Thursday, July 28, 2022

Getting Priced Out of the Hobby?

While the trading card hobby saw new heights during the worldwide pandemic, my collecting enthusiasm started to wane (at least for baseball). Everyone and their brother it seemed jumped into the hobby and the demand seemed to far outweigh supply. It also didn't help that the speculation game also seemed to be at an all time high. Some of the people gobbling up all the cards at their retail outlets weren't necessarily collectors or set builders, but looking to either flip them and make a quick buck, or put them away thinking the product will put their kids through college one day.

During the these times I felt my desire to collect (specifically baseball cards) just wasn't the same. It didn't help that the product I wanted to buy were always sold out at local retail or that the overall costs of hobby boxes were going up in price. It also seemed as if our purchasing power was decreasing. Packs had fewer cards, boxes had fewer packs. More manufactured "relics" started to become the norm with some of the nicer cards getting harder to pull. Let's not even go down the road of Topps being the sole licensed card manufacturer either. The hobby just felt different and I couldn't wait for things to get "back to normal".

Fast forward to 2022, the year after my Atlanta Braves won the World Series. I was excited about baseball cards again and even looked forward to the possibly of some cardboard love being shown to my Braves from Topps. After all the Dodger blue I saw the year after they won it all, why would I expect anything less? Topps Series 1 was fast approaching and I was excited. I kept checking local retail and nothing. The shelves were still as bare as they were for most of 2020 and 2021. I told myself I'd be patient, but instead of waiting I bought a hobby box for my break group just so I could rip some new Topps. I liked what I saw for the most part. Good design, decent photography and a checklist that you'd come to expect to series 1...even though Topps omitted my guy Dansby Swanson from that series 1 checklist.

As I have become more active on the Trading Card Database site and with their community, I've found that I'm purchasing less and less of certain product, especially flagship Topps. I've found that many people will fill my want lists for new stuff in exchange for older stuff that I have a lot of. While making trades and pulling/packing/shipping can be tedious at times, it's made be appreciate and enjoying the card hobby that much more. There is just something more satisfying about getting that envelope in the mail w/ the cards you need to put a dent in your set or better yet complete that set versus ripping packs and getting double after double.

Now here we are half way through 2022 and everyone is paying stupid prices for gasoline, a dozen eggs, etc. Inflation is nothing new, but with everything going up, except wages, times are getting a little tighter. Surely I'm not the only card collector starting to feel the pinch. For me, cards are just one of many hobbies I have so at least I have other things to fall back on, but those hobbies are getting expensive too. Since the pandemic started, I've found myself stepping back from set building modern cards and moving to buying singles. I've also stepped up my wrestling card game (after all, I am the self-professed #1 WWE R-Truth super collector on Twitter!). I still love the thrill of ripping packs, but man it's getting harder and harder. First Panini increased their blasters to $25-$35 depending on the product. This meant flippers started to back off and you could actually find product on the shelves, but that higher price tag made it a harder swallow...at least for me. I thought Topps would keep their blasters at $20...and they did for series 1 flagship. I knew products like Gypsy Queen went up, but I didn't realize series 2 flagship blasters hit $25 until the other day I picked up one to check out what all the commotion was over the manu-relic batting helmet cards was all about. Then just today while at Walmart picking up a few items for work, I noticed the 2 pack blister carded series 2 flagship packs were ringing up for $19.97. What?! Seriously Topps/Walmart? $20 for two packs?! All the sudden that $25 dollar asking price for a blaster didn't seem so bad.

So now I ask the myself the question, where do I stand? Am I done ripping packs? Am I done set collecting via the traditional method of buying packs/boxes to get the majority of the set before moving to trading? I know for some the inflated prices don't bother them as much. Inflation is real, I get that. I know that prices aren't necessarily going to come down. I've seen comic books go from $.75 each to $4. Everyone has a call to make and while I've not made that final call yet, I do seem to be inching closer and closer to moving away from modern (minus some Dansby Swanson singles) and sticking to the cards/years I was first introduced to...which just happens to be during the now inexpensive junk wax era. 

Just last weekend I took most of my Saturday to completely re-arrange my massive IKEA Kallax unit I use for my bindered card collection. Everything was just tossed up there when I moved into the house last summer and it drive my OCD crazy...but not crazy enough to do anything about it until recently. Now I have plenty of space for my junk wax collections. Most of it is still sitting in sealed boxes, but I left room for the eventual binders, organized by year of course. I still have a lot of custom binder spines that will need to be made, but I'm happy. Just the idea of sitting down with those boxes of 1991 Donruss Triple Play and ripping the packs and organizing the cards brings a smile to my face. This is something I haven't been able to say about modern cards in awhile. Nostalgia is real. The cards of my youth are cheap. That's a combination that I can cling too!

Ultimately I still love this hobby, but man has the landscape changed a lot since I got my start in 1990. I miss those days of old. I miss Fleer, Donruss, Score and especially Pacific. Perhaps this is why in my breaker group I tend to feature boxes of these older products versus the hot, new stuff? I'm a collector, there is no denying that. I'll probably always collect cards in some fashion, I'm just not sure I can continue to collect the way I have over the last 10-15 years. Outside of the annual Allen & Ginter set which I so dearly love, as long as I can continue to trade with other collectors to fill in holes on my want lists and open the occasional pack of cards here and there (which may be junk wax the way things are looking!) I'll be just fine.


The Not Quite Sponsor Section

If you're not familiar with the Trading Card Database site, well shame on you. It's an invaluable resource for trading card collectors (all sports plus non-sports too) where you can find checklists and card images as well as track your own collection. One of the best parts however is the ability to get matched up with other collectors and trade. Create your account and add all those doubles you have sitting around, then add your want lists and get to trading. They are called trading cards for a reason! After every break I host, I'm always looking at the set checklist to see if any of the cards we pulled need scans. I want to give back to the awesome community there as much as I can. I betcha most of the R-Truth card images were submitted by yours truly! Like a lot of places on the web/social media, my handle at TCDB is flywheels. If you ever want to trade or just have questions on how the site works, don't ever hesitate to propose a trade or reach out.

Lastly, I have a break group. It started right here on the blog many, may years ago, but now that activity has migrated over to Facebook, specially a group I created that is simply called "Affordable Group Breaks". This is a public group that anyone can join. Currently we have about 120 members, some more active than others, but just about every Friday evening we go live on our accompanying YouTube channel and break some older, yet fun trading card boxes. Baseball heavy, though we'll break the random football box or once in a blue moon a hockey box. I aim to keep it fun, lighthearted and most importantly, affordable! I encourage you to drop by the FB group sometime to check out what we have going on over there and if you see something that intrigues you, jump in and grab a team. I usually post sign ups every Sunday evening. Consistency in the dates/times of postings & breaks is important to me as I know we all live crazy, hectic lives.

19 comments:

  1. Cardcollector65jwJuly 28, 2022 at 8:04 PM

    Loved the blog. It’s sad that prices are going up. For me an expecting dad that couldnt even buy more than one blaster a month if I was lucky. With the price increase I am priced out. I am glad I can participate in breaks because the value is in the people there. Not always in the cards I get ( mostly cause I’m a royals fan). I’m looking forward to tomorrow night!

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  2. Fellow TCDBer here. Great read and captured a lot of how I feel as well. I miss the days of yore where we did have more options. Coming from a guy who just picked up the pacfic Omega BB run today. Chasing down modern and the itch to rip just isn't in me; so many other areas of the hobby I can explore right now.

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    1. Thanks for your comments...glad to see I'm not the only one in this boat.

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  3. Hi Colby, I agree....blasters just don't provide the value for the money to get me to buy them. I miss the "20 packs for $20" Fairfield repacks that would have Topps and Upper Deck and Panini cards. I like to spend my card money on large lots from Craigslist or Facebook that I can trade on TCDB. I spend more on postage than on cards these days.

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    1. **Colbey (got autocorrected)

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    2. While I don't really collect or build the annual Opening Day set, I did bust a few blasters earlier this year just because you got a lot for the price. Then I see the new Panini Select blasters that are $35 for like 3-4 packs. Yeah, no thanks.

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  4. I also like to target cards that I have been wanting for a while instead of newer ones. Just received the 2013 Score football "Leon Sandcastle" which has been on my list forever!

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  5. I had hopes Topps were going to keep Flagship at $20 for a blaster, but not only did Series 2 go up, but the price of a loose pack went up again to $3.50. The Target website does have the Gypsy Queen blaster at $20, while the stores had them at $25, if that means anything to you.

    Great looking reorganization! Where's the Transformers?

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    1. Inflation has hit my Transformers collecting too. I knew I'd be passing my IKEA this week while traveling for work and had plans on picking up 1-2 more Detolf glass display cases until I realized their price jumped again...they are now $99.99. Less than 8 months ago they were $59.99. Sadly it may me awhile before I can afford to get the last few cases I need to finish off the display proper.

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  6. Bakerybum from TCDB - great read! I couldn't agree more. I decided not too long ago that I am focusing on older years to fill my collection. I can't keep up with any of the new stuff - it just isn't feasible. I've got ALOT of partial sets that need completing and trading through TCDB does it for me. Opening an envelope/package is like opening a a fresh pack in my opinion. Better in fact bc I know the cards inside are not doubles!

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    1. Thanks for your feedback. It is so satisfying getting cards in the mail from trades that put me one step closer to finishing off a set. I also love being able to help others do the same. I often will trade heavily in someone else's favor it if means getting a few cards I need for my various incomplete sets.

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  7. Fabulous and honest perspective of a true Baseball Card Aficionado & Collector!! Totally think and feel the same way!!!

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I'm glad others see this in a similar light.

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  8. It's definitely a weird time, especially being one of the people that the hobby is not catered to by the card companies. I still enjoy packs, but rarely do I not have buyer's remorse after opening. I just don't open enough to give myself the odds of pulling something interesting. It's much more efficient for me to do small TCDB trades and buy singles on eBay.

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    1. I love opening packs, but I understand the buyer's remorse part. This is perhaps why I love hosting breaks as I get to open packs of product I'd like to try out, but I'm not stuck with all the cards (or the remorse) afterwards! Finding singles I need on eBay or completing TCDB trades is far more satisfying for me these days.

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  9. I've been happier collecting specifically what I want from websites like ebay and sportlots rather than taking the risk on opening packs. My collecting focus is so weird and narrow, it just stopped making sense. Though I do/did get joy out of sending the stuff I was opening to people that actually wanted them. So I agree the hobby's still in a weird place but fortunately too we do have the option to collect how and where we want.

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