as I tend to be an impatient person on waiting for prospects to blossom. But I don’t think prospecting effects the quality of a product. I go back to my point on an earlier question that its the quality of the checklist that will make or break a prospecting product such as Bowman Chrome or Bowman Draft. If you worry about future value of cards and you purchase boxes and cases you should do so knowing whether or not your paying a fair price for the boxes based on the checklist that the product has. To me at the end of the day prospecting is like playing the stock market. I remember Alex Gordon’s Bowman Chrome Auto in 2006…its was red hot! People were paying well over $100 for his autographed chroem card. Alex has yet to make an impact after being called up in 2007. Today you can pick up his card for about $50. I sold about 5 Jason Heyward 2007 Bowman Draft cards back in 2008 and probably got about $3 for each of them. Today…i could’ve sold them for $20 and maybe even more. Prospecting is a gamble and at the end I think that the hobby needs both sides…the flipper and the collector to keep prospecting alive. Once one of those start to disappear then prospecting will die all together.

6. We are collecting tangible products in an increasingly intangible world. As our lives move more and more online, what will the effects on the industry be? Will the next generation of kids be as excited about collecting cards as we are? How should the major card companies respond?
No matter how much we utilize the interent I personally will never be able to replace the feeling of ripping open wax with anything on the web. When you redeem codes on ToppsTown.com, its pretty boring for me. You can’t flip through the cards, see the stats, etc. Ripping wax I feel will be kept very much alive by the folks who are into the hobby. As far as the next generation, I don’t know that kids will be as into it as yesterday’s kids were. I think topps should already recognize that a majority of its sales are from adult collectors. Somewhere along the line topps should really get a true feel of how much of its sales is from kids and from adults. Doing so may help shift its marketing focus and help produce more meaningful products.

7. How has new media changed the way you collect? How should the major card companies utilize new media to connect with their consumer base? How can new media change and/or revitalize the hobby?
Twitter and Facebook have helped in big ways. The fact that I am talking to someone from Topps is truly amazing and should be applauded by those in the hobby! Twitter, Facebook and blogs have helped me interact more with my customers and thus generate more interest and sales in cards that I offer. But just as Twitter and Facebook were new, tomorrow there will be a new media outlet. Its important for Topps to stay cutting edge.

8. How has the recent rise in counterfeits and scams affected the way you collect? What advice would you give the major card companies to help combat this? Hasn’t really…you make note of the counterfeits and avoid them. Pretty much a non issure for me.

9. The poor economy has affected all of us in recent years. In what ways would you like to see card companies respond to provide interesting, affordable products for collectors?
In my opinion Topps would be better off if they stopped producing high end products for now (ie Triple Threads, Sterling, etc.). This would solve two issues. A) The main draws of these products are HOFers relics which as a result of multiple releases are starting to lose their high value since they aren’t as rare anymore. You can find Gehrig and Ruth relics in so many products! By elimintating higher end products for a couple of years, their value and appeal might increase in a few years. B)the second way this would help is by not excluding a large population of the hobby. Lets face it, very few peopl can afford to put down $200 plus on a box of cards. I’ve spoken to many people that say they feel alienated when Topps puts out one of these products…even worse now in this economy!

10. We’ve done autographs. We’ve done just about every kind of relic/game used product you can think of. What’s next? Where do we go from here?
I think the recent Hat Logos were great ideas…but those that were in 2010 Topps Series 1 weren’t actual game worn hats. Game worn hats logos would help and be a big hit. Inserting more vintage cards as hits would help as well in my opinion! Maybe even an autograph redemption program where you can meet a certain player at a stadium via a Topps table would attract interest. I’ve always thought inserting manager’s scorecards in product would be cool. Also, Topps has done booklets of cards, It would be interesting to see Topps do a booklet with a mini mp3 player built inside the card that plays the players walk up music when you open up the booklet. Similar to the way some greeting cards do today. Imagine opening up a Derek Jeter booklet card and hearing Jay-Zs Empire State of Mind! Awesome!!

11. If you could say one thing-anything- to Topps and know that the CEO will read it, what would you say?

Don’t forget what you’re known for- baseball cards. Don’t forget who has always loved baseball cards – kids. Be careful not to lose that market!

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