Why Did Our Hobby Die?

It’s a perfectly reasonable question in 2015. No matter what companies like Beckett Media or others who thrive off collectors’ money, this hobby is on life support. Baseball Card Shops, once a staple of the early 90s are all but gone. Competition from companies like Pinnacle Brands and Fleer have died out, while others like Donruss and Upper Deck are forced to make generic, unlicensed cards. Topps Company, the most iconic card manufacturer is single-handedly flooding the market with millions and millions of unnecessary parallels and collectors are just not buying it any longer.

As a player collector, times could not possibly be any better. I get the pick of the litter thanks to dirt cheap prices on eBay but for case breakers and even box busters, which I once was, this hobby simply doesn’t offer any kind of incentive any longer. Since returning to collecting, I have spent a fair amount of money to purchase cards at $7-$25 from products that cost anywhere from $70 per box to $700. Essentially, your brutal financial loss is my gain but just how much longer will the big case busters stick around?

Cards like the Kris Bryant Superfractor get all the media and hobby attention despite that time and time again collectors foolishly spend thousands of dollars on cards of kids who simply do not pan out. Does anyone not remember the $5,000 Joba Chamberlain Super and the Stephen Strasburg disaster? What’s worse is that rather than offer a voice of reason, publications like Beckett Media encourage and fan the flames of super cards just to sell another magazine or push their grading service that only adds value to cards that they themselves price! This is the very definition of conflict of interest.

We are now in the final days, believe it or not. As much as I love collecting and have loved it for nearly 25 years, no piece of card board will ever replace a smart phone, lap top, or gaming system. If companies don’t realize this soon, we will see more card manufacturers close their doors and sell of their printers in bankruptcy hearings. The time is now for a change to happen but no one will simply choose to make less money by producing less cards so nothing will change until everything that was great about our hobby is gone, much like the card shops.

Check out this video. Comment below.

Categories: The Hobby | Tags: , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Why Did Our Hobby Die?

  1. We go through this every year (or at least every three years or so since I’ve joined the Hobby Blogging Community.)

    Nice to see you join the doom and gloom types who keep saying “The Hobby is Dying!” Congratulations.

    Really, Mario? Really! I know you left for a couple of years. So let’s get you up to speed.

    We’ve been in the final days for years now, so said CBS who broadcast that exact story a couple of years ago. But guess what? The Hobby has never died. The Hobby the way we all knew it 25 years ago has evolved to what you see today. Change is a constant, and this Hobby is always changing. Maybe not to your liking (bring back the good old days, say many). But it’s still around, and the branches are forever spreading.

    There have always been distractions, from activities to devices, that have taken people away from it. But it will always be there. As long as people have the itch to collect ANYTHING, it will always be there. And to your point about manufacturers not getting with the technology, at least Topps is trying with their digital format. Is it perfect? No. Am I on it? Hardly. But at least they’re trying. You wrote, “no piece of card board will ever replace a smart phone, lap top, or gaming system,” I offer the reverse.” No smart phone, lap top, or gaming system will ever replace holding a physical piece of cardboard.

    The numbers are down, of course they are. We all know that. We all have seen it. But does it mean that the Hobby is dead? That we should all move on? Hardly. For every one person who leaves the Hobby for good, there will always be another diving in for the first time.

    But again, nice to see where you stand.


    JayBee Anama

  2. My position is that I want to help promote the good in this hobby but high end and grading and other things have chased so many away. You can stick your head in the sand but my eyes are wide open. If this was being discussed while I was away or five years or 7 years ago or ten it’s because some collectors see there is a major problem. I live in a city with 3+ million with zero card shops. I have to drive two hours north or south to find cards not in Walmart or Target.

    Like I said, I’m happy because I just won a Topps Tier Canseco auto for $13 dollars. How much was that box? Total loss for the guy who spent real money and got burned. Something has to give …

  3. I think there is another issue at work here, and it’s purely a matter of demographics. People leave the hobby when they head to college fairly regularly and return to it when they are in their 30s or 40s. But here’s the thing: the number of people in this country who are in their 30s and 40s has declined significantly since, after all, in between the Baby Boom and the “Millennials” was a group of people born between 1966 and 1980 known as Gen X/Y. More to the point, that time was also called The Baby Bust — people weren’t having kids in great numbers and, in addition, the number of people who were “parent” aged in that time was down due to the losses WWII.

    In other words, long story short, yes, the hobby is down now. But that’s because the nostalgia-collector numbers are down right now entirely due to pure numbers of people generally in the age group.

  4. For me, the “hobby” is 95% about the secondary market, and that is alive and well. I’m more annoyed than excited when the larger players I collect get new cards because I hate all the mindless parallels and inserts. There is nothing in the last 10 years in the US market of which I have wanted to buy a whole box. I grab the handful of singles I can afford, then ignore the rest and get back to hunting the older stuff. The mainstream, new release hobby business is BORING.

  5. CK

    I agree with Mario and have been saying many of the same things he said, for a while now. While the hobby may not be dead yet, or may not completely die just yet, it is a shell of itself. People like us, we’re the exception; we’re diehards and we probably aren’t leaving (I’m not). But there’s no infusion of new collectors. There aren’t any younger kids coming in. We’re all in because we had exposure to cards when we were kids, right? We came back, or never left, because it created a fire in us that we love to keep burning; whether it’s fueled by nostalgia or something else. But you don’t see new or young collectors coming in because they aren’t exposed to cards growing up anymore. I go to 3 or 4 big card shows a year, and then hit the mall circuit shows another 3-4 times a year, and let me tell you, there are almost zero kids there. If you turned back the clock 25 years, the shows would be comprised of 50% kids.

    And kids aren’t exposed to cards because of technology and value. Cards today, by and large, do not keep their value. New releases are only hot until the next release. Even 1/1’s and rare parallels don’t hold up well, player dependent; look at Mario’s Canseco example. So if cards don’t hold any (real) value, why should kids get interested? Especially up against technology: phones, computers, iPads, iTunes, texting, twitter, whatever else they do these days. How can cardboard compete? I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all about “value”, because a kid can collect without any value being associated with a team or player, but I do think value is a big component; it was for me and my friends when I was young. And to make matters worse, the layperson doesn’t promote cards or collecting. People only know what they hear in general: that cards are worthless now and it’s a waste of money to collect cards and, “Yeah, I collected when I was a kid, but now they’re worthless.” That’s a frustrating message to hear; not entirely untrue, but doesn’t help our cause.

    The two biggest components to the downfall of the hobby, in my opinion, were overproduction and the advancement of technology (specifically the internet and ebay). Overproduction really hit its zenith around the early ’90s and I think that was bad timing; my generation was learning to drive and getting into girls, with college not too far off. There certainly weren’t a lot of great rookies around ’91-’92 to keep us interested, and with so many sets to collect, it felt overwhelming. So I left. And so did many of my generation. Most never returned. I did return because of that fire. And I couldn’t believe how prices and values had fallen. It was depressing and sad. And with the internet now a giant flee market, cards have even less chance to hold value. At least in the ’80s and early ’90s, cards could hold some value because that’s what they cost to buy, and that’s what the value was in the book. That was nice.

    I think the hobby will continue on for a while, but nothing like it once was, and it will never be like that again. I’m consistently one of the youngest ones at shows, and I’m in my late 30’s. The vast majority are in their ’50s and ’60s. Once they’re gone, then the hobby may just about be dead. Maybe that’s another 20 years or so. Cards will always be out there, but how much longer can one company keep the hobby afloat, and how much longer will people be willing to buy the products if they don’t hold value?

    • Great comment, CK! It’s not about negativity because lord knows I love this hobby but it’s a sinking ship. I want to talk about it rather than stick my head in the sand and pretend everything is going to be okay or just wait till things get better.

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