Taking My Hacks

Reflections in 2010: The State of the Hobby

Joe Orlando


This summer marks my 11th year at the company but I have spent almost my entire life as a part of this hobby. Despite the ups and downs of our industry, and through its evolution, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Recently, I thought it might be a good idea to take some time and share my reflections with the readers. These are simply some observations and opinions about where our hobby is today.

After a major change occurred in trading card manufacturing in the 1990s, this segment of the market has taken yet another gigantic turn. In just the last couple of years, the reduction in licenses has changed everything. Now, Panini is the manufacturer with the legal right to produce cards from most of the major sports (basketball, football and hockey). The NFL and NBA rights are exclusive. Who would have believed this scenario just two or three years ago?

Topps has an exclusive on MLB cards but cannot produce cards from any of the other major sports. Upper Deck can only produce NHL (along with Panini) and NCAA cards. So, on paper, you could argue that Panini could emerge as the new powerhouse. That said, you could still argue that since Topps has an exclusive with MLB, and our hobby is driven by baseball, it puts them at the top of the heap.

After years of collector complaints about overproduction, will the limited licenses help bring stability back to the market or is it simply too late? It's too early to tell but the next couple of years should be very interesting. I, for one, feel that the ridiculous amount of cards offered each year has really harmed the modern card market over the past two decades.

In contrast, it seems like high-quality, vintage trading cards and memorabilia continue to defy the economic conditions that surround us. Both sports and non-sports are thriving. Sure, you can cite examples of pieces that have come down in price in recent times, but you can do that in any market... at any time. The bottom line is that records are still being set for the very best items and, even when it comes to the collectibles that have softened a bit; they still sell well... just at a lower price.

Information is improving, something our hobby desperately needs. It helps give peace of mind to potential buyers, provides new ideas for collecting diversity and helps stabilize the market. In order for any market to reach the next level, there has to be a unified effort to provide information.

Our industry has to get away from the approach of "I want to keep what I know to myself so I have an advantage over everyone else"... this will get us nowhere. This is still a real problem today. It is not nearly as bad as it was in years past but, as a group, some of the most knowledgeable people in this hobby continue to refuse sharing what they have learned and then the knowledge dies with them.

There is great contraction in the number of sellers ultimately but those same sellers are getting much stronger. This, in my opinion, can be a very good thing. I would rather see a lower number of sellers if the quality improves dramatically. This trend will most likely continue in the coming years as will the death of conventions as a result of, primarily, the Internet.

Most people are adverse to change, it is just in our nature but there are some good things that are happening, and need to happen, in order for our hobby to move in the right direction. We can get there if people work together instead of focusing on the negative and fighting with each other.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief