I'm seeing a lot of "year in review" and "top however many of 2017" posts rolling in. Part of me is reluctant to do anything too similar to other writers in this arena, but I feel we need to step back for a minute, take a look at our surroundings, and objectively evaluate what's coming in 2018 for sports card collecting. That's what I am hoping to do here. No real show-and-tell, and certainly no puff piece of how rewarding and fulfilling card collecting is.
While this site goes dark sometimes, I've never really walked away from the scene. And after getting back into it heavily these past couple months, it hasn't really been encouraging. I wouldn't call the current trends in collecting troubling, as it's just too hard for me to take anything, especially sport and corporate-related, too seriously. But it's not great right now. Topps has done nothing but resurrect old sets and bury faithful fans with parallels, and Panini is continually putting out flawed products with banged-up corners and bad checklists - and doing it without logos.
Right now, the strongest part of the hobby is Upper Deck Hockey, and there's not much of a challenge. This feels like the deepest rut collecting has been in since the 2000s, and there's a lot of work to do to get back to what collectors actually desire, if that ever happens again.
We have some time before that exclusive MLB license expires - and likely, is renewed - before anything is going to change. That being said, I've come up with some thoughts and takeaways from the past few months and how I see things shaking out in 2018 and deeper into the future.
5. Get ready for more yankees.
Sure, you can go ahead and chirp the official Topps account by demanding more Brewers and Padres in sets, but buddy - it's never going to happen. yankees bring in the dough, and putting a yankee on the front of a foil pack gets that kid in southern Iowa to beg his parents to buy it, not Wil Myers or Joey Votto. It's all about marketability now, and the Cubs, yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers are king, and you're going to pull them out of pack whether you like it or not, because they are what sells.
4. Prospecting is dead for collectors
This one hurts. I'm always looking for prospects to get cheap and flip, to offset some of the cost of the hobby - which if you haven't noticed, is getting kind of ridiculous. Only like fantasy sports, the little guys, the casual collectors, are being forced out.
|I have two Vladimir Guerrero Jr. cards. This is why.|
Prospecting for the common man is dead. Have you checked the price of a box of Bowman Draft lately? I'll do it for you:
Only $.37/card! And hey, those three autographs are guaranteed to be players you'll see in the bigs before you know it.
Not to mention to get any refractors or someone who will actually see the majors, you're going to have to fill your truck bed with cases of the product and send your kid's college savings account over to pay for it.
3. Zombie sets are here to stay.
Topps Rep: What do you, the collector soaked in our golden shower, want to see in 2017?
Collector: We would love to see a set designed for set collectors, without parallels and inserts. Emphasize a beautiful base card.
Topps Rep: Good news, Gallery is coming back!
Literally no one asked for a reboot of Gallery, and when it did come, no one cared. Hopefully this one was a stark wake-up for Topps, but they're so tone deaf at this point that it doesn't matter. You're going to get rebooted sets with piles of parallels and short prints and shitty inserts. If you want a clean, beautiful base card, minimal inserts and nonsense parallels, you have to leave baseball altogether and pick up some Upper Deck hockey.
2. The hobby will always be dominated by money.
Prices are going to go up. Maybe not right away, but with less folks than ever buying cards, producers will have to compensate. Maybe it means more high-end stuff that costs nothing to release but they can still charge $200 for 10 cards. Maybe it's the continual rehash of old sets and inserts for those they lost in the 90s and 00s. Maybe it's a set for set collectors. Unfortunately, vintage isn't going to get cheaper, and eventually that market will dry up, and we'll lose even more people, which worries me a bit.
The benefit of this, though, is the weak secondary market and places like Sport Lots and Check Out My Cards. A few weeks after release and it's pretty easy now to grab your favorite players from high-end sets (if they're even in it, GOTTA GET THAT AARON BOONE IN!).
1. 2017 Topps was the worst flagship set, ever - and 2018 looks worse.
I've seen this card a lot in the past couple months, and I think I know why. One - it's a pretty good looking card, aside from the...whatever design of the text; and two - it might be the only memorable card to come out of Topps' 2017 flagship.
And, yeah. It's going to get worse before it gets better. We've all seen the yankees on the sell sheet for 2018 product, and assuming Topps will put one of the other 29 teams in there means it'll probably sell well, because there's nothing else out there, and we'll complain and buy and complain and buy and support the snake swallowing its tail and it'll probably be worse in 2019 as well. But whatever.