When Beckett joined the blogging world in early October 2007 (3 weeks before Wax Heaven), it was just the shot in the arm the hobby needed. Sure, there were successful blogs like Ben Henry’s Baseball Card Blog and Stale Gum—but we had never had the opportunity to view the behind the scenes workings of an official company (does Tuff Stuff’s blog even count?). In a short amount of time the Beckett blog became the place to check out daily and part of it was thanks to Elon Werner, Beckett’s Director of Communications. Over time, it was Elon more than anyone else from the Beckett headquarters that supported Wax Heaven and today, I am proud to bring you an exclusive interview. In it, he speaks candidly about the hobby, the competition, and even the controversial “Beckett-Gate”.
W.H: For many collectors growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, it would be a dream to work at Beckett. How did you get your foot in the door? How long were you there? Also, were you a collector when you joined?
E.W: I got my foot in the door on the recommendation of an employee who was leaving the Director of Communications position. I knew I wanted to work at Beckett since I always thought it was one of the best sports public relations jobs in Dallas. I was right. The people at Beckett were great to work with for the two plus years that I was there. There were some hard-core collectors and some people like me that were casual collectors. I liked to pick up unique items that had a special value for me but not necessarily mainstream value. Most of my collectibles have a story behind them.
W.H: When you took a new position with another industry, would you say the sports card hobby was more popular or less than when you began your career at Beckett?
E.W: I would say that the sports card hobby is about the same. It is what it is. In my position at Beckett we pushed the hobby to newspapers, radio stations or TV stations when a big sports story broke (i.e. Mitchell Report, Mike Vick arrested, etc.) just so we could create some buzz. We also got a decent number of phone calls asking about the profitability of collecting and whether or not collecting or “the hobby” was dying. I don’t think the hobby is dying any more than interest in baseball is dying. People’s interests change but there are enough people invested in the hobby that it will never go away. People will always want to get trading cards and if people are willing to buy them once then someone will buy them again.
W.H: During “Beckett-Gate”, the incident where a bunch of Gretzky rookies were shown photographed in a controversial manner, Beckett Media took a lot of heat over the incident. Do you believe that collectors overreacted?
E.W: This is 100% my opinion but yes. The fact that photo caused so many people to get their panties in a wad surprised me. What really disturbed me was how many people took a huge leap and questioned the integrity of the graders and the Beckett grading system. The care that I saw our graders give cards that came through our doors was impressive. When it is all said and done cards are just cardboard. At one point they ran across a conveyor belt, were dumped in packs and boxes then thrown onto a truck or airplane to get to a hobby shop. Get over it. It was one photo that was staged.
What also surprised me was how seriously everyone at Beckett took the uprising. They are very concerned about making the customer happy. We immediately called the customer to make sure he was OK with it. He was fine. He couldn’t understand why anyone would make a big deal out of it. We then went about trying to make sure everyone in the hobby knew that this was an aberration, which it was. There are conspiracy theorists everywhere so you aren’t going to make everyone happy all the time but at Beckett we really tried to make sure everyone understood what was going on and that is very rare in any industry.
W.H: Over your time with Beckett, what do you believe made the magazine stand out from the competition?
E.W: The professionalism of the analysts and the passion they put into the product. They scoured market reports everyday and were constantly trying to make sure that the pricing was accurate. It was always funny to me that it seemed we were more concerned with what was in a particular product than the manufacturers. Our analysts battled people from all the manufacturers for check lists, print runs, and product info.
I also think the designers made a big difference. They made the graphs and charts that really made a lot of potentially dry info look interesting.
W.H: There has been lots of speculation about the cards Beckett receives for reviews and/or sponsors. Where do all those nice cards really end up?
E.W: Most of the cool cards are given away in contests to readers. I know some used to be raffled off to employees in the early days. Some go into the vault to just save for reference sake for grading guys to compare to combat counterfeiting.
A lot of people think that we get “hot boxes” for the box buster videos. That is urban legend. We get product from the manufacturers yes, but what purpose would it serve them to give us a hot box on purpose. They want the cool stuff to get to collectors, especially the 1/1 stuff. I was always amazed when we pulled good stuff on the video box busters because I imagined a card company marketing director cringing when he/she saw the video and knew that a key card was not out there for the consumers.
W.H: Now that you’ve joined John Force Racing, are there any chances we will see you on the ‘Driving Force’ TV series?
E.W: No, the Driving Force show ran its course. I know we are working on a John Force autobiography and I would not rule out another TV show.
W.H: What does the Director of Public Relations for Beckett baseball do day to day?
E.W: A lot of phone calls and meetings. I tried to stay on top of what was coming out in the magazines. That way I could make calls to media people and team to try and get some buzz about the upcoming magazines. I also tried to get involved in the content. Working with the editors and analysts to come up with creative ideas for stories. Usually the editors had the good ideas and I just threw out crazy thoughts to keep people laughing.