By Joe Mosley aka LGB Cards

I have actually had this discussion with many people both in the past and recently. In my opinion, to keep this hobby alive we need to have more youth involvement and make an effort to maintain it. I personally think the biggest issue with the youth involvement in trading cards is the turn that the industry took around the year 2000. The addition of many game used variations and multiple autograph cards introduced us to a whole new era of card collecting and I think it was for the better but there are always two sides to everything. The first autograph card I ever pulled was from the mid 90s, a Patrick Ewing Hoops autograph, that set only had autographs by three players instead of most of the players in any major sport so it was a big deal to pull that. At the same time though, no matter who the player was, it was a rarity to pull an autograph out of a 90s pack of cards  Now you can get many different boxes that guarantee an autograph or game used card. It is still a big deal now like it was then but it is a little different, it takes away the excitement of pulling that autograph since you know you are going to get one but if you pull an auto from a big name like Sidney Crosby or LeBron James it is still a big deal. So times have changed but there are still some similarities with the last twenty years.

One of the big negative changes though is the price of those cards and the price that some boxes and packs demand. The Ewing card I pulled came out of a pack that cost no more than $2 but in the hobby today some packs can go for $20, $30, or $40 dollars, with boxes going for big money, $500 or $600 dollars in some cases. There may be a kid out there who can walk into a local card shop with $500 and buy whatever but most kids can’t and don’t have that kind of money. I don’t think that the kids who are well off don’t count, of course they do but those kids have parents that have the money to buy a $500 box and the money it costs to collect isn’t an issue to them. I don’t know how many people reading this could or would buy their six year old child a $500 box of Upper Deck The Cup but even if you did you would probably watch him open it and grab up anything that is of big value and preserve it in a case to stay at home, which takes out the fun and interaction of trading and showing off your collection. Honestly, we can all say we would do this, if our child pulled a $6,000 Sidney Crosby patch autograph rookie there is no way we would let them throw it in their backpack and take it to school. It is the middle class and lower class kids that can’t get into collecting due to price and that is where the hobby is losing its youth collectors.

In my opinion, the industry needs to make a separation and develop cards for the big money collector but also for the child that has $2 and wants a pack of cards. The cards will be cheap to buy and cheap to collect which makes them cheap in value but value is only a small part of it for a kid, if it factors in at all. Instead of offering points and redemption cards for prizes offer them contests to award them for good grades in school and then sharing their successes and experiences playing sports themselves. Most of the kids who would collect also enjoy sports and more than likely will also play in some sort of organized sport and let’s remember that all of these people on these cards today where also kids that became the athletes we cheer for. Add inserts like game used card and autographed cards but not to the extent that it is in today’s collecting world. I would almost bet that if we inform teams within the major sporting leagues that these cards are going to be marketed for kids and priced for kids to afford the donations will come rolling in. Most of us big money collectors wouldn’t take advantage of this either due to the lack of book value or we would collect just as a fan and still the product will be pushed. Today’s world of collecting is about money, money, money but as all of us here get older and pass on there must be a generation to replace us for the money to still be there, if there are no collectors then there will be no cards. The jersey pieces can be smaller so that more can be made and to keep cost down, the autographs could be obtained on a players free time instead of sending a ton of stickers to be signed at once within a few weeks. Include neat looking cards such as cartoon art cards of players, die cut cards that are not limited due to popularity but an equal production so that a kid can pull a LeBron James or Sidney Crosby just as easy as a Nate Robinson or Cam Janssen card. Make sites that are geared towards kids instead of ones like SCF that are great for us but have people who can buy anything and have the smell of business all over it.

We all also know that these days it is not as easy for a kid to get autographs, now when you go to an event that has sports stars there, there is a fee to get in and have one thing signed. Sometimes, pricing of your ticket to meet a sports star depends on what you want signed and if you want to meet a few people, well then shell out some more cash. If a child’s parents takes him to 20 games a year because he wants to go has he not already paid his $40 to meet you and get an impersonal signature? Sports stars always talk about the love of the game but they only want to participate in the part that pays them. To me love of the game should include growing the game, growing your past or present organization, no brawling after a race, no fighting in the stands, and not using illegal drugs which are simply for your own personal gain.

The whole industry, collectibles and sports, need to realize that the children of today will pay your check of tomorrow and no matter how good you or how nice your cards are if no one is there to watch you play, then no one will care and you won’t have to worry about cost, you will have to look for a new job. I don’t really think this is something that is unseen now though, the 90′ crash of card collecting was exactly what I am talking about now, it has happened once but next time the hobby might not recover.