Saturday, April 4, 2009

The further I am.....

...the farther I get.

The life and death of a product.

You start out, learning everything you can about what you're selling. You keep up. You're interested and you're talking to people who are just as interested. Word gets around. Gossip is ubiquitous. Information is on the frontpage of every communication you get from industry sources.

And then it starts to slide. You sell a little less, so you shrink back the time, space, and attention you give a product. It falls a few pages back in the publications. It's not the first thing people talk about when they come in the store.

And one day, you're standing behind the counter, and a customer gives you a piece of important information that is three months old.

Or maybe I should say, what once would have been 'important' information.

Panini, which just bought out Playoff cards (at least I knew that much!) has got the exclusive to produce collector cards for the National Basketball Association next year.

Wow. An Italian sticker company.

Makes sense, since Basketball is international sport, nowadays. Perhaps I'll have a market for all the mid-list stars in the basement someday in Europe or Asia.

But I'm stunned I didn't know this. It was announced in January.

But you know what? I really shouldn't be surprised. There are no publications I currently take in sports cards, except Beckett which I barely glance at. Others I just let go, or went out of business. Nobody comes in to talk about sports cards. Very few people buy them. I sell the random card, pack or box.

I remember from 1985, when I first started carrying sports cards, through about 1991, my ears were keenly attuned to the hobby. I always used to joke that I would zig just before the hobby zigged, and zag just before the hobby zagged. I knew instinctively which direction everything was going, and if I missed it somehow there were plenty of people to tell me.

So it was almost as big a surprise back in 1992 to hear that a competitor had opened (American Sports) and that he had been open for a couple of months! And the only way I found out was through an ad in the Bulletin. But this connects almost exactly in hindsight to the date when sports cards started their long decline. Not just for me, but for everyone.

This is something I wish people understood about their favorite hobbies. If interest and sales drop below a certain threshold, it pretty much falls apart. The middle cannot hold, because it's all connected. The customer just sees more choice, usually cheaper prices, and all looks great.

Eventually, it always seem to diffuse into nothingness.

Maybe I'm overstating the case. I'm certainly wishing I could continue to be the 'middle', the go-to guy, but's what I see.


tim said...

In the 70s, with rampant inflation, nearly everything was collectable. I still have my stamp collection. A recent look at a Scott's stamp catalog in the bookstore showed me what I expected--prices now are about what they were in the 70s when the boom ended for stamps. And the dollar is worth very, very much less.

stusigpi said...

Not to plug my blog, but if you check out, you will see not only my blog but my blog roll that seems to update on the latest and greatest in the Sportscard world on a daily basis. Some of these blogs are sponsored by the card companies.