By Matt Hall aka DesertBoots

 

No more than a month ago, my six year old son and I visited a card shop in town that had opened earlier in the year. This was his first visit to a sports card shop of any kind which made it one of those unique father and son experiences. He had emptied his entire piggy bank of coins, totalling a little over five dollars, in hopes of buying his first pack of cards. I had not actively collected cards in the past twenty years so I had no idea of what to expect in regards to product and prices. I just hoped he had enough to purchase what he would want.

 

As we entered the store I believe we shared the same sense of awe but for different reasons. His was more of seeing so much memorabilia around. Mine was for how much product was available. There were literally four to six different types of product for each sport to include baseball, basketball, football and hockey! But that was for the current year of course. Then there were all of the boxes of cards that dated back to when I first started collecting in the mid 1980s. To say I was a bit overwhelmed is an understatement.

 

Thankfully, the shop owner was extremely helpful with answering my questions and I was able to direct my son to some cards that he could afford. Here is where the problem began. Out of everything available in the store, only two football products from 2009 were a remote possibility for my son to buy packs from. Many packs were selling between three to five dollars a pack. With a little assistance from myself, I helped him walk away with a few packs that he enjoyed ripping open when we returned home.

 

I had no idea that prices had risen so dramatically in just a couple of decades. After starting my own research I realized that I wasn’t getting taken advantage of by the shop owner, which was my first thought. What I found is that sports card companies have changed that much! When I collected cards as a kid some manufacturers would entice you with that coveted autograph hidden amongst thousands of packs. Today you can find it in a few per box or better. When I collected you could purchase a pack for as little as fifty cents with some being as high as a dollar. Good luck with that today!

 

What I see is that the majority of the card market has focused on catering to the middle aged adult willing to fork over large amounts of money to guarantee that awesome autograph or swatch. Unfortunately they have totally cut out the younger kids, such as my son, who are in it for the plain ‘old fun of collecting. It almost seems as though a lot of people set their sights on finding that “golden ticket” so they can be the first to throw it on an auction block for large amounts of cash. This, I think, has forever changed the hobby. Most of your serious collectors are now my age or older. The younger generation is just not there.

 

Of the entire product on the shelves the 2011 Score Football product is one of the few exceptions. I love it because it is very simple as it is very affordable! It reminds me very much of how cards used to be. If my son wants to grab a few packs with just a few dollars this is a possibility. In fact, I have bought a box of it myself for these very reasons. I have used Score to hold my sons interest and keep him from getting discouraged by pricey packs.

 

If you want to build interest in card collecting for the younger generation, you have to balance this market more than it is. I know that money drives just about everything in the world we live in. That’s why I think it’s a win both ways. Lower the cost and quality of some of the product to fit what kids can afford. This in turn will boost sales from those beginning collecting as well as those in it purely for the enjoyment of having a card of the favorite professional athlete. At the same time produce middle and higher end product for the more serious collectors or those just wanting the thrill of making a buck. If this can be done you just might see more of a turn from e-stores towards neighbourhood shops.