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So Who is Truly To Blame?

Posted by houstoncollector on December 23, 2008

First, after Gellman at Sports Cards Uncensored threw up his video rant based on the recent Beckett Prime Cuts box break, I did my own video.  However, a lot has happened since then.  So here’s what I’m going to do.  First, here is my video response to his rant:

With that being said, many more things have happened, including another box break from Beckett, this time of Topps Sterling which was solidly middle-of-the-range, and more importantly, this from Mario over at Wax Heaven.  So, with that being said, I’d like to give a little bit of background and update my own opinion.

First, some background.  I’ve been a member of the video game press for the past four years through my work on Gaming Trend.  I’ve dealt with game publishers and developers, I’ve been to conventions, I’ve received pre-release and retail product for preview and review purposes free of charge, I’ve even been flown free out to various events.  Through it all, I’ve maintained journalistic integrity, despite not being a /trained/ journalist.  In essence, I’m the same as most bloggers, just with a bit more experience.  Unfortunately, the sports card industry is not nearly as fleshed out as the video game industry is.  There are enough press outlets, not even counting the blogs and smaller websites, that no one outlet can dictate to the industry the way Beckett can (and does) to the card manufacturers.  At the very least, it is unethical on Beckett’s part.

I step back somewhat from my claims of collusion and fraud, because it’s obvious through Mario’s words that the pressure is applied by Beckett for very real reasons:  profit.  We already know that Beckett is suffering over the past few years, dropping the size of their magazines while raising the prices, dropping the monthly price guides almost entirely, and becoming increasingly out of touch with the informed section of the hobby, while catering to the sheep who quote book value like it was their religion while buying any product, whether good or bad, based solely on what Beckett has to say.  Tuff Stuff has its niche, but overall, it’s almost completely irrevelant when it comes to a lot of things, or at least, they’re much less vocal about things.

So, my rules pretty much are staying the same, simply because I can’t afford $60+ on a box of cards.  I am changing my stance from claiming collusion, to almost completely blaming Beckett for their actions, although on some level, I understand them.  It’s similar to how the music industry has been clinging to CD sales, even though it’s obvious that it’s not what the consumers want.

Beckett, it’s obvious that the majority of consumers do not use your price guide.  Ebay is solid proof of that.  So here is my challenge to you, not that I expect you to read or respond intelligently.

1)  Change your price guide.  Base it almost strictly on eBay sales, which quite often run about 1/2 of your ‘book value’.  Dealers don’t even use it.  High value should be what dealers are selling for, and that includes eBay.  Either take eBay much more into account, or continue to remain a joke here.

2)  Change your video box breaks.  Take a note from Topps, but instead of having the product come direct from the manufacturer, take a video crew to some of the Dallas hobby stores, make it a big event, and have five or six actual collectors open the product.  They’ll show more excitement than Tracy Hackler could if he was seeing a naked woman.

3)  Give people who buy your magazine a reason to.  Follow Tuff Stuff’s lead and offer codes to magazine subscribers, allowing them to have either free or discounted prices on the online pricing.  Seal the monthly magazines and have monthly codes in them.

4)  Change your magazine and webpage.  Your webpage is crap.  The only thing I like is the inventory system, and even then, it’s woefully complete.  2006 Turkey Red Gold Autos are numbered to 25?  Um.  No.  I have physical evidence denying that claim.  Get freelancers to write more for your magazines.  Have them be actual collectors. Yes, that means you might have to actually pay them, but you could also (quite probably) work out other deals, including some of that product you get from the manufacturers.  Give back to the hobby instead of gleefully sucking the lifeblood from it, while mocking anyone else who tries to speak up.

5)  This one is to the manufacturers:  Grow a pair.  I realize that without the advertising in Beckett, and their price guide, and their praising articles and the like, you might lose some money.  Threaten to pull advertising until their practices change.  You have quite a bit of power here, and a concerted effort would leave them little choice but to change.  Imagine what would happen if Topps, Upper Deck, and Donruss all threatened to pull advertising from Beckett for three months.  Imagine how destroyed those issues of Beckett would be.  I realize it’s hard to do online advertising through blogs, but some of us have actual sites.  Run banner ads.  Do promotions with the websites.  Offer (not always high end) product to blogs here and there, and request videos to post on your own webpage.  Hell, do like other industries do, and fly people out to your plant, or meet with them at conventions for interviews.

6)  Also to the manufacturers:  Quit hiding.  Give a point of contact for press that is NOT customerservice@company.com.  Make it automated if you need to, to weed out the crap from the legitimate requests, but we are here to spread the word and give you more options.  Most of us on the blogs aren’t getting paid for this, we do it because we love the hobby, and what is going on right now is flat-out making us sick.  We want to be here for you.  Let us.  And if Beckett gets pissy?  Treat them like the little child they act like.  So what if a blog got first post?  Here’s the press release.  Do a better job.

With all of that being said, I’ve done some research, and managed to send emails out to all of the companies except for Donruss and Topps, requesting to be on their mailing list.  So far, I have a response from Upper Deck, and I am pleased to announce that Houston Collector is now on the distribution list for Upper Deck press releases.  If anyone knows contact information for Donruss or Topps, leave a comment (and I’ll leave it unpublished for privacy sake).  I have a definite name for Donruss, and a possible for Topps, it’s just a matter of working out the email setup for the two companies.

Merry Christmas, and may your tree have cards beneath it!

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