The end result will never happen

17 10 2008

From a post at Sports Cards Uncensored:

To begin, be sure to break tons of wax, as this is the lifeblood of this hobby. I guarantee you freddie and fanny shop-owner are better off because you bought their boxes. They need your support because it is tough for them to survive as a small business in a time when it is common to get 10 dollars as a return investment of a 100 dollar box.  If you continue to buy, I promise this to you, my friends, I will work tirelessly to make sure that your plight in this hobby improves by demanding our manufacturers give us more value on each investment we make.

While I can appreciate the end result that Gellman hopes to bring about, I’m dumbfounded as to how this happens.  Here’s the steps, so far, that he’s laid out:

1) Buy overpriced wax to keep hobby shops in business.

2) Continue to receive less bang for your buck.

3) ??????

4) Card companies realize that they need to put more value in boxes, and everyone ends up happy.

The reason I’m skeptical here?  It’s not the way the hobby works, and I know he’s campaigning for change, but it’s one change that I don’t see coming about.  Here’s why.

Companies go where the money is.  So if you buy overpriced wax boxes, that’s exactly what card companies are going to produce.  And if a company does put more value in a box while suggesting a low price point to  hobby shop owners and creates a lot of consumer demand because of this, then hobby shop owners will raise the price of these boxes in order to cash in (see 2007 Topps series 1 baseball during the Jeter run).  In the end, more value in a box may increase demand, but that will in turn drives up prices.  It’s one of the basic tenets of capitalism.

Take, for example, 2008/09 OPC hockey.  Prior to it’s release, I priced out boxes in the $47-$48 dollar range.  When I went back the other day to these same sites to actually purchase them, boxes were up around $54 bucks.  It’s not much of a jump, but it is there.  There’s demand for hockey products after the off season and the start of the 2008/09 campaign, so the card shops are taking advantage of that and charging more.

I’m not faulting Gellman for the idea of this.  I like the enthusiasm, and I’d like to not be so cycnical in response to it.  But again, this is not how capitalism works.

Now, one of the things that would bring about this change would be to stop buying overpriced cards.  Stop buying overprices wax boxes altogether.  If enough people adopted this mantra, then due to decreased demand prices would fall as card shops worried about making money.  When 2007 Topps Series 2 boxes came out last year, the going rate was $45-$50 for one box.  Now you can find them for as low as $24 because no one’s buying them.  There’s no demand.

But who does this hurt?  Not the card companies.  They have their money from the card shops already.  No, these drops hurt the card shops, because they must charge less (and sometimes less then what they paid) in order to clear room for new product.  So the only way to hurt card companies is a sustained boycott of their product.  And that could bring about card shop closing because they aren’t making any money at all before it gets felt by Upper Deck and Topps.

Now, if somehow that did not happen, card shops stayed in business and demand drove prices down, then once people started buying boxes, increased demand would slowly drive the price up.  And that would cause the initital problem to reappear.

As to putting more valuable inserts and cards in a box, well, again, this would drive up demand and then prices, causing people to overpay once more and get less bang for their buck.

Am I wrong here?  Is there something I’m missing that other people see?  I’m interested in hearing from Gellman how he would flesh out this proposal and make it happen.  I’d like to see it.  But I won’t hold my breath.

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