I have been thinking a lot about the exclusivity deal that TOPPS signed with Major League Baseball this week. I think that it may actually be a good thing for collectors. You see, I started collecting in the early 1980's and there were three brands of cards: Topps, Donruss, and Fleer. Most of the players had three cards to collect. Most of the players on the cards had actually played in the major leagues. The cards were simple clean designs that were full of stats on the back. I stored my cards in a shoe box sorted by league and team. The hobby was simple, easy, and fun. I traded all of my Mets cards to the neighbor for all of his Cubs. Things could not have been better.
Then sometime in the late 80's early 90's things began to change. Upper Deck introduced us all to a premium brand of baseball card. Packs went from $.40 cents to $2.00 overnight. A few years later there were so many different sets, subset, and products that every player had 50-200 different cards per year. Serial numbers, color variations, chrome, silk, the options were endless. It had become almost impossible to collect all of the cards of your favorite player. To illustrate my point, In 1985 Rickey Henderson was my player of choice. If you look at the Beckett.com database, which is a great resource, you will find that Rickey had 27 total items, 5 stickers, 1 coin, 1 rub down??, and 20 total cards. This was a year where Rickey made the All Star team and was traded, so there were a lot of special cards. Compare that to my current favorite player Carl Crawford. If you look up all the items for CC in 2005, just 20 years later you will find 757 items. Thats right 757 different items from 2005 alone. Can you say saturated market?
Lets look at this from a collectors point of view. In 1985, I would have had to track down 20 cards to complete my Rickey Hendersons of 1985. It would have been tough without ebay and the internet, but I think I could have done it. I bet I could have done it for less than $100 too. My 2005 Carl Crawford collection on the other hand would be IMPOSSIBLE to put together. Did you know of the 757 items listed for Carl, 171 of them are 1 of 1 cards? That means only one of them was made. Lets say I was able to track all 171 of them down. Have you seen what 1 of 1's go for on the bay or at a card store. $50/$75/$100+ dollars. That means conservatively it could cost me between $8,000 and $20,000 for just the 1 of 1's. I still have 586 other cards to go!
So how does an exclusivity deal help this situation? I hope it will allow Topps to come out with a few less, but better overall products. Maybe they will drop a few brands, have a few less chrome versions, and make a product at a price point that the average collector can buy. Lets bring the fun back into collecting by making it simple and easy again. I think if they offered lets say.... 5 brands they could cover everything that needs covering: Topps Total, Topps, Allen & Gintner, Bowman, and Bowman Sterling. This would cover all the bases. Topps total for the team collector, Topps for the average collector, A&G for the guys that like the nostalgia/old school look, Bowman for the rookies, and Bowman Sterling for the ultra high end prospector. Sprinkle all of these with some good auto, game used, and serial numbered cards and hopefully Carl Crawford won't have 1,000 cards in 2010 for me to collect.
Please bring the fun back to collecting, I should not have to have a masters in statistics and to collect my favorite player.
The Card Addict