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Hobby or Business? 3 downsides to the current hobby trend

The shift in our hobby is real.

This week we see a combination of high-end product releases (across sports). On Wednesday we will see Panini release:
– Immaculate Baseball ($225 a box)
– Preferred Basketball ($215 a box)
– Gala Football ($225 a box)

and Topps – not to be outdone – is releasing:
– The Mint Baseball ($875 a box)

These are 4 extremely high-end products hitting us on the same day. The price per box seems staggering…but here is what is even more staggering:

The average price per card (Retail Prices) for those releases is: $77.

Let me put this another way… you could buy a box of EACH of these releases and spend $1,540…and return yourself 20 cards.

The hobbyists/veterans/simple-minded folks know that these products were not created for the normal collector. The shift over the last couple of years is staggering, as we see products created less for collectors and more for gamblers. This demographic requires flashier cards, efficient openings, and higher odds to hit a monster. This is the reality.

Want some proof?

I took the liberty to compare some statistics between 2014 and 2016. These are using baseball products (because of depth and consistency) from the major manufacturers using wholesale pricing (at release).


The hobby in 2014 vs 2016.
The hobby in 2014 vs 2016.


Yes this is real.

Keep in mind these are wholesale prices. The prices per box/card are 20-100% higher – depending on the product – at a Retail level. But at a more controlled medium (wholesale pricing) we are seeing a pretty clear trend within the hobby.

But, these trends aren’t just happening with the cost per card/box. We are also seeing it across the sheer increase of “breaker friendly” products. Take a look:


14vs16 products




Again, we see that the hobby is adapting to this high end, less intrusive type of product.

So… who cares, right? This is just the nature of the beast. We have a hobby that wants to perceive ROI and big-time returns. So isn’t this just an innocent by-product of the new normal?

It all depends on how you view the future of the hobby. Because as we analyze the trends of the past 3-5 years and look at the crop of 2017 products, we have to consider where we want this hobby to end-up.

I see 3 downsides to the current trend.

#1 – We are cannibalizing the heartbeat of our future.

The next generation of collector can’t afford to be Hanging with Mr. Cooper hanging with this trend. It’s not just the price point, it’s the lack of emphasis on simplicity and collecting. A continued trend toward “ROI” and high-end will only push out a necessary generation of collectors.

#2 – Less emphasis on staple products.

As we see more of an imbalance of low-to-mid range products to high-end products, we will inevitably see fewer opportunities for common breaks. Margins are simply better with high-end products. You can’t blame breakers for focusing on ways to drive #’s to the bottom-line. Sorting 1,000’s of cards cost money. Now there are plenty of alternatives.

#3 – The chase isn’t very intriguing.

I get it. The high-end products provide more % of top-dollar cards. But really, do you get more excited pulling that cut auto from Topps S1/S2 or Ginter Box Relic over a framed cut from Dynasty? I’d argue you’d get more excited (and potentially more $$ value) from the $60 box. So….why are we so fascinated with $400 a box? Are we that tired of sorting through base cards? :-/


The net net is that we are facing an important shift in our hobby. We have hobbyist and new collectors caught in the balance…trying to figure out…is this a business or is this a hobby?

I hope that as breakers plan more of their business around high-end products, we don’t see manufacturers shift their focus from the heartbeat of this hobby.


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2022 years ago

At this rate the market will colapse and the collectors/resalers will stop buying, its pretty bad when breakers revert to the promo silver/gold packs to push their products!!!

Ron DiIorio
Ron DiIorio
2022 years ago

In my opinion everything is relative. A $60 box might have only 1 card of true value while a $260 box may have 7. Some would argue that would make the $260 box a much better purchase.

The 90’s have taught us that a sure fire way to kill this industry is to over produce a bunch of product that is completely common. Trying to not repeat the 90’s has proved to be a huge challenge for manufactures. Making worthwhile unique products, limiting production and to still make a profit. Meanwhile sports licensing fees are going through the roof as well as production costs.

From a hobbyists point of view, they desire memorabilia that is dear to them and personally means something. From a collectors point of view, the item must be unique, rare and in demand. One thing both hobbyist and collectors would agree on is that when these items are over produced, perceived value and desire for them is diminished.

To me the only way to keep this hobby /industry alive is to make unique products while limiting production. The only way for manufactures to be able to do this while still making a profit is to raise prices. Manufactures spend lots of money on R&D and may have come to conclusion that this “hobby trend” of higher priced cards, is the only way for the industry to grow. The good news is Case Breaking is a viable solution for bridging the gap between those who can afford and those who can’t. Granted case breaking needs to evolve, but I think over time it will adapt so as to get more of the main stream hobbyist involved.