How Baseball Cards Got Weird

from The Atlantic

One night not long ago, with my 3-year-old son finally asleep and my wife wisely heading to bed, I settled onto the couch, beer in hand, to catch some baseball. Well, not really baseball. I opened my laptop, navigated to breakers.tv, and prepared to watch a pair of rubber-gloved hands in East Wenatchee, Washington, open an entire case of baseball cards—more than 4,000 cards in all.

If that sounds like the only activity more tedious than sitting through four hours of pitching changes and batters calling time, I shared some of your skepticism. Though I was once a middle schooler with a pack-a-day habit, whose heart raced whenever I crossed the threshold of Gilbert’s Sports Nostalgia in suburban Boston, the last time I tended to my card collection, Bill Clinton was president and Barry Bonds was a speedster with some pop. I’d been under the impression that the card industry had all but died out around the time I went off to college, eclipsed in the adolescent imagination by Nintendo 64, Pokémon, AOL.

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24 Responses to How Baseball Cards Got Weird

  1. Nicholas A.P. October 28, 2019 at 12:51 pm #

    “Baseball-card collecting really ought to be extinct. It’s an analog hobby in a digital world, an expression of fandom in a sport whose attendance is in slow decline and whose cultural relevance is in free fall.” Baseball card collecting is not the only anachronistic community thriving at the moment. The vintage baseball card market, though smaller, is very reminiscent of the vintage watch and automobile markets. I am a self-proclaimed “gear head” – a lover of both old watches and vehicles. I would never consider purchasing a vintage baseball card, but I understand the mind of the person who would. Being a collector of anything is not a logical pursuit; it is very much an idiosyncratic and emotionally driven one. It simply does not make sense to pay $184,056 for a piece of paper with a picture of Shohei Ohtani on it or $1,234,567 for a 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Coupe(1), but people do it anyway, and I get it. There is a hint of nostalgia and nerd-iness behind every purchase of the like. Some collectors will tell you it’s about the history, and they’ll proceed to rattle off the stats from every game Mickey Mantle has ever played in. Others will tell you it’s about investing, constantly buying and selling different cars. What it’s really about, though, is time travel. Collecting is about returning to your childhood and reminiscing. Investment bankers don’t buy the Rolex Daytona or Submariner because they’re appreciating in value right now, they buy those watches because they were worn by Paul Newman and James Bond, respectively.
    While I understand the vintage market from a collector’s perspective, I also recognize that there are lucrative business opportunities in all of these trades. There are many contemporary companies that are making a profit from being the middleman in various collectors markets, just like PSA. Meeting all of men’s sartorial needs are two companies, StockX(2) and Grailed(3). StockX serves as an authenticator and middleman for “sneakerheads” while also taking on the function of the stock market (hence the name) where users can see “bid” and “ask” prices for different shoes. When a sale is made, the sellers instead ships their shoes to StockX for authentication, and then StockX ships the shoes to the buyer. This is also done to protect the privacy of both parties, as they do not have to exchange addresses. StockX makes money on transaction fees. Grailed, on the other hand, is more similar to eBay. It acts as a marketplace for high-end men’s clothing (like Gucci, Helmut Lang, and Visvim) where buyers and sellers handle the sale themselves, and Grailed collects a fee from sellers for the use of its platform. Not only are people making money from being middlemen in these transactions, some are running investment funds. Rally Rd.(4) is a company that allows people to purchase “shares” or equity in different cars, like a 2005 Ford GT. The shares are tradable within certain hours, and when the vehicles are ultimately sold, shareholders will receive a portion of any profits made from the sale.
    Business opportunities aside, I found Topp’s awareness of the importance of scarcity very intriguing, since they are not the only company who is artificially creating scarcity in their product releases. Companies like Adidas and Nike employ this practice when releasing certain sneakers, and skate-wear brand Supreme does the same when releasing new t-shirts. What this does is ensure that all units will sell-out, and it also serves to create an active and expensive secondary market. I’m very glad this article was written because it puts on a display a very niche part of the economy that I am extremely interested in.

    (1) https://www.thedrive.com/news/28410/1956-mercedes-benz-300sl-gullwing-sells-for-mind-blowing-1-23m

    (2) stockx.com/

    (3) grailed.com/

    (4) rallyrd.com/

  2. Griffin Smith October 28, 2019 at 7:19 pm #

    Like most young kids who enjoyed watching sports I also collected cards whether it was baseball, basketball, or football I was always nagging my mother or father to buy me packs of cards for my birthday or the holiday season. I had thought that card trading had somewhat died out and kids nowadays were more focused on playing video games involving their favorite players rather than learning stats off the back of cards, and then trading with your friends for your favorite players card in return.
    After reading this article it seems that card trading has become more of a hobby for people who are looking to sell these cards after they acquire them, I have heard of stories of legendary cards such as Honus Wagner which is believed to be the first ever baseball card made that have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just as the guy in the article received a valuable “relic” card, I too have a similar card that I have saved for over 15 years so that the value of the card will increase so that I can one day either pass it down to my child or sell it for a value greater than what I bought it, and I believe many other card traders do the same thing. In the article it is said that Baby Boomers in the 70’s did not view these cards as a long-term investment, and were more like “playthings, not museum pieces”, the selling of these cards for value has only been happening for about 10 years. I know for one, my dad along with probably many other 70’s kids lost or gave away massive trading card collections just because they were taking up space around the house and collection dust, these collections, depending on the rarity of cards, could nowadays be worth up to 500-1000 dollars
    The article also explains how the card selling has helped somewhat revive the game of baseball, which has become a dying game because of how long and mundane the game has become. The introduction of analytics on sports has caused baseball games to drag out longer because of constant pitching changes and mound visits by managers, so like this man in the article he suggested he would rather watch people open packs of trading cards then watch a full game. In my opinion I think this could be a great new way to get younger generations back into the fun activity of card trading, and along with that learning about new players which in turn will make younger kids want to watch actual baseball games. I also believe that the MLB needs to make changes with their rules to make games less dull, and more enjoyable for fans watching around the world, over the past few years the MLB has struggled getting TV ratings as good as other major sports leagues, and I think the younger generation needs to be more involved to regrow attention to the sport.

  3. Jackson Beltrandi October 28, 2019 at 11:21 pm #

    All I could think about while reading this article is how much the sport of baseball has changed over the past few decades. The NBA, NFL, and even American soccer are all growing in viewership and attendance. However, baseball is declining, fast. According to baseball-reference.com the MLB saw an all-time low in attendance for the 2019 season. In fact, the Miami Marlins set the lowest attended game ever, with only 5,297 fans when they faced off against the Cincinnati Reds. As someone who loves professional baseball, this makes me sad. The current MLB administration is destroying the integrity of the game in an attempt to gain more viewers. The MLB introduced a pitch clock, where the pitcher has to come to a set in a certain amount of time pitch after pitch, which barely speeds up the game. The MLB also limited each team to six mound visits, which just prevents occasional 30-second long conversations between the pitcher and catcher. The MLB even introduced “juiced baseballs” which haven’t been proven yet, but most the baseball community mentions a change in the baseballs which allows them to fly further, ultimately producing more homeruns. All of these moves just made baseball purists fans confused and upset, not looking forward to the future.
    The article discusses how TOPPS saw quarterly loss after quarterly loss as the years progressed, as they had made too many baseball cards, and public interest declined with the years. Baseball used to be a game where you could sit down and watch, while just knowing the big stars of the game was sufficient enough. Now with modern analytics, it is important to know how every player impacts the game. While you’d obviously want Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, or Mookie Betts because they are the stars, many stats show that other players provide value without it slapping you in the face. Marcus Semien of the Oakland Athletics led the majors in WAR, a collective stat which combines all elements to show a player’s value every day. It is hard for casual fans to keep up to a lengthy 162 game season.
    However, there may be a saving grace to all this sadness. While the MLB is struggling, the baseball card trading community is thriving. Because TOPPS had to slow down production, cards produced early became extremely rare and turned into hot collector’s items. The idea of TOPPS artificially creating a scarce product is interesting. If they make their products rare, it will raise the price of the item because not many people can get their hands on them. Third parties started getting involved in transactions to guarantee authenticity, and the virtual card community was created. Although this is more of a collector’s joy, maybe it will get more people interested in the sport of baseball. I’m afraid that if more people do not tune into MLB games, the sport will fail.

  4. Tiffanny Reynolds October 28, 2019 at 11:32 pm #

    Even though I am not a baseball-card collector (or much of a baseball fan in general), I still very much appreciate this article. Granted, there were moments in the article when it went on extensively about the market for base-ball cards, conventions for them, etc. that I found to be a bit…much…let’s put it, however, what I love about this is the fact that the writer was super passionate about this hobby and not only found current relevance in which to discuss it in the current day, but the fact that he was even able to, given such an obscure hobby.

    My favorite part of the entire article is the following sentence: “It’s an analog hobby in a digital world.”

    I relate to this idea on a heavy and personal note, in that I collect and continue to watch VHS tapes on my personal VCR. People think I do it to be a ‘hipster’, because it is ‘cool’ now to like ‘old things’. For me, that is not the case.

    When I was very young, my parents got divorced. With the joint custody agreement, I would see my mother during the week when I would go to school. I would see my father on the weekends, school/holiday breaks, sick days, etc. Because of this arrangement, I was essentially seeing my dad on my “free time.” He is on social security disability from the military, and as I grew up, was even on food stamps for a while as there were issues with the VA and his social security. Because of this, we did not have a lot of money to go out and do activities, like going out to see new movies. From this, our way of spending time together was watching the VHS tapes of movies and TV shows he owned and playing them on the VCR. He didn’t end up getting a DVD player until I was about 12 years old. We also listened to cassettes as well as CDs in the car (when he finally got one around that same age), as well as listen to vinyl records on his record player. I truly was raised on popular culture media from the 1940s-1990s.

    As I got older, I started to appreciate these formats, and started finding VHS tapes of movies in the house, at Goodwill, etc. that I wanted to keep. Even before leaving for college, my mother bought me a DVD player/VCR set, one of the last one’s she saw she told me when she bought it. I do not heavily collect and spend large sums of money on VHS tapes like a collector would (like the writer of this baseball card article), but if I find a movie I like, or want to see, on a VHS tape for little to no cost, you bet your bottom dollar that I will get it.

    I understand what it is like to have a hobby that is looked on as ‘weird’ and ‘unconventional’ in today’s society. I appreciate the writer in finding a current cultural, and even economic, relevance to his hobby, and expressing that with the world. It goes to show that even if something seems odd or different to someone, it can have an affect on their world…like who knew that the baseball card industry created so much revenue, and therefore impacted the economic market as much as it did (and seems to begin to do again)?

  5. Mikaela Battaglia October 29, 2019 at 10:43 am #

    While I was not raised to watch baseball or follow it in general, I found this article fascinating because of the collection and business aspect of collecting baseball cards. The common card for my generation when we were younger were “Pokemon” cards, but like this article highlights, those are all probably at the bottom of the dump somewhere or in the back of a college kid’s closet, having collected dust for years. I do not see Pokemon cards gaining any traction in the future like baseball cards do, because it is not as diverse as the sport of baseball is to all generations.
    I found it very interesting how the value of baseball cards has gone up and down throughout the decades, and now it is all about those rare and mint condition cards. While the rarity and condition of those cards is what holds its value, I think there are other collectible items that are intrinsically worth more than a small piece of paper. Such as, famous paintings and sculptures, jewelry pieces and so on. While all of these things are just that, things, gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, hold their value and are considered a commodity. Also, very old paintings by famous artists are highly sought after all over the world, and can be worth millions due to the history and craftsmanship behind the art. However, I do not think there is any sort of actual value in baseball cards, especially since they are mainly traded in the United States. Also, the real value of them is in the eye of the beholder. While one person may think a specific baseball player is the best, another may think another is the best, and so on. Therefore, they all have no actual value.
    While I am not here to slander the collecting of baseball cards, I do see why it is a declining community. While the scarcity of them nowadays is what encourages many middle aged people to invest in certain cards they maybe wish they had when they were younger, the only person they could display them for is themselves or anyone else they know who also loves baseball or baseball cards. This is essentially a waste of an investment, where one could be investing in a growing market rather than a stagnant one.

  6. nicole shubaderov October 29, 2019 at 12:52 pm #

    I have only ever almost watched a baseball game this year, but the game rained out and I was not able to watch it. This means that I have never actually watched a baseball game and I don’t even know what the rules entail. But what I do know is that baseball cards have been a great business investment for those who loved collecting them as children. Whenever I would watch Pawn Stars or American Pickers, I would see that even though baseball cards were pieces of paper, they now hold so much value. This also goes for most cards, such as Pokémon cards or cabbage patch kids cards. At the initial publication of these cards, they were practically worthless. Just like the silly bands that children used to collect and trade when we were younger. Except the only difference is that baseball cards have become more valuable over time, unlike the silly bands. But what caused this to happen?

    The original scarcity of the published cards was the real reason that baseball cards had value to them. Which is why collectors would purchase them since they were a valuable investment. But the card companies became greedy and produced more. Which when knowing how economics works, the more of a product, the less the price will be compared to the market equilibrium price. And it goes the same way if the product is scarce, it will cost more than the market price. But do to the mass production of new cards, these new cards were practically worthless by the end of the 1990s.

    Now the cool thing about baseball collecting is that the condition of the cards plays an important role in the value of the card. If my card looks like a child bit off the corner, then the worth of the card will be minimal to worthless. But, if my card is in mint condition, and in general the card is valuable, I could rack up thousands of dollars by selling it to a collector or by auctioning it off to the public. But, the issue with this is that standards at the time for very subjective. Therefore, if I said a card was in mint condition, another person may say it was near mint and pay less money for my card. It is deceptive, but without standards, what were people to do?

    This brought on a new third party authenticator business that will become more prevalent in society today. Basically, what appraisers do with jewelry, the same goes for cards. They have a set of standards that all of these third-party appraisers use, which prevents the mass subjective judgment being sued to observe the different conditions of the cards. Additionally, these third party appraisers give market detailed information about the cards and log them so supply could be monitored. This public database better helps figure out the true value of cards by using real-time data to contribute to how much cards sell for at that given moment. This is similar to what Stockx does. Stockx is a clothing, handbag, belt, shoe, etc. selling website that allows people to sell their products and have buyers try to buy them. Every item on the website has a real-time supply and price watch that informs buyers and sellers how much the items are selling for, when recent products have been sold and what the expected value may be in the future. This is beneficial to those who want to sell their products and make a profit, or those wanting to buy themselves some nice merchandise. My boyfriend currently conducts in this business and makes a lot of money off selling through Stockx or using Stockx’s database to sell on eBay. It is a great way to invest in products and profit off of people wanting these “clout” items, such a Supreme and Bape. But, like these cards, selling just any item may not bring profit. So, it is a lot of work and time is spent on choosing which item is best to sell and which the public may want to buy in resale.

    Overall, this article on baseball cards just shows us how many people in our society are now steering towards a resale and investment based side hustle. People want to make money, but having a job is sometimes hard and time consuming for many. Therefore, investing their money into buying merchandise and reselling it on different websites helps make a profit while also doing minimal work—compared to a job as a lawyer, accountant or in retail at the mall. But it is a time-consuming thing to do and requires capital to being with. Therefore, this isn’t good for everyone. But I do recommend people to try to start investing in stuff like Supreme because there is always a market for it because of its “clout” and the fact that people love wearing things that have value to it. I have started teaming up with my boyfriend in this type of business and it is rewarding when you eventually make a profit. Yes, there are some losses but that is how life works. Therefore, baseball cards started the new hobby of reselling valuable things on the internet and it has now become a popular thing to do for money in today’s world. With appraisers almost anywhere in the states, this helps with authenticating very valuable items and the consistency that helps the market be monitored properly. Thus, making reselling products a popular hobby to partake in to make money and a great way to learn things about the way that our economy works.

  7. Nicholas Luciano October 30, 2019 at 1:44 pm #

    Baseball cards just like comic books have been lost in the modern digital times. Attaining a box of baseball cards means going to the store and purchasing them. Baseball cards have become a novelty that seem like a thing of the past. In realization, there is a market for cards that everyone wants to get their hands on.Baseball viewership and attendance has been on the decline in recent years. Compared to other sports consumers view it as a slow sport that needs to speed up. Having a strong product on the field with dynamic players is what will keep the baseball card market alive. Sports memorabilia is prominent in today’s society because of the growing sports industry. As long as the sports industry continues to grow there will be a market for collecting cards.
    Baseball cards and comic books are in the same market of novelty for consumers. In the past decade the movie industry has exploded with movies depicting superheroes. The comic book industry was as good as gone until the movies brought them back. Most of the story arcs behind the films revolve around the comics stories. This then returns to the comics industry in wanting to know more about characters in the series of books that roll out. Just like the rookie cards for certain sports players are highly valuable. The first time a superhero is featured in a comic release are more valuable than others.
    Baseball cards and comics are more alike than you might think. The first action involved is attaining a physical copy of the item. Once you purchase the item for the two dollars for a pack of cards or four dollars for a comic book, you are able to have it and consume it. At the time of purchase it might not seem like it is worth anything. This process of keeping old cards and comic books and finding out they are worth something years later is long. The odds of having a rare card and having it in the rare gem mint 10 condition is hard. Sealing the cards and keeping them in perfect condition as they sit for years just for the one card to pop up on the internet that is worth thousands of dollars is long term. Everything that we used to be able to get a physical copy of is now digitized. Things like movies can now be streamed without going to blockbuster.
    PSA is the leader in certifying sports memorabilia and showing the condition of the item being sold. Through them it certifies that the item is authorized by being what the item it says it is. Take for instance a rookie card of Reggie Jackson with part of his jersey on the card. PSA would authenticate the card as well as the jersey to say whether it is real or not. It gives the buyer and seller peace of mind knowing that they have a real and authenticated peirce of memorabilia. For the seller it is knowing that they are selling the item and the correct price. For the buyer it is knowing that they are not buying something that is fake or over priced.

  8. Anthony Whelan October 31, 2019 at 12:22 pm #

    This article jumped out to me because baseball card collecting is something that I did with my father and something my father did with his. It was something to look forward to every time I went to a store that sold them, but eventually I became more disinterested in collecting as I started to become more disinterested with the sport itself. Since I have not been actively collecting cards for years now, I was surprised to learn about the resurgence of card collecting, and the growing industry it has fueled. I do agree with the author’s assessment that for a hobby like card collecting to grow in the modern age of technology, it needs to adapt, and card producers and traders have managed to do so.
    Another thing I found interesting to learn about was the history of card collecting and how the card market managed to artificially limit supply. My father was one of the people the article alludes to who threw out their old cards while cleaning and did not handle their cards with care. This behavior by many allowed older, mint condition cards to grow in value, but as card collectors became more diligent with maintaining card quality, this distinction dissipated. As a result, the card market needed to find a way to differentiate between thousands of the same card, and their quality ranking system has been a major success.
    My only concern about these developments is that it seems card collecting has become more of a business for many of the top collectors, rather than a hobby. Even though I have not collected cards for years, I still have my binders of cards in my closet, and I will occasionally go through them and remember all the great cards that I had gotten. Now it appears that people are trying to buy rare cards and flip them for a profit, selling the rare cards they get for more opportunities to acquire even more valuable cards, or even vaulting their cards across the country. This does feel like another case of a fun, “analog” hobby being converted into a money generating business through digitization, but as long as the market is thriving, interest in baseball could avoid a serious decline, and the alluring market could even make some become interested in the sport.

  9. Tyler Abline October 31, 2019 at 12:49 pm #

    I had some baseball cards when I was younger but I had never really gotten too into it. I sold all my cards to my cousin for around 20 dollars and never really thought about it again. My cards were the rite aid vending machine ones so they weren’t rare or anything so thankfully I didn’t sell a fortune for 20 bucks. A friend of mine is really into baseball card collecting and it absolutely has gotten weird. I remember during hurricane Irene his basement was leaking and the first thing he went for were his baseball cards, not the T.V, not the furniture, the baseball cards. He still lurks the market every now and then selling and buying cards to try and make money. He has made a little money but with the amount of time he has put in the money alone is not worth it. When I read that there is a possibility that there is going to be a baseball card vault with armed guards protecting it 24/7 I had to laugh. Imagine a movie like Oceans 11 where a baseball card vault is being raided, it’s just absurd. I never really understood hardcore baseball collecting but to each their own I suppose. It’s fascinating to see niche fan bases emerge for small things like baseball cards and how these groups of collectors can create billion dollar industries. It just goes to show that anything can be made valuable if enough people want them, even pieces of cardboard.

  10. DeVante M. October 31, 2019 at 2:07 pm #

    This article hit very close to home. Growing up in New Jersey as a Philadelphia Phillies fan baseball was one of my first passions. Along with being a young sports fan came the collection of baseball cards, football cards, hockey cards, basketball cards, and even soccer cards(all of which ended up being a waste of money). I vividly remember going to my local mall’s hobby shop to buy what seemed like endless amounts of packs of cards. Often times I would not get any rare cards, but the hope that I may get one led to the purchasing of more packs. Almost all of my chore money, birthday money, Christmas money would go into buying these baseball cards (which I still have to this day). My most exciting memory from opening baseball cards came towards the end of my baseball card collecting career. I remember returning from the local hobby shop an opening a pack. Within it was a Mickey Mantle card, with a claim on the back that stated “1 out of 5.” This type of statement is very misleading, especially when in smaller letters the words “replica” were also stated. But being the young naive child that I was, I thought I had struck gold. Only to my surprise that the card was absolutely worthless. I believe that this was the turning point form. Finding out that something that you searched so long for ultimately ended up being worthless anyway killed my ambition for this lifestyle.
    Going back to the beginning of the article, a new industry has arrived. An industry where videos of people doing simple things has exploded. More specifically videos of people playing video games has grown like wildfire! For whatever reason many people around the world enjoy watching people do things that the viewer could very well be doing. These viewers watch these “streams” as if it’s a TV show or something. Nowadays baseball in itself is hard enough to watch with all of the stoppages and replays. But to watch someone go through each baseball card on a video stream has got to be the most boring thing I have ever heard of. I suppose the monetary aspect of it can be add excitement, but this is simply another form of gambling. Viewers pay a certain amount in hopes to get a rare card from the host’s unboxing stream.
    This article shows us how an average guy can make almost anything profitable. I’m not sure how much money the host of these video streams makes but nonetheless i’m sure it is profitable. The entrepreneurial spirit is what I appreciate the most. I’m sure the host has a passion for baseball cards and he is able to turn that passion into a business. Even “Youtubers” have been making a living by showing the world their passions. Whether if it’s instructional videos or review videos. Video and streaming services have exponentially grown into a profitable area of business. With the growing market for streaming anyone can turn their passion into a career.

  11. Liam H November 1, 2019 at 1:46 am #

    As a college baseball player and an avid baseball fan, the title of the article definitely caught my interest and the article did not disappoint. As a kid, I opened my fair share of baseball card packs bought for me by parents, relatives, and family friends, but I never really learned the general history of baseball cards until a few years ago. One new thing I learned about baseball cards in this article is that how they are currently making a resurgence in the market. To learn that current player’s rookie cards are selling for six figures was a big surprise to me. In today’s market, baseball cards are almost looked at as an investment, similar to a stock. After purchasing a rare card, it is a gamble to try to hold on to it and hope the value of the card will increase. There are many variables that can affect the value of the card, such as the condition of the card and whether or not the card keeps its value. Each owner is faced with the decision to either hold on to the card and attempt to preserve it, or to try to flip it and make a quick buck.
    Another new part of the baseball card world that I was not aware of is the third-party grading firms that still exist today and how important these firms are to the resurgence of baseball cards. Firms such as Professional Sports Authenticator, or PSA, play the key role of authenticating cards and assessing the condition and value of baseball cards. If a high valued card is given PSA’s top grade, Gem Mint 10, instead of the next highest grade, Gem Mint 9, the value of the card can increase over 20 times its value. For example, a Gem Mint 10 Pete Rose rookie card sold for over $700,000, while Rose’s Gem Mint 9 rookie card can be bought for around $35,000. After all of the years of fluctuation of value in baseball cards, it is fascinating to see where the market for these cards will go in the future.

  12. Ryan Geschickter November 1, 2019 at 3:09 pm #

    Baseball as well as baseball cards have played a large role in my life for as long as I have been alive. I come from a family that loves baseball, as my dad, who played D1 baseball as a pitcher for the College of William & Mary, got me hooked. As a lifelong Washington Nationals fan and Texas Rangers fan, I have experienced the ups and downs but most recently the ups as my team just won the world series, and I get to experience a parade down Pennsylvania Ave for the second time in my DC sports fandom. Growing up looking up to players such as Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg have made my fandom for baseball grow in both playing and collecting. Once my dad showed me his old baseball cards, I was hooked. It felt like opening each pack was a birthday present because you never knew who you were going to get. Now, baseball cards have gained so much popularity due to their significant features. Special cards with game worn jersey, or game used bat, and a player’s autograph can be pulled but are usually numbered. When a card is numbered it means that there are only so many cards put into commission. For example, one of my most prized cards is a Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax autograph jersey card that is a 3/10. This means that I have the 3rd card out of only 10 produced which is extremely rare and means that there is high value due to the players that autographed the card as well as the low numbering. In my opinion, I think that the article is wrong because it all depends on the perspective that one can take. If one loves baseball cards and the idea of collecting, then one will stick with it. Baseball card collecting is a hobby and with every hobby one can outgrow it, but for me, baseball card collecting will forever hold a special place in my heart and I will indeed pass it down to my kids as my dad once did with me.

  13. Steven Evans November 1, 2019 at 3:38 pm #

    As I was once an avid baseball card collector, I can see where the author’s excitement comes from. If you are a huge baseball fan, you likely know a lot of the star players from all of the teams. The allure of buying baseball cards is the anticipation of which player could be in which pack of cards. What is so different in baseball card collecting nowadays compared to decades ago is that now many are content with watching others collect. This is possible with modern technology. Internet platforms such as YouTube as well as various social media sites can be used to live stream or record and upload videos of collectors unwrapping cards. I think this can have a benefit to some viewers – they get to learn about the topic (in this case – card collecting) from other fans. They can enjoy the experience in a way while not spending money. The author writes, “Up until that point, the experience of baseball-card collecting as a spectator sport could hardly have been more foreign. Having acquired the limited-edition Henderson card—or, at least, having seen Byington unwrap it—I now felt a familiar rush, one I hadn’t known since the days I’d spent opening packs at Gilbert’s: the thrill of the hunt.” He would have never guessed he’d enjoy watching others experience what he had always experienced himself before.
    On the other hand, it seems that people are lacking experiences. Even an experience as mild as opening a pack of baseball cards is not the same behind a screen as it is in real life. I think people should attempt to experience more in real life than watching others have experiences from behind a screen.

  14. Mia Ferrante November 1, 2019 at 8:12 pm #

    The sport of baseball has never been more than it is today, and yet, the baseball card industry suffers more and more each day. My dad would always tell me stories of when he was a child how he would go to the store and buy baseball cards or trade them with his friends. Today, in the basement of my house remains dozens of boxes filled with baseball cards that he has kept his entire life. He always told me that someday they would be worth a lot of money, that’s why he was saving them, but after reading this article, I am beginning to think making any profit off of the cards is unlikely.
    I was curious to learn about what factors led up to the unpopularity of baseball cards when less than 30 years ago, sports card revenues peaked at $1.2 billion. Since then, the sales have dropped to below $300 million. Initially, I thought that the rise in technology was the largest factor that led to the declining sales because similar to a card game when I was younger, Yugioh, once the internet and technology became more popular, the card game nearly died. Today, baseball cards are not as popular because people do not want to pay the absurd price to have the cards sit in their basement for years with no real purpose. Once the price started to rise, kids no longer could pay for a pack of cards on their own. Today, a box of 360 cards goes for 55 dollars. No person wants to pay that amount of money for cards unless they are devoted collectors. Besides, anyone can look up stats and pictures of their favorite player online without needing a paper collectible. For those that invested hundreds of dollars on cards when they were younger, it doesn’t seem like their investment is happening as planned. Overall, there has been a decline in the demand for baseball cards since they rose to popularity in the 1970s to 1990s. If we take Las Vegas, for example, during the boom of cards in the 90s there were seventy stores in Las Vegas selling sports cards. Two years ago that dwindled to five stores and now there are two.

  15. James K November 1, 2019 at 8:46 pm #

    Baseball cards have been one of the most collectible items for the past 70 years or so. What’s great about baseball cards is that they are a safe investment. If you spend a few dollars on a 12-pack of cars, you might get back the money that you spent on it from one card in the pack if it is a relic or a limited edition. Baseball cards are almost like stocks but safer, since once you purchase them, they don’t tend to lose value if you keep them in good shape. My 13-year-old brother is a big baseball card collector himself. He probably has thousands of cards and has spent $100s of dollars on them. Certain cards that he has are worth up to $50 right now because of how limited edition they are. He keeps them in great shape too, so they may be worth much more in several years if the player continues to play well or set records.
    The rarest baseball card ever is a 1909 Honus Wagner. The article says that only 50-75 were made, and even in poor condition, the card can go for $1 million. This is what makes baseball cards such a favorable collector item, the fact that a printed photo on a thin piece of cardboard can sell for more money than 99% of Americans make in a year. The reason why people still buy baseball cards is to get a card that one day is worth as much as a Mickey Mantle card. As said before, baseball cards are like stocks in a way, as people are looking for the next Amazon of companies.
    The article surprised when it said that baseball cards should be on their way to extinction. The digital world should’ve eaten the baseball card industry up by now, but it hasn’t even gotten close to that point. It certainly is impressive that Topps is continuing to make baseball cards after being around for many decades. Even with release of other similar items such as other sports cards, Pokemon cards, Yugioh cards, and the rise of videogames, baseball cards are still a favorite for collectors.

  16. Joe Antonucci November 1, 2019 at 8:52 pm #

    I played baseball and I was quite bad at it. I never watched a lot of professional baseball either. I never collected cards. Here and there I would get a pack from my uncle as a gift, but I would be surprised if they had not been thrown out by now.

    That said, I won’t provide a detailed opinion on the evolution of baseball cards. Baseball cards, and the act of collecting them, however, represents a sort of bygone era where sentimental value was something people cared a lot more about and were willing to recognize as inherent in some object.

    That’s not to say collectors of such items don’t exist anymore, but it is undeniable that hearing of a baseball card collector or something like that is rare for most people. I, for one, can’t name one person I know who does it.

    So, what happened?

    It seems that everything that catches peoples’ attention nowadays is digital, and not physical. And at the end of the day, having our attention stolen away by social media or a mobile game is a fleeting, temporary thing. It is not a hobby that is unique or special, it has no real value to us except for the fact that it numbs our brains and distracts us, and it’s not something we can usually share in and enjoy with other people.

    My girlfriend recently bought herself a new car, a Mazda Miata, and she joined the “NJ Miata Owners Facebook Group” to talk about the car with other people who have it. To someone on the outside, including myself to some extent, these occurrences look ridiculous. What’s the big deal about this car, this baseball card? I don’t understand it, but I do know that the excitement on her face is undeniable when we are driving somewhere and she sees another Miata. She sticks her head out the window and waves and, if their top is down, will be sure to say “I love your car! I have a red one, from 93!”

    I’ve come to understand that people just have these hobbies, and it’s a good thing. It might seem weird to some, and I get that especially when it comes to something like baseball cards, but people today act and think so indistinguishably each other that knowing someone who has a different hobby or interest is kind of refreshing. It shows me that not everyone is completely and endlessly captivated by their screens, and people are still capable of formulating their own individual interests and cultivating them in a meaningful way.

    The lesson, then, is to appreciate these esoteric hobbies, because they’re really what separates people from each other, and are becoming less common every day.

  17. Caitlyn M November 1, 2019 at 10:57 pm #

    Prior to reading this article, I knew that collectibles were a highly profitable business to be a part of. I can remember the Beanie Baby boom that occurred in the late 1990s and how my parents checked every single one of my toys to see if I had one of the rare, expensive ones (I did not). But I never knew the true value of trading cards until I read this article, nor had I realized just how long the baseball card business had been around. The fact that even in the 1970s certain cards approached $1000 in value is truly fascinating as it alone is a perfect example of the laws of supply and demand. The scarcity of the cards led to a massive incline in their value, and it’s a wonder that instead of encouraging this scarcity the card manufacturers instead flooded the market with cards which crashed the baseball trading card market moving forward.

    Another thing that I found interesting about this situation was that in the effort to save the market they established the Professional Sports Authenticator firm, a firm dedicated to grading the condition of cards on an objective scale. This enabled cards to be sold on websites like eBay, which contributed to more sales of cards for collectors as they had previously been wary of buying fakes on these websites. I think that this was a brilliant move since it completely removed the more subjective part of collecting and enabled the cards to have a concrete grading system.

    Applying this knowledge to the Beanie Baby boom, I wonder if there had been a firm established that was dedicated to the grading of Beanie Babies if that market could have then come back after it crashed. If they could have manufactured scarcity in the same way that the baseball trading card business had, then they hopefully could have resurrected their value in trades and brought life back to their market. It’s interesting to think about, and I can only imagine the live unboxing videos of Beanie Babies that could exist that would mirror the live unboxing videos of trading cards that exist now.

  18. Alexander Nowik November 1, 2019 at 11:27 pm #

    As a person who has collected trading cards throughout various phases of my life, this article was a great look into how long the collector phase has gone on for. When I was younger I would always take pride in having “Rare” cards, but as I grew older I learned that the rarity of a card was not nearly as important as the “condition” of the card. The fact that a company has been able to create a unique industry out of card quality, is truly fascinating to me. PSA has become an essential company that holds the entire card trading industry together.
    A couple months ago I started watching Youtube videos on investing, but specifically in one market; “Magic the Gathering” trading cards. One thing I have noticed is that the investors in this game, take it as seriously as any wall street stock investor would. Fluctuating markets, insider trading, long term vs. day trading, are all real aspects of the MTG market. During the article the writer speaks to an investor, and she says her average buyers are Wall Street businessmen in their early 30s. Meanwhile many of these trading card investors are between 20 and 40 themselves. I think it is fascinating that a secondary market for cards, can far exceed the market for the original manufacturers themselves.

  19. Cole November 3, 2019 at 9:37 pm #

    This article starts with the author talks about how he was watching a breaker open packs of baseball cards. Certain team cards could be purchased before the pack was opened. This led the author to reminisce of the days when he would buy packs of baseball cards. The author went into talking about the history of the baseball card industry and the decline in scarcity in the industry with baseball card companies over printing cards due to their greed. But, the solution to scarcity was independent private companies rating the condition of collectable cards. This alone was not enough to revive the baseball card industry. Card companies had to focus on the consumers obsession with rookie baseball cards by searching for up and coming stars in the MLB and producing their card even before many of these rookies take their first at bat. All these factors have made the baseball card collecting industry more like trading securities then a nostalgic hobby.
    I can relate to this story because I used to collect baseball and football cards. I was collecting cards in the era where quality ratings were a big deal. I remember asking my dad to buy me cards every time we went to the store, in hopes of getting a card worth a lot of money. It in retrospect was a dream more then anything else because I did not even understand why these cards were so valuable. Plus, I did not even really care for actual cards I remember redeeming points on a Topps website that would help me progress in some online game. Which was part of these card companies’ strategy to stay relevant as it pertained to my generation and our access to the internet and other video games such as Pokémon. It was only after I stopped collecting cards that I started to understand the history of the card industry, and how futile my efforts of buying packs of cards were. I don’t plan on becoming like the author watching card unpacking videos but who knows what will happen as I get older.

  20. Andrew Forjan November 6, 2019 at 12:22 pm #

    The trading card industry has always been one that I have been very invested in and am still curious about to this day. I collected all types of cards when I was younger, from Pokemon to basketball and baseball ones, and that has continued with my younger brothers. However, I have noticed a huge shift in the way cards are traded. I used to buy boxes with dozens of packs in them, rip through them, disregard all of the lesser cards and only keep track of the better ones. Even at this point, I would still play with the better ones which could cause some damage to them. At this time, I did not realize the collectors value these cards could hold one day, and my younger brothers still give me a hard time for it. These days, my brothers rarely buy the actual packs in stores, but are obsessed with watching people unbox them on stream to see all of the valuable cards packed. The industry that card trading has evolved into is so interesting and I wish I could see into the future to change how I treated cards when I was younger.

    The business that has come around trading cards, especially baseball cards is also crazy to look at to see how much money is circulating through this industry. From selling cases of cards, to getting them graded by professional services, to selling them online, thousands of dollars are spent in this process and there is lots of money to be made here. It makes sense why the industry is trending this way because of the massive shift towards technology and online activities. There are so little physical goods for people to play with/collect these days, and since there are so little of these cards, it makes sense that ones in the right shape are fetching tens of thousands of dollars. The article said that the majority of these collectors are 30-40 year old men who have made good money, and are returning to their old hobbies. Sure people brag nowadays about being level 100 on a game or having “rare” items in online games, but actually having a physical card that you know is super rare, is very attracting to some people and I am not surprised that some are obsessing over it now.

  21. Jake November 7, 2019 at 11:27 am #

    The hobby of collecting baseball cards really has started to die out and it is a very unfortunate thing. I remember ten years ago everywhere I went with my father we would buy a couple packs of cards and open them in the car before we even started to go home. We would talk about who we had who’s pack was better and it was a really enjoyable thing that we did often. Nowadays, I think that this trend is starting to slow down for a couple of reasons. The main one is social media. I think this because kids can just follow their favorite athletes on social media and get a way more personal connection than they ever could have by just owning a card of their favorite player. It’s also competing with the internet itself, there are tons of sites now that can pull up every players stats and that was the main feature on the back of all of these cards.
    Today, from my childhood and also from my relatives passing down and giving me their cards I have well over 10,000 sports cards floating around in my attic. Some worth money some not but selling them is the only real value that they have now because they just aren’t popular anymore. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to go through each of them, so I will never know the true value of my collection but it will be something that I will never get rid of. It was a part of my childhood, it was a part of my father and his fathers childhood. I just wish that the kids of this generation would have the experience of opening a pack and trading with friends for their favorite players as it was something that I did for hours growing up.

  22. Arman Ameri November 7, 2019 at 1:26 pm #

    There are some parts of the past which are worth forgetting and there are other parts of the past that are valuable to keep. Collect cards weather it be baseball, basketball, or whatever it may be is a hobby mainly for children, however, to an adult it is valuable not only financially but also because it brings back the happiness from childhood. Collecting baseball cards is just one of many ways for the past to live in the present. The idea behind a card’s worth is similar to a stock, it’s an investment which grows over time however, unlike a stock, its value is determined by its scarcity. Supply and demand are what drive most markets, if the demand is high but the supply is low then the value of the product increases and vice versa, if the demand is low and supply is high then the product’s value decreases. It’s the same idea behind jerseys, an old Michael Jordan Bull’s jersey is worth something, but an old autographed Michael Jordan Bull’s jersey is worth more. This is why the value of cards decreased after the companies printed off so many of them, what was once rare was no longer rare, however when the one company started to grade the cards, reintroduced rarity in the market driving up its value. As stated in the article, a high rated old player rookie card can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. From this we can see that rarity is the name of the game

  23. Joseph M. November 7, 2019 at 9:23 pm #

    As a kid who grew up collecting baseball cards, it is nice to hear that even if in a less than conventional way, baseball cards are still traded and relevant. I tried to get into the Pokemon cards my friends were into but I had such a passion for the sport of baseball that I could not abandon it. I would live for the day I got my allowance, as I always blew it on a new set of Topps or Upper-Deck cards. The trading of cards was always one of the best parts. My friends and I would show our cards and trade each other to get our favorite players or get rid of duplicates. I never knew of the market for rare cards until now.

    To hear that cards are going for hundreds of thousands of dollars is mind-blowing. It was smart of companies to release limited runs of cards in order to create a rarity to them and once again assert the baseball card as a commodity. I hope that this continues and we see baseball cards maintain or even improve their popularity levels. I still have thousands of old cards from garage sales and flea markets and hope to one day pass them on to my kids along with those my father gave to me.

  24. anthony freda November 8, 2019 at 6:37 pm #

    I have been as baseball fan for my entire life. The past 19 years of my life have consisted of watching, analyzing, and playing baseball, it is my life’s passion. I remember the first collection of baseball cards my father and I bought, a 1988 full set collection highlighted by names such as Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Nolan Ryan. Even with all of these popular players it is only valued to be approximately $30 for the entire set. Any decent fan of baseball recognizes those three huge names, yet their cards in most sets are virtually worthless.The decline in baseball card value could be evident to the increase in production levels. I believe once cards such as Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle had such high price tags people were at a scramble to join the party. The reason these cards are so valuable is because the lack of cards in circulation. This is simple economics, a low supply in something that people find valuable will have high price tags.

    I believe that in the baseball card industry may unfortunately not increase in the near future. An increase in popularity of other sports like basketball and football in youth generations will continue the decline in the baseball card industry. I believe that the industry will only be revived if new cards arrive with a large price tag. I also think the digital world is not helping. Instead of looking on the back of your favorite player for their statistics you can just pull out any device and search it online. True baseball fans would love a revival of the baseball card industry. The trading and collecting of baseball cards is an industry of the past that should be revived.

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