Is there room for one more magazine?

27 07 2009

There was once a time when you couldn’t hit a local book store/magazine stand without finding multiple trading card related magazines. Today, the only two left are Beckett and Sports Collectors Monthly. The problem is that both of those magazines feature outlandish, inaccurate price guides that so many collectors rely on.

My version of a perfect baseball card magazine would feature no such thing as a price guide. Instead, I would point collectors to eBay, the only true meter for measuring what your card is worth. If you have some rare, low-numbered parallel with no recent auctions, put it up and see what it brings. Simple?

Along with multiple, diverse commentaries, the magazine would also including a Top 20 list of cards that are hot and since it would be a monthly magazine, a complete checklist of new products. So if you have three releases in the month of March, in the April issue you would have three complete checklists to look through.

At the moment there are several online magazines related to the hobby. Recently, Card Informant released an online card magazine, Insider’s Edge is now selling hard copies, and other sites are working on their future products. Clearly this new format is becoming the next step in blogging. Why settle for a magazine published by companies who rely on sponsors?

Wax Heaven cannot go on forever, at least not on this pace. I believe the day this site closes it will be to start a bi-monthly magazine to focus on commentary and old school box breaks. It will in no way attempt to compete with anyone, online or in book stores, but it will definitely have that Wax Heaven flavor that has made this site popular.

What would make the perfect baseball card magazine for you?

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34 responses

27 07 2009
Tim

You know where to contact me if you ever decide to go that route 🙂

27 07 2009
oldschoolbreaks

Yeah, me too…;)

27 07 2009
petrosian

yeah mario if you need someone to work hard for your vision Im totally there. youre absolutely right there needs to be a good magazine.

27 07 2009
Fuji

Hey Mario,

I loved your idea on the perfect magazine, especially the complete checklists. Hopefully, Beckett & Sports Collectors Monthly are reading this.

27 07 2009
jswaykos

You’ll obviously need some sort of grading service, so then we know that our sweet relics are worth a TON. Naturally, subscribers’ cards will grade just a bit higher than outsiders.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but can’t complete checklists be obtained through Beckett’s online priceguide? You don’t have to subscribe to at least get the checklist. Now, since I rarely buy 2009 products I haven’t checked if they do or don’t post ’em, but I’m pretty sure they’re there. It’d be nice to have them in print form ahead of time, though, instead of the annual phone book sized monstrosity Beckett releases.

I like the idea of old wax breaks! I can’t stand reading only about uber-high end products. Don’t forget about the vast majority of collectors who spend only the occasional $20!!! We’re people too!

27 07 2009
Eric Slette

I think reviewing the occasional blaster break would be cool too – showcasing what you can pull from hobby AND retail. When I first got back in the game, I had no idea there was a difference between the two.

I also really dig the idea of complete checklists of newly released products. I know when a new product hits, I always am trying my hardest to find out if Pettitte is in it. It would definitely save my eyesight to read in a magazine format, as opposed to the tiny print on magazineexchange.com or Topps’ checklist site.

27 07 2009
JRJ @ SportsLocker

I’d like a mag with opinions, different commentary, several voices, and no price guide. Price guides and top 20 lists are dated as soon as they are printed.

Doing anything printed these days is a pretty big gamble. Personally, I think an eMag is the way to go… something mobile I can get from an app on my phone or kindle/BN Reader.

27 07 2009
Kash9

Coverage on blaster boxes would be cool. I also think (since it would be monthly or bi-monthly) the magazine should give a price guide in relation to ebay sales. It would be cool to include reviews from, in a perfect world, everyday collectors on products and putting in a prospect tracker for players just entering the majors or blazing up the farm system.

27 07 2009
VOTC

A magazine that incuded commentary from the Product Development Manager of a product releasing that month, NOT a sales pitch but a “This is why we created this product, this is why we included and didn’t include x,y,z. This is why it is priced at such and such a price point.” Engage me as a collector with facts. What were the challenges of the product, from concept to pack out how long did it take, etc.

A monthly interview with a successful card shop sharing best practices.

Blog/Site of the month providing mainstream (read Beckett brain-washed) collectors information on the plethora of alternative sources for industry related content.

Accompanying the Top 10 0r 20 Hot cards. Sales ranges from eBay and SportsBuy for quick reference saving the reader the work.

A Q&A section where the staff of writers responds to collectors legitimate concerns/questions with real answers.

27 07 2009
MattR

Something similar to the old “Baseball Hobby News” would be fine with me. I liked it a lot better than any of these magazines.

27 07 2009
R-

There really just needs to be a magazine with Previews, Reviews, artciles, interviews, etc. No pricing.

27 07 2009
Eric E

One question, I thought Sports Card Monthly was a branch of Beckett… no? I could have swore when I was buying them Sports Card Monthly’s, I was buying Beckett product. :/ Plus, I looked to see if they still made Topps magazine on the net, nothing was said about it’s downfall or if it still in circulation. After reading your post Mario, I see that Topps canceled it a long time ago.

Like I said, I collect magazines. This would be great for me and many magazine readers out there. The great thing about Beckett is… the fact that they don’t just put card prices in there. They put advertisements, signed baseballs, hockey pucks, footballs etc… Cards, card stores online and on the street, it has everything! So does Sports Card Monthly, That is why I believe it is apart of Beckett. The other reason being I could have swore I saw Beckett on the top of it. Hmmm… better go look.

Anyways thank you for making a post about magazines, Mario. I like how you’re branching out into different collectibles now. Loved this site before when I first started reading it, love it even more now. 🙂

27 07 2009
austex

What exactly happened to “Tuff Stuff”? I really enjoyed it because for nearly the same cost as Beckett, you got a price guide for all four of the major sports! I’m assuming they went out of business, but how long has it been and does anyone know why?

In regards to the price guide, if you REALLY wanted to shake up the hobby, come out with a price guide using, say, averages for the last 10 auctions on Ebay for a given card. Prices for everything would drop dramatically, so it’s one of those things that’d either cause the hobby to collapse or become reborn.

Either way, I think it’s the right direction but there is one big underlying problem: how much time, money, and research would it require to publish a new magazine in hobby that’s probably losing more collectors than it’s gaining?

27 07 2009
jamoke

Perhaps the magazines price guide could be an online realtime compilation of recent sales. For lower # cards the online dynamic guide would show recent sales of comparable #/player cards. Each issue could have a randomly generated code giving 2 month access to the realtime guide. The site would generate codes each month for the # of total distribution and the code could be hidden under a scratch off or the mag could come with a wrapper. Once the code was used it would be locked to that IP.

27 07 2009
jamoke

Pair that with a bunch of what the intelligent commentors said above and you would have a winner!

27 07 2009
offy

My favorite all time magazine is one that I can’t even remember the title of. It had a very similar look and style to Wizard and ToyFare and I think it only lasted two issues. To me, it was the perfect price guide, but they didn’t focus on prices and value and people didn’t buy the magazine. Maybe there are more intelligent collectors out there these days and something like this would last, but if not, at least something similar could be done online without publishing costs.

27 07 2009
cardboardoverload

I definitely think you should provide a price guide, and definitely base it off ebay sales (and maybe even some of the smaller shops such as checkoutmycards, sportlots, etc.). I know ebay has the capability of giving a dump of data that would help you tremendously. A monthly or bi-monthly magazine would sell better as well, because prices are always changing, yet most Beckett prices never move at all (which is why I buy maybe one or two a year). I’d be a consistent repeat buyer if I knew prices were always up to date. This will probably be done easier (and cheaper) if done in an online format. Good luck!

27 07 2009
Hoiles

I used to love Topps magazine (when I was a kid). It was obviously glorified advertising that I had to pay for but at least there were some interesting card history articles, player profiles, baseball articles, etc, geared towards collectors, and there was some nice photography so it was collectible in itself. In Beckett there’s very little that’s interesting other than the price guide, and it’s debatable if that’s useful too.

One thing that would be nice in current magazines would be if they had unbiased reviews of new products instead of rehashed sell sheets. Critics get into movies for free or get free CDs, and that does not seem to affect the objectivity of their reviews.

27 07 2009
beaverman3001

People wanting a ebay realtime pricing have obviously never researched how to do it. You have to go through a company licensed by ebay (Formerly DataUnison forgot their current name) and purchase historical sales history that you connect to via ftp. The logistics of it are doable for any programmer but the cost is quite high ($5,000+ for a SUB category data access annually). I’ve already discussed this in the past week with DataUnison but the feasability of it, without a enormous money investment upfront isn’t plausable for most people. Remember, this price is for 1 SUB category, such as Baseball. So for 4 sub categories annually (baseball, football, hockey, basketball) You are spending minimum 20,000$. These are also their low end estimates, you have to sign a NDA to get exact price quotes. This is also excluding website development, server development, script development for making your data into a readable format, plus other scripts for matching that data to a checklist. Have fun matching something such as “2004 GOTF Jim Rice Auto” into “2004 Fleer Greats of the Game Jim Rice Auto”. You would have to do that for every card/set/sport. The logistics of it are just too large scale for it to be worth the investment.

Conversly, Beckett believe it or not, DOES use ebay historical sales. What people don’t realize is, historical sales don’t mean anything, just like Beckett’s estimates. A sale price of a card in 2005 does not equate to 2009 value. Trying to find a 2009 value of a older card is quite hard and not worth the hassle. You know why something like a 2005 Pujols auto might book for 600? Because when the product released it probably sold for around that value, and hasn’t been seen in any volume since then. People can bash Beckett all day but their pricing is what it is, a very rough estimate. I don’t personally believe in their value but if you do research into how some values are given by them, you’d realize that it is unrealistic to do in any other fashion.

Sorry for long post :X

27 07 2009
Ricky

austex – tuffstuff is still around. they even have free online pricing @ http://www.tuffstuff.com

27 07 2009
The Mojo Hand

The magazine should be based on the how much is the card worth to you concept. Serious, informative, and fun all in the same issue.

27 07 2009
The Mojo Hand

In the end of every issue the joke should be on Ebay.

27 07 2009
Hobby Watcher

@Beaverman how did you get your information what you posted sparked my interest. so what would your suggestion be to get more realistic pricing for cards?

27 07 2009
beaverman3001

I contacted DataUnison directly and spoke with them in a teleconference about the idea of a ebay dictated price guide. I have a friend who is a .NET developer and another who is a cisco certified server admin, plus a graphics designer. We were planning something such as a ebay dictated price guide but the low probability of it working plus the enormous upfront cost is quite a detterent. It isn’t something you can just dive into doing. We had a solid model for a operation like this but its just too much to bother with, the odds of recouping your initial investment are terrible.

The only realistic pricing is to sell it, and see what it sells for. Anything sold in the past is inaccurate and useless. If you don’t really want to sell it, set a high buy it now with best offer, see what offers you get.

27 07 2009
jamoke

There is a site called price lizard or something with the word lizard in it that collects realtime price info from eBay. I am not asking 4 past pricing. Realtime market pricing is the way 2 go.

27 07 2009
beaverman3001

Real time pricing is cool, but you don’t always have a price for something (the majority items aren’t seen on ebay each week). Like I said, the only value is to sell it, and that is what it is worth at that moment. That is the only real pricing that exists.

28 07 2009
Tim

I think staying out of the pricing game at first is a good idea. Focus on content such as stories and insider information. You know, what magazines used to have before advertising dollars were more important than informing the reader.

28 07 2009
sendmeyourjunk

Tuff Stuff magazine is now known as Sports Collectors Monthly.

Just check completed auction sales to see what your card goes for.
What Beckett does to get their pricing is they seem to just double the final sale prices.

Seems to make sense, if I sell a card for $30.00, its not worth $30, it would be “valued” more than that, because someone isn’t going to pay actual retail value for it. So it would be worth from $50 – $75.00

I don’t like Beckett, but their formula makes sense. Just look at their book prices and look at final sale prices, you can see this kind of makes sense.

There not going to price a card at what it sells for online, because that wont determine the “true” value

28 07 2009
sendmeyourjunk

And if someone came out with a new card magazine…. I can guarantee it would fail.

Why pay $3.99 – $5.99 for something you can get online?

Financially, it would not make sense. And I bet they wouldn’t be able to secure capital from a bank or angel investor. So that means they would be using all of their personal money for this venture.

Money down the toilet if you ask me.

Mario, I hope you just continue to do the site

28 07 2009
Slowdog

You will find that Old Cardboard presents an interesting template for your concept. Published three times per year, once every four months (prior to the current issue, it was published four times per year), the magazine focuses only on baseball card issues older than fifty years.

In Old Cardboard, very extensive articles, written by contributors, are enclosed. In particular, the articles are exhaustive and the editors put a lot of work into comprehensive galleries of older cards.

The magazine contains sufficient advertising (to generate revenue) of vintage auctions and does not publish prices at all. Further, Old Cardboard has a wonderful and free website and network area and links.

I think a focused concept on issues within the past fifty years would work. I would migrate it to an electronic delivery format for two reasons. One, a paper Old Cardboard is worth its weight due to the expensive cards that are published in the galleries (not so true as to modern cards). Two, e-delivery will only become more and more popular, especially as to new school blog subscribers. Perhaps advertising alone, without the need for a subscription, would support a free e-document. Maybe paper editions could be color printed and mailed out to subscribers that don’t have their own printing ability.

28 07 2009
mfw13

Couple of comments:

1) Online price tracking already exists on a website called VCP (Virtual Card Prices, I think) that tracks online auctions. However, even this is only somewhat accurate, as it does not account for the many sales that take place in stores and at shows which never show up in any sort of electronic database.

2) As to the idea of a new magazine itself, that would be wonderful. As a previous poster mentioned, an Old Cardboard type format would probably work the best, and as you well know there are plenty of good writers out there that would love to be able to contribute in-depth articles on their areas of expertise.

28 07 2009
austex

So, if Ebay and/or Dataunison are charging an arm and a leg for information, why not instead put that $20,000 in to creating your own auction site for sports cards and memorabilia?

Sure, you’d have to convince the hobby to start listing their product on your site versus Ebay, but what if you could actually get it to work?

Think about it: Free information for the site owner to produce a price guide and hobbyists selling to other hobbyists at, perhaps, reduced listing prices over Ebay. You could sell a monthly online subscription at a couple of dollars a pop that’d give subscribers up to date pricing on everything they wanted–perhaps aided by an iPhone app–so they could use it at card shows or the card shop.

28 07 2009
Tim

@sendmeyourjunk…I think Mario was talking about an online magazine. Print media is dying (just look at some of the newspapers that shut down this year) and so it would be wise to create a format that’s easily accessible as well as current.

28 07 2009
beaverman3001

Austex, others have tried making ebay competitors (sportslots, and another one whos name I cannot recall at the moment) but its really a David verse Goliath scenario. Ebay already has billions in revenue, plus a semi monopoly with paypal being involved. You would never get enough people to switch over, even at reduced fees. People on blogs might, but you have to market things towards larger sections of the hobby. Random dude in a card shop whos uneducated about online card communities, still going to use ebay.

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