April 10, 2008

Some Thoughts on Card Trade

Yes, I read Card Trade, the monthly, dealer-only rag put out by F&W Publications. No, I don't understand why they approved me for a subscription, either, but here we are.

I was perusing the April edition this afternoon and it struck me: the frustrations that you and I shared last summer (in the posts titled What Do Collectors Want? and The State of the Hobbyist) are also felt by dealers. They have seen their net profits continuously shrink year to year, their competitors tank, collectors come and go from lack of interest and manufacturers fail to respond in meaningful ways.

One of the issues the mag addresses is the idea of the 'lax collector' (ie, me), and how to attract them back into the fold. When I last spoke with the manufacturer from New York City, they were unconcerned with bringing the lax collector back, that we represented a small chunk of the overall audience not really worth targeting.

Angie Venturini's article in CT presents a very different viewpoint, one that's decidedly optimistic. To paraphrase: if you (were you a dealer) just show or tell lax collectors how great cards are today then they're sure to jump back in. I feel like that's only partly true. Sure, the lax collector is hard-wired (or was at one point) to collecting. Cards probably pop up in their thoughts and dreams when they least expect it (hey, they do for me...).

But most of the cards produced today really aren't that great. And isn't that what the lax collector would be coming back to? Sure, there are exceptions, and relics and autographed cards are, I admit, though begrudgingly, cool to pull in a pack. But how many more sets can do game-used cards as enticement? There hasn't been evolution in the hobby since the invention of the relic card. This is where manufacturers falter: they can't evolve. Collectors know it. Dealers seem to know it, too. We want something unique. Something new.

Manufacturers shouldn't just be interested in the lax collector. They should be using them as lab rats for new product. Who better to recommend a product out of the gate or cry bullshit on a crappy one? Anyway, enough of the diatribe.

One last thing about Card Trade. They have a small blurb in there about Tuff Stuff's desperation move against Beckett. Going forward, Tuff Stuff will be known as Tuff Stuff's Sports Collectors Monthly. To quote the publisher, Scott Kelnhofer: "Basically, we want people who see the magazine on the newsstand to have a better understanding of what the publication is about." I love that. Here's what that really means: We never had a problem with our publication until Beckett crowded us with their new monthly, so we decided to make the front cover of our pub look almost exactly the same as our competitor's. Can't fault them for trying.

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