Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Point of no return

Once again, baseball cards are in the news.

This morning, I came across the newest post from bdj610's blog.

Apparently, CBS ran a segment about baseball cards this past weekend. I usually enjoy it when baseball cards pop up in the media or pop culture.

My first clue that something was off in CBS's story was that they said Mickey Mantle's 1952 Topps was his rookie card. It's a common mistake, but you should at least get it right if you're going to, you know, run a nationally televised news story.

I was disappointed to see that it was a gloom-and-doom look on the hobby we all love so much. I was, however, immediately taken in to the segment, because one of the first shots we see is a sign that says "10 Cent Cards".

The initial scene is one of the many local card shows across the country, a largely empty one at that. After a little while, it cuts to a crowd shot of the 1991 National Convention, which was attended by over 100,000 people.

Although I wasn't around at the time, I've read about the craziness of the "overproduction era" of the late '80s and early '90s.

It was all largely kicked off by Upper Deck's initial release in 1989.

We all pretty much know the rest.

The biggest problem I had with the clip was that it seemed to glorify those years.

It actually turned out to be the worst years to be a collector.

There weren't many people in the hobby for fun then. To be fair, card companies weren't really allowing the collectors to have much "fun" at the time. Obviously, the hobby has certainly declined in popularity since then.

However, I'd say the ratio of people who are in it for fun versus people who are in it for a quick buck is much, much lower today than it was then. I've encountered very few people who are in the hobby solely for the money in recent years.

Fun is originally what collecting was supposed to be about.

The hobby forgot that during the overproduction era.

One of the biggest complaints about the hobby is a common one.

"It's not for kids anymore."

One thing I did agree with from the segment was the role video games played in that change. Although they kind of glossed over it, they did get that right.

I'm one of the very few people I know who doesn't play video games. Now that I think of it, I don't know that I've ever even met anyone else my age who doesn't play video games on a daily basis.

If kids do partake in hobbies nowadays, it's video games, for the most part. It's the "cool" hobby to have. Not collecting baseball cards.

I'd never realized it before I saw the news clip, but there was a "perfect storm" of sorts. Video games and the "Internet boom" happened at right around the same time as the '94 baseball strike.

People were already starting to sour on the hobby by then. The video game boom simply came along in the right place at the right time.

However, the segment made it seem like there are absolutely no kids in the hobby anymore, which is actually far from the truth.

One of the dealers from the segment says that the hobby has "priced themselves out" in reference to the diminishing amount of kids in it. While that may partly be true, there's still plenty of room for the younger generation to collect cards. They aren't all $100 cards, contrary to the vibe that CBS gives off.

The card show that they cut to at around the 2:40 point in the video is actually the exact same card show that I was at this weekend. CBS must have been there a different day, because I didn't see any cameras.

On a side note, the table that has the "Bargains" sign (at 2:49) is the table where all this good stuff came from, including the above Burdette card. The clip of the person flipping through the cards at the 2:55 mark is also from that table. I know because each sleeve was individually marked with that exact same handwriting.

I looked again and again, but I wasn't anywhere in the footage from the card show. That would've been neat.

Anyways, what the segment failed to note is that there were quite a few kids there. And the convention hall was absolutely packed. I've been going to that show twice a year for about four or five straight years now, and I have to say that I seem to always see more and more attendees each time I go.

That's a great sign.

"It's going to die."

This is one of the final "uplifting" quotes about the hobby from the CBS segment.

While collecting has obviously diminished in recent years, I wouldn't categorize the hobby as anywhere near "dying".

Maybe it's because I'm on the inside looking out, but it seems like baseball cards are one of the most misunderstood hobbies in today's day in age.

Contrary to what CBS would have you believe, I'd rather be at a show with a couple dozen people who are in it for fun than at a show with 100,000 people, half of which are trying to scheme ways to make a quick buck. I am truly glad that I grew up during the current era of cards rather than the crazy overproduction era, no matter what CBS says.

It's still a great time to be a collector.


JediJeff said...

Take one look at eBay and you can still see those that are trying to make a fast buck out of the business. In anything, there is always a segment of people that see anything only for the potential money they can make out of it. Every industry has is ups and downs.

Funny you point out video games. Shall we talk about the time just before the original Nintendo came out? If you wanted an industry that was "dying", it was video games. Granted - I don't see something like that turn around happening in this hobby (mainly because of technology), but there is a point when it's on fire, and then it retreats back to a normal sustainable level.

William Regenthal said...

If they wanted to do a real piece on baseball cards, they should have made mention of blogging, which, to me, has done a great job in rekindling people's interest in cards and has shown that when people AREN'T in it for the money, it does well. When I stopped worrying about whether or not a card was 'worth something' was when the fun came back. I started collecting cards that had cool photos, or ones that 'would make a good blog entry.'

Also, any news story that uses 'Mr. Mint' as an authority on cards loses legitimacy right there. Mr Mint is the worst thing to ever happen to baseball cards. Ever.

night owl said...

CBS's story has received way too much play. It should have been ignored by everyone. Such inaccuracy and cluelessness is not worth a response.

Nick said...

True, although I just couldn't believe how wrong they got it. Maybe I'm just a little nieve, but I'd think that a network would do more research before they run it on a national news program.

We'll always enjoy the hobby, and that's really all that matters in the long run anyways.