Friday, April 19, 2019

Some Thoughts on The State of The Hobby in 2019 and on "The 30-Year Cycle."

There's a video going around that I feel I need to comment on.  I know it's been a while since I've done one of these, so bear with me.

The video in question is a three minute snippet from The Rich Eisen Show, in which some guy calling himself "Gary Vee"is hyping up the investment potential of sports cards.

Truth be told, I've never heard of this guy before, so I had to do some research.  According to his Wikipedia page:
"Gary Vaynerchuk (born Gennady Vaynerchuk; November 14, 1975; Belarusian: Генадзь Вайнярчук, Russian: Геннадий Вайнерчук) is a Belarusian American entrepreneur, author, speaker and internet personality. First known as a wine critic who expanded his family's wine business, Vaynerchuk is best known for his work in digital marketing and social media, leading New York–based companies VaynerMedia, VaynerX and VanerSpeakers."
I guess he's kind of a Big Deal, I mean, "Gennady Vaynerchuk" sounds like a stock villain in a Grand Theft Auto game.  But "Gary Vee," well, only Important People get to give themselves a nickname, and Gary Vee is one of those Important People ... even though I've never heard of him until about 20 minutes ago, and we're roughly the same age.  How many leather-bound books does he own? And does his apartment smells of rich mahogany?

He is right about pop culture going in 30-year cycles, and right now we are in the midst of what I'd like to call The Second Junk Wax Era.

Let me give you an example.  2019 Bowman Baseball is out this week (or as the kids like to say "Streets" this week), and it's the same as it has been the last few years: 150 new Prospects each with a dozen parallels, 20 Chrome Refractors, and another dozen and a half Autographed Chrome Refractors. As usual, there's always that one guy that everyone marks out on and this year, it's an eighteen-year old who hit .351/.418/.587 in the Appalachian League last year.  I'm sure Cooperstown is already preparing his plaque ... right next to Ruben Rivera's, Brien Taylor's, Travis Lee's, and Todd van Poppel's.

Here's the thing with Bowman though.  Year in and year out, with the hundreds of Prospects issued across the three Bowman flagship brands, (Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft) you can count on one hand the number of players whose cards will ever be worth anything.  If you don't believe me, check out the $1 and 50¢ boxes at your local weekend card show. I guarantee you'll at least one dealer with monster boxes full of Bowman parallels and Bowman Chrome Refractors, many of them low numbered, dating back years that will never, ever, sell at any price.  Just like the scores of Barry Larkin, Will Clark, and Rafael Palmerio rookies that clog-up many of the same $1 and 50¢ boxes.  Who's going to want a Gold Die-Cut Shimmer NukeFractor serial-numbered to 50 of a guy who never made it past Class-A?  How many Randy Johnson rookie cards does one need?

Now I know I'm dating myself here, but I'm old enough to remember the original Junk Wax Era and jabronis like Gary Vee were dime a dozen.  Oh sure, they bought a lot of cards, but they sure as hell didn't collect any them. We tend to think that Junk Wax Era products were "overproduced," and by today's standards, they were.  But somebody bought all those cases of 88 Fleer.  They may not have been trying to find the last few cards to knock-off their 1987 Topps set, but Junk Wax Era products did sell well.

And that's the problem.  Just like in the late-80s/early-90s (30 year ago), The Hobby is currently attracting an element that has no interest in collecting the cards, just accumulating them for speculative purposes.  The card companies know this, which is why many of their products are no longer designed to be collected.  I could write another 850-1500 words on this subject, but I'll save that for another time.

Let me finish with this: In the beginning of the video, Gary Vee casually mentions that he's bought and sold hundreds of Giannis Antetokounmpo RCs over the past year. (Him lecturing a producer about how late-80s/early-90s cards are worthless is pure ironic gold, though.)  Well, what do you think happened back in The Junk Wax Era?

One summer when I was in high school, I had a job at a Hobby shop that did a lot of mail order business. My job consisted of ripping dozens of cases of wax, picking out all the rookies and stars, and selling 25, 50, 100-count lots for "investors."  This was commonplace in the time.  Go read an old Sports Collector's Digest from the era and look at the ads if you don't believe me.  How is that any different than what Gary Vee is doing with Antetokounmpo cards?

(Speaking of which, I have a 100-count lot of 88D Gregg Jefferies RCs I'm sitting on. Any takers?)

Fortunately, around '92-'93, the Junk Wax bubble burst and these halfwits moved on to the Next Big Score: subprime mortgages, Medicare fraud, and social media influencing. 

Other thoughts on my mind:

Going back to the 30-year cycle, we're due for another baseball strike, the kind that cancels a World Series.  And whaddya know, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021!  With a strike seemingly inevitable, I wouldn't want to be Topps and stuck with an MLB license (and nothing else) when another World Series is cancelled (#ThanksExclusiveLicensing!).  If Topps were still publicly traded, I'd sell short.

Then again, another strike and another cancelled World Series is what The Hobby needs. Clear out the rot. Purge all the gamblers.  Give another company a license to kick-start things (just not Panini).  Make products that appeal to collectors again.  The period from 1993-1999 brought a series a innovative and collectible card sets.  Maybe by 2025 (there's that 30-year cycle again) baseball card collecting will be fun again?


David Switzer said...

Brilliant. The hobby needs to be relieved of all the speculators that don't care if they're buying a baseball card, a beany baby, or an unopened Barbie doll. Topps doesn't play to the collector. They play to the addict who can't resist buying that expensive Mavericks spot in the case break, even though they have never actually watched a Mavericks game. I remember when word got out that beany babies were "valuable" and at one weekly Chicago card show in particular, there were more beany tables than card tables in no time. Ugh. Thank you for spreading the word.

Brett Alan said...

If there's another strike, Topps should be forced to put out Topps Now cards every day showing empty ballparks.

Chris Harris said...


gregory said...

Excellent use of "jabroni".

Unknown said...

Wow, unfortunate cause, but definite results. There seems to be some definite unsettling of card prices. Possibly a cancelling of a World Series, or in this case a large part of the season.