Thursday, March 26, 2020
Are base cards going extinct?
So many times last year I asked card show vendors Do you have any Topps Big League?, and so many times I was met with replies of No or Yeah but I didn't bring them or What's Topps Big League?
To me, 2019 Big League was a symbol of a larger trend I've been noticing in the past couple years. I loved last year's Big League, a low-end brand that (predictably) isn't all that popular among the breakers and the other bigwigs of the hobby. But even as recently as 2018, I was able to secure most of the base cards I needed from Big League and other lower-end sets at card shows, without much difficulty.
Lately, different story. My 2019 base want lists -- which are normally all but taken care of by year's end -- are still kinda bloated because a lot of vendors chose to leave their base at home. Sets popular with breakers (Flagship, Heritage, etc.) were still easy enough to locate in the wild, but conversely, I found maybe a dozen 2019 Big League singles I needed in dime boxes all year (that's across maybe six or seven card shows, mind you). Also there was only one vendor who had 2020 Topps base at the card show I attended earlier this year -- inserts, parallels, and hits, sure...but almost no base cards.
And so I'm forced to ask the question I hoped I'd never have to ask: in today's money- and breaker-oriented hobby, are base cards really going extinct?
I sure hope not.
Inserts and parallels and whatever else are fine and good -- and sure I even prefer the inserts to the base in some sets -- but the real core of why I collect at all lies in the base cards. I buy packs for the base cards. Which is why it pains me when I hear stories of people buying boxes of cards and leaving the base behind, or even throwing them out (gasp!). No, no, no, no, no! Base cards are more than protection for the inserts and hits: they're why we should be opening packs in the first place.
Luckily, most bloggers seem to understand this, which is why I thought it apt to showcase a package I recently received from longtime trade partner Kerry of "Cards on Cards" -- a package that included some A&G and, yes, even Big League(!) base still collecting dust on my want list.
I rely on base cards being accessible because I only have the budget and sanity to open so many packs -- eventually I'll run out of money or start pulling doubles and triples and quadruples.
In the past, most of my want lists eventually get whittled down to stars like Trout, rookies like Eloy Jimenez, or other non-dime box stuff and/or SPs -- though thankfully Kerry helped take care of some of those, too.
It's been particularly painful seeing gobs and gobs of cards from sets I don't care about available at shows over the past year or two.
I saw blasters of Leather & Lumber in the Target card aisle so many times last year, and I never bought a single one. The cards themselves aren't horrible -- these from Kerry are actually the first two in my collection -- but I was never really tempted to buy any. I think the $20 blasters only had like 23 cards in them (or something close to that) and were much more geared towards the "hits," which when you put it all together is a blaster I'll never buy because what did I just say about wanting base cards?
But with the amount of this stuff I saw at shows in 2019, you'd think it was the Set of the Year or something.
Player collection needs from more sets I never planned on buying -- it scares me that people could lose their minds so much over less-than-stellar sets like Optic and Update Chrome.
I enjoy getting more recent hits for my player collections (like that Ichiro reprint from 2019 Archives), but I get much more excited about stuff I need from sets like Donruss Classics and Pacific Aurora because it's not like packs of those are waiting for me at Target anymore.
Oh, and see? I still like inserts!
I'm not so much worried that card companies will stop producing base cards anytime soon. I'm more worried that the people who have access to most of those base cards (i.e. breakers and people who have enough supply to put them in dime boxes at card shows) are treating them more and more as filler, more and more as stuff no one wants. But I know that's not true. Because while it's easy to be blinded by all the patches and autographs and superfractors making the rounds in bigger hobby circles, those aren't the only cards people want.
I know what I want, and I want base cards.