Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Child's Play has now turned into big business!

From the age of 9 until I was about 19, I was a baseball card collector.  It is probably better stated that my father and I were baseball card collectors.  We have quite the collection that includes all of the stars from the 1980's and early 90's.  We have some older guys as well that we picked up at different card shows or auctions.  In fact, our collection includes about 35,000 cards, of which maybe 500 have some better than average value, and around 50 that have some real value.  My son has shown a lot of interest in baseball lately, so I thought it would be neat to let him see my ball cards.  Daddy got them out of the attic and brought them to my shop for me to sort through.  After spending all weekend filing cards with their correct teams and moving Hall of Famers to special notebooks, I was reminded of how much fun card collecting could be and I also wondered why we stopped.

I asked Daddy that very question.  His response was that it got to where there were too many cards being put out by too many companies.  The value of the cards were not what they use to be and the price of the cards per pack were getting higher and higher.   When I was a kid, you could buy three packs of baseball cards for a dollar.  We would ride from store to store and get three packs at each store.  Daddy's limit was usually $5 bucks.  That was 15 packs of cards!  You had three companies to choose from.  You could buy Topps, Donruss, or Fleer cards.  Each company would offer you a little something special in the pack like bubble gum or a sticker of your favorite team.  It was a cheap hobby that could be shared by father and son and cards could be traded back and forth between friends to make sure that you had every card of your favorite player.  It was all fun and games until 1989 and then these guys hit town....

This is a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card.  This is what changed the landscape of card collecting.  This was the hottest card to hit the market in decades.  Upper Deck sold every card that they made in 1989 and then pre-sold every card that they could mint in 1990.  The cards were special because the owners of the new company had found a way to place holograms on the card.  This would make it very difficult to be duplicated by counterfeiters.  The card was also printed on a fine white glossy finish, not cardboard.  It was really something and they knew it!  Demand was high, and with that comes bigger prices!  It was obvious that the other companies would have to step up their game to compete with Upper Deck.  Upper Deck was making a better product with better pictures and was charging a premium.  The 3 other guys soon followed the lead of Upper Deck and started making better cards, however other companies also tried to get in on the game and ride the wave of baseball card popularity.  Companies such as Score and Leaf threw their hats into the game and also produced a high quality card.  Now a trip to the store involved cards that cost $.50 to $1.00 a pack and you had to choose between 5 or 6 different companies.  Since I was in college and had shown no interest in collecting any longer, Daddy just gave up!  The last year that we have cards on  file is 1991.  They include cards from Upper Deck, Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, Leaf, and Bowman.  Not a kids game anymore!

Fast forward 20 years.  I'm not sure if the game is much better.  A pack of cards cost $2.  What kid can afford to buy more than a couple of packs at a time?  Topps is still around and Upper Deck is too, although I think they are on the way out.  Fleer, Donruss and Score are no longer with us and Bowman is still in the game producing high end cards.  Cards are hard to find.  They are no longer in every convenient store.  Reid and I went to Walmart to find some the other day.  There are less companies putting cards out, but they have a bigger variety of cards.  Topps had three different sets of cards on the shelf.  I have been out of the game too long to know what I am supposed to buy.  It has really become too big of a business for kids to enjoy!

So what is a card collector to do?  Remember when I told you that I had about 35,000 cards that were basically worth nothing more than my memories?  If you are a new collector, why spend $2 per pack of cards and storing all of those cards to try and find an Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, or Jason Heyward rookie card.  Today you can simply order which cards you really want from some dude on the Internet.  Need a Chipper Jones?  We got it!  Need a Derek Jeeter?  We got it!  Need a Tommy Hanson?  We got it!  Yes we even have a Bryce Harper, who was drafted only yesterday with the first pick in the 2010 draft!

I think that is what I will do.  I'll just order up the cards that I really want and put them up for safe keeping for Reid to look at one day.  I'm really sorry that Reid will not get to play with his ball cards or trade them with his friends, but this is no longer a kids game, its a business!

Oh, how I long for the days of stale bubble-gum, shoe boxes, heroes on cardboard and willing buddies to play the game!

1 comment:

CHERI said...

You had a GREAT childhood!