The Sad World of Hobby Influencers

Recently, a wild tweet came my way from Beckett Market Analyst, Eric Norton. I’ve known of Eric for several years and maybe even at some point or another in the past decade have followed his account. I’ve never had much interactions with him nor have I taken issue with anything he tweets. I know he has in the past hosted a few podcasts including Beckett Live Presents and the Fat Packs Podcast, which I’ve never had any interest in listening to. I’ve just known Eric to be one of the hobby’s popular “influencers” that resorts to towing the line for card manufacturers, much like a guy like Ivan Lovegren. I personally do not respect people like this but I understand it gets them attention from the Topps and Panini America employees and on more than one occasion, lands them a boat load of free products. You scratch their backs (and sell your integrity) and you will be taken care of. That’s the deal on the table and who am I to knock that?

For the record, that’s not the way things worked back in my days (2007) when Topps Company and Upper Deck sponsored me to write honest reviews and sent thousands of dollars’ worth of free products to my house on a weekly basis. Thankfully, Topps’ Clay Luraschi and Upper Deck’s Chris Carlin were 100% in agreement with me being as honest as possible when reviewing their products and I had the green light to do or say anything I wanted with the one exception placed on me by Clay, which was no cursing to describe their products. For nearly two years I reviewed their products and gave away 100% of the cards I received in contests but rather than do the lazy thing and tell collectors to comment and retweet in order to win the cards, to enter the contests, the readers had to write their own review, which in turn created multiple reviews to help collectors spend their hard-earned money. You can see an example of my review system HERE.

Of course, my glory days were from 2007-2009, which makes me a dinosaur in influencer years. My blog is now irrelevant, my connections at card manufacturers are long gone, and even my social media reach is minimal. All I have left is this blog, which was once statistically speaking, more visited than Beckett Media’s own site but again, pre-historic ages. For the most part, the online card collecting community is made up of about 10% influencers who suck on the hobby teat, 50% collectors who are trying and failing to join the influencer bunch, and another 40% just doing whatever can be done for free cards. Most collectors just dream of being recognized by the card companies they shell out half their income to but unless you are a ‘WatchTheBreaks’ that has amassed a huge following, it won’t happen. Not anymore. Not ever again because unlike other industries that thrive off critical reviews, our hobby does not need it. Everything sells out, every time.

There is a small list of influencers who receive free products, and it is shrinking yearly. All it takes is one badly worded tweet or slightly negative review to be taken off that list and these influencers know it. I once had a conversation with Ivan (WatchTheBreaks) where we were discussing 1992 Upper Deck, which was 28 years old at the time of the discussion. I then jokingly tweeted that Ivan thinks 1992 Upper Deck is lame and with the tweet uploaded 4 of the best cards from 1992 Upper Deck. The tweet went viral and not in a negative way, people were sharing their favorite 1992 Upper Deck cards along with their stories. It was such a wholesome tweet in my eyes. WIthin minutes I got an angry DM from Ivan who was furious that I would Tweet that because “Upper Deck could be reading”. I assured him that the people involved with 1992 Upper Deck were likely now in their 60s and 70s and most definitely did not care but the damage was done. Ivan demanded I delete the tweet.

I can’t trust a collector who doesn’t appreciate 1992 Upper Deck.

This is the fear influencers have to deal with. It is their jobs to keep these manufacturers happy at all costs which is why I was not the slightest bit surprised in Eric’s tweet yesterday which basically called out collectors for taking Topps & Panini to court for not getting their redemptions in a timely manner. How anyone in 2022 could choose to defend million-dollar corporations over collectors who are struggling with soaring unopened product prices is absurd. Eric not only went after the collectors suing but also after the endless number of tweets going after him for being such an over the top, hobby shill. Ultimately, the negativity proved to be too much to take, and Eric issued an apology and deleted all the tweets related to the original take. Again, the damage was done. This is a so-called collector with 10,000+ followers who is affiliated with Beckett Media, the supposed Bible of sports cards and his disdain for collectors is as clear as day.

At the end of the day, Eric and his online Twitter buddies will laugh this off as just “Mario being Mario”, which he already tweeted but later deleted. This is not a case of someone being negative for the sake of being negative but more importantly a case of a long-time collector with 3 decades behind him standing up for collectors. There are thousands of us sitting on Panini America and Topps redemptions not weeks or months late but years. Even Ryan Cracknell, Beckett Media’s Hobby Editor is sitting on a John Cena redemption he’s been waiting on for 8 long years. That’s 8 years after he paid full price on a box of cards. That’s 8 years of being ignored and/or getting the run around from Topps. That’s the type of customer service Eric Norton, Ryan’s co-worker at Beckett Media, is publicly supporting and it boggles the mind. It’s not okay to be negative 100% of the time but it’s also not okay to turn a blind eye to a real problem in this industry.

Further reading:

Topps’ Promotion Goes up in Ashes

Bought and Sold: The Gary V. Story

Paging Tracy Hackler