By Scott Kozlowski aka Scottkoz

It has been quite a bit of time since I last penned an article for Sports Card Forum. A lot has changed for me during the last year. My family moved into our dream home north of Niagara Falls, NY. It has a ton to offer, outdoor concerts during the summer months galore, festivals, country living and one of the best school districts in Western New York, just in time for Olivia to start kindergarten in the fall. It did come with a price.

That price was having to own 2 houses for nearly 8 months. This price caused me to sell most of my collection and take time away from the hobby. It is a decision that I do not regret at all!! After all, this is a hobby and would make that decision again if needed. With this said, I’m happy to be back in at least a mode of being able to buy again.

Since I have returned, I noticed a couple of things immediately. First, was the number of new people that have joined SCF and seem to be active in the community; it is good to see that the hobby is alive and well. The second item though is a bit more troublesome. It seems it has become a bit tougher to reach a deal.

My initial thought that it was me, not having a lot of items to work with since having to move most of my collection. But upon another look at the SCF transaction figures for May, 2013, there have just under 2200 total completed transactions (2191) for the month of May as of May 28, 2013. While this seems like a nice, healthy number, you would have to go back to November of 2007 to see a number this low (2125).

I took a bit of deeper dive into this, thinking that this is an anomaly and it’s just a quiet month. It is not a quiet month, rather a downward trend in transactions. The following graph is a 4 year look at the number of Completed Transactions on SCF.

 

 Several items stick out to me from this chart:

* Januarys see an upward change in the number of trades from December

* Septembers see the largest drop in the number of trades from August

* Julys usually see a upward change, except for 2012, when the decline becomes quite apparent

I cannot begin to think about every potential issue that could be causing this trend; however, some of the issues that I see contributing to this decline in activity include lockouts in 3 of the 4 major North American sports, cost, both in shipping and new product and finally, us as members of the community.

1) Since 2011, fans of the NFL, NBA and NHL have all suffered through a lockout. While the NFL lockout did not seem to have an impact to the hobby, the NBA and NHL lockouts had significant impacts to the hobby. In both cases, rookie cards from the lockout seasons were tolled into the next year, NBA rookies from 2011-12 were in 2012-13 products and NHL rookies from 2012-13 are tolled to the 2013-14 releases.

The residual effects of the lockouts have been a loss of people that were collecting, become upset with the sports, thus causing them to lose interest and not being active in the hobby or leaving the hobby altogether.

2) As a hockey collector primarily, the cost of shipping from the Buffalo Area to Canada has nearly quadrupled in the past 18 months!

Today, it costs a member that ships to Canada $6.55 to send a 1 or 2 ounce package to Canada and jumps to $7.35 to send a 3 ounce package (it is a bit cheaper to create the labels online). Prior to January 27th, 2013, that same 1 ounce package would cost $3.15 to send to Canada; .15 cents for each additional ounce. This is a 108% increase!

Prior to this most recent increase, I was paying $1.50-$1.75 to send a 1 ounce package to Canada in the summer of 2011. All totaled, this is a 436% increase in shipping to Canada alone over the last 2 years! I will not even attempt to analyze the cost to Europe, but that is not pretty either.

3) When you talk about cost, we have to add into this the price of new product releases. Regardless of the sport(s) you collect, this hobby is not cheap and does require some disposable income in order to purchase packs, boxes or cases. A couple of examples of how costs can play a part in people not having the available coin in order to open something are with the cost of products such as The Cup and Bowman Jumbo.

In 2007-08, I was paying $300/USD for a tin of The Cup locally in the Buffalo area. Now, that similar 5-6 card tin of The Cup is closer to $500/USD per tin! A 66% increase in the retail price and zero guarantee that the cards that you potentially will have 66% more value in trading.

The second example has to do with the cost of Bowman Baseball, specifically the Jumbo (HTA) boxes (although you can trace the cost of hobby packs as well) seems to always jump in price after the initial release. Currently, you cannot find a box of Bowman Jumbos for less than $210/USD. The initial price for this same product was around $160-$170/USD a box. It is not as a severe change in price as it just discussed with The Cup, but a 20% variance has an impact to a potential buyer, especially if they do not see the value in the product. Because there seems to be fewer products being opened by the average collector, it lends to people having less inventory to potentially trade/sell.

4) Finally, we need to look at ourselves as collectors. Since the prices of most new products can be cost prohibitive for most members, people tend to think how the disposable income that we do have is spent on the hobby. Thus, I find that people look to other sources in getting their cards, such as via eBay, Sports Card Direct, COMC and other outlets in order to get the cards that they want for their collections without having to break the bank.

 This is actually a smart option for the majority of collectors; it helps to minimize their costs, while staying active in the hobby.

I think that a combination of all 4 points are contributing to the decline of trading that is done on SCF, especially when you combine all of the points relating to cost. Is there something that can be done to remedy this? I’m not 100% sure what can be done, short of a change in SCF policy to allow for in-person trading to be counted toward completed trades (Rule 6.14).

I understand the complications of allowing for in-person trading to be allowed, including manipulation of an individual feedback score. However, if SCF were to partner with local hobby shops to allow members to count a single trade from that trade night toward their feedback score, it would could actually generate more interest in SCF and also start to potentially see an upswing of the more “traditional” type of online trading.

Ask yourself this question, does it really matters how or where the trade is made? If the deal is made at SCF or at an SCF sanctioned event, it should count.

These are the issues that I can see from my vantage point. Please use the comment box to add your thoughts to why there is a decline in the number of completed transactions occurring.