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Where Do We Go Now?

Posted by houstoncollector on August 20, 2009

So, after my last post involving the issues facing our card collecting today, and the industry in general, I put an email out to all of the card companies, including Beckett, requesting comments or responses from all of them.  Not surprisingly, I only received an initial response from Upper Deck and Razor, and after some back and forth, I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Gray of Razor Entertainment for about 30 minutes.  Now, just to put this in the proper time frame, this was after Topps announced that they had the MLB exclusive for baseball cards, and after Upper Deck announced the NCAA exclusive for cards.  Of course, many other players have been signed to exclusives before and after by Topps, Upper Deck and Panini.  This is important, as it was addressed during our phone call.

Basically, one of the important aspects that came out of the call, that many of us may not have known, is that the licensing costs due to the MLB, NFL or whatever league and player associations, can be as much as 20% of the cost of the product.  This is to say that out of a case that costs $1200 or more, over $200 of that is going directly to the licensing authorities, which could easily add another A level autograph per case, if not more.  This definitely means that the card companies are facing severe pressure when packing out products, which is another reason why the game-used and autograph checklists have been so watered down lately.  Given that Razor also deals with the entertainment industry (where they do more business than they ever have with baseball, by the way), Brian told me that Disney, which is a much larger brand than Major League Baseball, has a licensing cost that is approximately one half that of the MLB.  

Another thing that came out of the interview, and I agree with both Brian and Joe Collector in that these exclusives will make things more confusing for consumers, not less.  While Topps was very up front about saying that this exclusive was to make things less complicated, and aim things at kids, do you really see Topps going away from Triple Threads, Sterling, Finest, and the other brands that cost more than $5 a pack?  I don’t.  Do you really see them going away from the standard offering of X hits per box, when not 1 hit per pack?  I don’t.  Do you see them producing fewer brands in 2010?  I don’t.  Do you see Upper Deck changing much at all?  I’d like to say I do, but …. I have a very bad feeling that status quo will be the order of the day.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t innovation in card collecting.  2009 SPx football is going to feature shadowboxes, and while I’m not sure exactly how they will look in-hand, at least it’s something different.  Topps is at least trying to change the inserts somewhat over the past few years.  Razor had the eBay-only Metal cards, and destroyed the extras at the National recently.  

Here’s the crux of the problem, however, as I see it:  Collectors don’t want change.  For all of us who bitch about Beckett, who complain about hits per box, and how crappy the value is, for all of us…there’s five people who live and die by Beckett, who love their Mojo, and who drop hundreds of dollars on boxes of poorly-designed crap and will never stop.  The card companies know this, that’s where the majority of their money is coming from.  The only way we can vote is with our wallet, and for the most part, we haven’t.  While I’d love to see a change, I’m not going to hold my breath. 

Back to Razor, however, Brian Gray did say that while there are no announced baseball products at the moment (at least, not that he could say), he did say that if or when they did baseball again, they would approach it more intelligently.  I would also like to thank Brian for taking the time to talk to me on this topic, and at least showing that he and Razor are committed to the collectors.  While they may not be totally sports, they are at least trying, and I give them credit for that.

Finally, I’ve done a lot of thinking, and I honestly think that all of the exclusives in the industry today are bad for business and do nothing but increase the amount of confusion.  The player contracts should be part and parcel of the MLBPA contracts, and should honestly be a flat fee for autographs.  When even the prospects are demanding huge signing fees for autographs, something is wrong.  If 2009 is the Year of the Gimmick, I hereby anoint 2010 as the Year of Confusion.

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