Is there any current wax that is NOT overpriced?

16 02 2010

Author: Matt W.

So here’s a question. Take a look at these two cards:

.

.

What’s the difference? Not much of one, is there? Similar design, similar quality card stock…pretty much identical in every respect.

But there is one huge difference. The card on the left, a 1984 Fleer, retailed for about two cents a card (15 cards and a sticker for 30 cents). In contrast, the card on the right, a 2004 Fleer Platinum, retailed for about 30 cents per card (7 cards for $1.99). That’s right, despite being virtually identical, and despite the fact that cumulative inflation over that twenty year period was about 70 percent, the card on the right had a retail price approximately 15 times (1500%) the card on the left. The question you have to ask yourself is why?

The only real difference between the two issues is the fact that the latter issue not only has base cards, but is also stuffed to the gills with inserts (twelve different ones if you are counting). And those inserts have to be paid for, despite the fact that in many cases buyers generally don’t really want them. After all, designing twelve different insert sets, securing and organizing the necessary autographs and relics, and making the auto and relic cards all cost real money, even if the end customer often doesn’t want them.

The bigger issue is the fact that virtually every single product suffers from the same problem…endless inserts, parallels, autographs, and relics that few collectors actually want. A perfect example of this was last year’s Goodwin release by Upper Deck. It was a gorgeous set with terrific visual appeal, but was extremely expensive at $2 per five card pack. Factor in the fact that one of those cards was a mini card, and now you’re looking at a retail price of 50 cents per base card. Combine the price with the zillions different insert sets, 60 SP’s, and the fact that many of the cards were of people that nobody really cared about (Evelyn Ng, Lyndon Johnson, Carey Price, Anderson Silva, Chad Reed, Chuck Liddell, Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton, etc.), and you end up with a gorgeous looking but rather overpriced product. Perhaps that’s why many collectors such as myself decided to bypass the retail product altogether and buy singles and sets on Ebay instead!

The good news is that there is a solution staring the manufacturers right in the face. They already have two separate distribution channels (retail and hobby), so why not create two different product configurations, one for distribution through each channel? For example, the retail product could be configured for set-builders like me, with packs containing only base cards and SP’s and retailing for an inexpensive 99 cents per eight or ten card pack. The hobby product could be priced much higher, and would feature both the base cards as well as the full array of inserts, thus giving all types of collectors an option priced to fit their collecting needs.

The bottom line is this. Unless collectors feel that they are getting good value for their money, they are not going to buy your product. And right now there are far too few products being released which are delivering good value for money.


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21 responses

16 02 2010
jswaykos

Only problem with this is that people seem to buy whatever’s out there, so it’s not really overpriced if someone’s willing to pay. $2 for a hobby pack of 2010 Topps doesn’t seem bad to me. And for the stuff that IS cheap, like UDX, Opening Day, First Edition, O-Pee-Chee, everyone complains about it.

Lose-lose for the companies.

And actually, isn’t Goodwin a little more expensive per pack if you buy individually? I feel like I’ve seen it at $5 per.

16 02 2010
AdamE

Amen

16 02 2010
Joe from the D

The only problem with this logic is that the companies stand to lose ALOT money. Why sell something for $.99 when they can already sell it for $2.99? I do understand your point of a product for set builders, but the stark reality is that the big companies DO NOT GIVE A DAMN what we want. They want to force as much CRAP down our throats as possible and tell us to like it.

I love the idea of a retail based, no-frills, set builder oriented distribution system, but they how else would Upper Deck get rid of all of their unauthorized autographs and useless one color jersey swatches?

16 02 2010
jl

That is what seperates the then and now. In the 80’s there was only base. Companies could release any product at low price and keep profit. Also there was only one set that was released in a given year. Today the auto’s and the jerseys drove prices through the roof. A common card is worth pennies, but get to the stock of patches and autos your talking more money invested per card. In 83 cardboard was the norm, today the stock is classy. So the question is there any current wax that is not overpriced, no the inserts are, and that will never change the price going forward.

16 02 2010
Wax Wombat

I would argue (sadly) that there are far fewer set collectors than there once were. A lot of buyers are buying for the inserts and inserts alone – good or bad. They will complain and complain that they didn’t get anything good out of retail. They will pack search for the +/-$2 jersey cards. Now, all that said, there are a few products that are geared toward set collecting and the retail market (UD’s Collector’s Choice Hockey, Victory, MVP, for example). Also, if you recall, Topps Total was a retail .99 set that lived for just a couple years. I liked it, but it couldn’t survive in the era of the GU/Auto insert. We are also living in the era where that .40 candy bar now costs .85 (and they are smaller than they used to be).

16 02 2010
hoopography

Wow, great post!!! Very fun and informative read. Thanks Matt.

16 02 2010
sruchris

Two words: Topps Total.

16 02 2010
Cory

I’m with you on the retail/hobby premise. I only wonder why it hasn’t been tried before. I’ve heard this idea pitched around before, and it seems to hit a popular nerve. I do wonder at the end of the day what support it would get. Many people say they will support something until it’s time to show up. It’s like looking for moving help and everyone says they’d love to give you a hand and then only one guy shows.

Clearly something needs to happen to get younger people into collecting. Cards need to be affordable. MLB needs to see to this. It only promotes the game.

Funny thing is that kids do seem to be collecting. They are buying those old overproduced late 80’s cards because their money goes farther.

16 02 2010
John Bateman

It probably would cost you about 15 times to complete the 2004 set than the 1984 Fleer set but I doubt if you tried to buy them today the 2004 set would be much more expensive if at all.

16 02 2010
Andy

I’m definitely on board with the overpricing of wax concept. But I think there are some factors beyond inserts and greed at play here. Namely, the licenses cost a LOT more now than they did in 1984. Maybe not 1500% more, but significantly more. I’m also willing to bet that photo royalties have increased faster than inflation as well. I would absolutely LOVE to see a per-pack breakdown of cost from someone with inside information. Since all the major manufacturers are privately owned, though, we may never get that chance.

I did really like those Fleer Platinum cards though. Something about the mid-eighties Fleer aesthetic that I just adore!

16 02 2010
Paul

You could care less about the inserts. I could care less about most of the inserts. But there are plenty of people who still want their relics and autographs – and they shop both retail and hobby.

I’d love to see the high-end sets that are built around relics and autographs ditch the base cards, and I’d like to see an experiment aimed at producing a cheap set with no inserts for old-fashioned set collectors. Maybe it’s time for products to stop trying to be all things to all people.

17 02 2010
Jeff Warrington

As someone who is coming back to collecting (for a third time) and who stopped in 1991 the whole idea of chasing inserts rather than building a set is still new to me. I agree completely that the inserts game makes it hard to concentrate time and money on just completing a base set. Now that there are so many more sets in the marketplace I have to just focus on a few and pretty much forget completing insert sets at least without trading. I’d like to see a purely retail focused product but I am not holding my breath.

17 02 2010
halos17

TOTALLY AGREE. It’s a real pain in the ass to build sets these days.

17 02 2010
Madyankees

I totally 100% agree with this. I really want to collect some of the base sets like A&G and Heirtage but i really cant afford to buy that many boxes to build the set. Hits are nice but they dont have to stuff every single box with it. Make them case hits for the retail pdt line. I think this will really bring ppl back into the hobby.

17 02 2010
cardsplitter

Great idea, but unless someone else comes and does it, none of the current (two?) manufacturers will do it. The status quo is a strong, strong force.

I generally like inserts, but boy, a dozen or so in each set is a bit much.

17 02 2010
Slowdog

Perhaps other collectors are like me in that while they publicly lament the days of the inexpensive cheap set, they privately complete a basic jersey relic set, love the one or two autographed cards that they received in a pack, purchase old vintage cards on ebay at very high cost and collect multiple cards of a singular player and/or theme, only to see at the end of the year that their collecting expense is much higher than they ever intended it to be.

I think the card companies at least attempt to do what you propose, in that you can buy the entire Topps base set in a box at either hobby or retail, a blaster box with limited inserts or a hobby box with a gamblers chance of something more memorable (and, now that UD admitted to counterfeiting and destroyed their credibility, perhaps not even real). The offset to this triple play of choices is that it is no longer possible to buy boxes and build your own set given SPs and the like, at least not without ebay’s help and some extra money.

I would be willing to bet that blasters and retro or fancy sets have the highest profit margins. Sears and other retailers long ago figured out that most consumers will usually buy better when offered a choice of good, better and best, so better is priced closer to best than to good.

If you go back to vintage cards (pre WW II), it seems doubtful that anyone could have completed a set of T206, Cracker Jack, Goudey, etc. without buying gobs of product they may or may not have wanted. The challenge (to the collector) and the associated cost (to the manufacturer) is what keeps both parties going.

17 02 2010
tonymontana

preaching to the choir.
plus the fleer platnium was glossy.
2004 vs 1984 is irrelevant.
i like pizza.

19 02 2010
Cardcop

I hope you sent you comments to all the card manufacturers and price guides. Because if you didn’t you are wasting your time complaining about something VERY IMPORTANT that they all need to hear from as many of you that feel the same or similar about this issue.

All card companies & price guides have an e-mail format. Get that format and you’ll be able to build a list of hobby big shots to send all of your opinions to. Like the Senior Editor at Beckett is Tracy Hackler, his listed e-mail is thackler@beckett.com>>> now you know that format! The Vice President of Topps is Warren Friss, his listed e-mail is wfriss@topps.com. The Customer Service Manager at Panini is Natalie Rose (I was her boss once, she’s a knucklehead), her listed e-mail address is nrose@donruss.com, Upper Deck’s President is Richard McWilliam, his listed e-mail address is richard_mcwilliam@upperdeck.com. There, now I got you started..
You can also call them after hours or on the weekend. Some have an automated system where you enter three letters and if you come close to a last name they’ll list the names. Then use the format to generate a bigger e-mail list. For those who have the time to get a big list together, send that list to every collector you know. THEN WE’LL ALL EVENTUALLY HAVE A VOICE THAT THEY’LL LEARN FROM & MAKE CHANGES TO ADAPT TO WHAT WE WANT!

James M.

28 02 2010
Ryan Cracknell

Firstly – I know Donruss did a retail/hobby split with their Americana sets. The hobby was originally around $50 a pop and included a ‘hit’ in every pack. Retail packs were a couple of dollars and ‘hits’ were around 1:24 packs. To further differentiate, the hobby cards were printed on foil board while the retail was on more standard card stock. I’m not sure if Donruss found success with the two formats but I appreciated the effort from the collector’s perspective (although the two printing formats has caused too much confusion for casual collectors and sellers).

Secondly – Card Cop? THE Card Cop. WOW! I’m taken back to the Dark Ages of the RCCD board.

7 03 2010
Adam

You forget (or just aren’t smart enough) to mention that the cost to have a pro league license has increased astronomically since the 80s as well. Those costs get passed along in product MSRP. It’s simple economics, hayseeds.

22 03 2010
Claudia

There is a huge difference. Ryno then Sosa. That’s the issue. Hey, it’s Spring. Baseball=hope.

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