State of the Hobby Address: New Releases About to Hit Shelves. Can the hobby be jumpstarted if excitement builds for a product? We examine upcoming releases and more…

Atlanta Sports Cards Presents: “The State of the Hobby Address, Sunday August 28th, 2011″

ASC.com is the only retail site where not only can you get whatever wax you could want, and sometimes incredible memoribila, and also be treated like you’re the most important customer in the world, and at the same time, know that the site owner has the cojones to write reviews and recommnedations, good or bad, for the exact product we have in stock!  Some rival sites will post a message board, but it is treated as completely independent from the company owners.  Many of you may say, “Jamie, you are just a glorified Message Board blog writer!” I disagree wholeheartedly.  This last year writing for Josh at ASC was not an overnight event that happened one day.  It has evolved into a team effort resulting in a blog that has proved it has some of the most important, behind the scenes information of any blog on the ‘net.  The response we get from Facebook is proof positive.  But, because I am lucky enough to be able to pick ASC owner Josh P’s brain for hours on end sometimes, I am able to convey to the reader what I see and relate it to my 25 years in the hobby and also what Josh sees. Which is like seeing behind the Wizard of Oz’ curtain. 

Personally, I check this blog right away when I sign on….only after a) I have checked the Baseball America Hot Sheet:(http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/prospect-hot-sheet/2011/2612257.html) and the chat that accompanies it (the last one was published this last Friday afternoon as the minor league season winds down), and b) Kevin Goldstein’s daily minor league recaps, and on Mondays, his Monday Morning “Ten Pack.”  But, like many outlets, “the best things in life are free” does not ring true over at Baseball Prospectus.com, as I spend $100 a year just to read Mr. Goldstein’s ruminations.  But to me they’re well worth it.  Baseball America is free only for about 10% of their content, so instead of spending good money to read “okay” articles (when Kevin Goldstein, the Editor-In-Chief, left in 2007/2008, BA.com got markedly worse, which makes sense to me as a fellow writer, as its all about the specific people writing on the website.  Kevin brought a TON of readers to Baseball Prospectus when he left Baseball America), I only use their free parts (at Baseball America), which luckily includes the weekly Hot Sheet.  Both websites will be out of season in the next 7 days. 

So, will Atlanta Sports Cards’ blog, which concentrated on baseball in particular these last 6 months, go out of season??  Not a chance!!  The new hot sheet here at Atlantasportscards.com has been unveiled and now includes the top moving Ebay individual cards of any sport that is currently in season.  So you will notice that Football Cards have been added to the most recent Top 20: http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/2011/08/25/atlanta-sports-cards-presents-brand-new-weekly-hobby-hot-sheet-top-20-cards/

You will notice, because baseball now extends into November, and Winter Leagues/The Arizona Fall League and offeseason moves keep plenty of “Hot Stove” action on baseball cards, baseball will always chart on the Hot Sheet.  Football will last all of the preseason, and will only wrap up appearances after the Super Bowl has ended, and the winning team’s stud players have finally ceased to move any higher.  And if there are certain cards that increase in the offseason, those will now be aknowledged.  Hockey and Basketball will also be added, starting with the two sports respective preseasons.  And other sports, such boxing, MMA, sports entertainment (i.e.- WWE/TNA cards), and any other sport (such as tennis or golf), that either a) has their own specific release, or b) is released within a set with a wide array of different sports autos (such as Allen & Ginter), will now also be included.

This card, which just sold at $40, was a recommened buy when he started to become the focus of the WWE 2 months ago.  Anyone picking up this WWE relic auto made 400%.  Not bad.  The “Money Where my Mouth Is” columns highlighted MANY high gainers, such as 2010 Sterling Black Refractor Autos of Red Sox wunderkind Ryan Lavarnway, which, if bought at the then Ebay price of under $60, would now see another 400% gain, as there has been just 1 on Ebay in 30 days,  Price?  $250

The end of the baseball season will also free up time to mention things like what’s going on in the world (I’m kidding!  Its a sports card blog)  But this picture (which I took at my next door neighbor’s house 3 hours ago)

now has a home besides my desktop!  Many don’t know, but have found out as we’ve spoken over the phone during my 8 months of writing at ASC.com, that I live a thousand miles from ASC HQ’s in Atlanta (I reside in Cape Cod, MA, and Naples FL in the winter)!  This picture shows a tree uprooted earlier today, during Tropical Storm Irene, which barely touched us!  Residual gusts of winds no higher than 40mph caused this! 

I made a living  a few years ago inventing an internal auditing business, where I would keep Waste and Recycling companies, renowned for ripping people off, in-check, for Fortune 500 companies, which started at Staples HQ in Framingham MA, and now serves over 80 of the Fortune 500 companies.  I was the best at making sure my clients were not getting ripped off.  I am taking this crusade to the baseball card companies, which, in many cases, do unscrupulous things.  My dissection of 2011 Bowman Platinum and they’re hatchet job of the checklist was widely read.  Did the owner of this company object to my “whistleblowing,” despite selling the same major-release product I reamed?  The answer is, no, he didn’t, which means if you are an ASC customer, you know that the most honest, no-nonsense guy will take care of you, and never push “clearance” items on you like they were essential buys.  (BPP anyone?) 

Many that follow this blog has seen my many references to, our outright articles devoted to, redemption cards starting to overrun each and every Topps release.  I vow, with the blessing of the owner of this progressive company (Josh Pankow), to make sure his customers never have the shades pulled over their eyes.  Whether its a “day-of-release” case break, or grading out future releases’ checklists, we want to have the smartest customers in the world, and like Waste Management (who keeps customers in the dark about how to save money), the other big trading card wholesale websites would also like to keep you in the dark.  Let’s be honest, not all products are hits, but online-retailers don’t want you to know that.  We are going to attack that stigma going forward here in 2011 and beyond…..

(I think this is one of just of 2 Topps Inception Football’s exchange cards…..Of course, I had to pull it.)

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The baseball card market usually hits its peak in June/July, and then trails off starting in September, at least as far as single cards are concerned.  New baseball products yet to be released will thrive or wither depending on how good, and more importantly, how short supplied that product is.  Gypsy Queen sits at $190/box, a 300% gain in just a few months since its release.  2011 Topps Tribute (nice catch JP!) baseball doubled in price, and anyone who didnt rip their wax, cleaned house on unopened sales soon after release.

It is literally impossible to break even if you buy a bunch of Gypsy Queen boxes at $190 apiece.  While some of the low #d cards have held some value, the current box price doesn’t make sense.  In a way, trading-card economics don’t make sense.  What we have here is your classic stalemate: Sellers are asking in excess of $200 for Gypsy Queen, because it is so scarce at this point and they’re probably in to it for close to that.  Now, the collector is intrigued that this product is rising in value, but because this collector is educated, he knows that he will never make out on breaking a case, let’s say, and thus won’t pay the $190-$230 a box going rate.  So the 2 parties agree to disagree.  This is happening now with Gypsy.

So when does one know that a “stalemate” is in effect?  The best way is to use a AUCTION : BUY IT NOW ratio.  Type in the name of the product in Ebay: (2011 Gypsy Queen), and then seperate them into “Auctions” (of which there are currently 908) and compare that to “Buy it Nows” (of which there are 10,882).  Divide 10882 by 908 and you come up with a 12:1 ratio.  Think about what that says:  Buy it Nows are used ONLY when a seller knows that putting a card up for auction may not bring the desired amount.  By using “Buy it Nows.” a dealer is saying “I will take $500 for a Koufax GQ auto, but not much less.”  This is smart because in the last week, Koufax GQ autos have ranged from $325 to $500 at auction.  Instead of taking that chance that yours will go for $325, knowing $500 is also reasonable, you use a Buy It Now.  But when BIN/Auction ratios get high like at 12:1, this stalemate or “gridlock” has occurred.

Let’s look at a product with a ratio lower than 12:1.  When typing in “2011 Inception,” I get approx 2000 Buy It Nows, and amazingly 2000 auction only items.  This is a 1:1 ratio.  What does this tell us?  It tells us that just as many dealers or sellers are “taking a chance” that they will get top dollar for their card than there are sellers who feel the need to use Buy It Now, because essentially they fear if it goes to auction, it will not bring as much as they’d like.  Inception, a popular, recent Football release, will have low ratios by nature, because there are enough people in a 7 day span to have the auction get as high as it should.  Gypsy Queen, with its predominantly “Buy it Now” listings, shows that there is a big difference between individual card/box/case value, and what people are willing to pay.

So why again is Gypsy so high?  And this is vitally important: Low supply.  The sell sheet looked blah, the checklist looked even more blah, and the cards were the color of sour milk.  So dealers, and thus distributors, didn’t order any.  So Topps didn’t produce any.  And, the final result is what is impossible to understand:  A mediocre product that no one really wants to buy is the biggest wax gainer of the year on a percentage basis.

So is it possible to predict if a product would be good?  The answer is yes and no, but you have to grasp the dichotomy that exists here.  If a product looks weak, dealers will err on the side or NOT ordering it, due to the fact that they will lose money if they are right and the product doesn’t sell.  But if one thinks contrarily, they will order the product they don’t like for sole reason that they believe no one will order it, replicating a Gypsy Queen phenomenon.  I spoke with Josh the day of release of Gypsy, and asked if he had a certain amount of boxes for sale, despite the fact that myself, like everyone else, didn’t pre-order it.  Josh said that morning, without having cracked any or having watched anyone crack GQ that this product would explode (Of course it did in the short AND long terms).  How could he know?  Easy.  It didn’t matter to him what was in there, all that mattered was that it was quite evident to him, that barely ANY of this product existed, despite being a fairly mainstream Topps release.  Which brings us to today.  Sure GQ wax is over $200/box (cost neared $70 I believe).  But the amount of single cards actually selling, pales in comparison with the amount available.  This is the 12:1 ratio.  If you wish to get the most for your cards, check the Ebay ratio I described…If its close to 1:1, you will likely get full value at auction.  Anything higher than that means you may have to sit on certain singles to move them.  Neither proves anything about a product’s long term value; instead, it looks at how liquid the product is at the present time.

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The happy medium here is that you evaluate a product before release, the bottom line is simply that if you like the product and the design and the checklist, you now considering pre-ordering the product.  2011 Topps Inception Football was absolutely not talked about before release.  With nothing to compare it to, it seemed like a crapshoot, although it seems, and I don’t have data to back this up, like Topps products are holding their value/increasing in value this year at a higher rate than Panini, Upper Deck (who seems to be content to wind down their hobby presence, that used to be so omnipresent), and certainly Sage and Press Pass and Tristar.  Which leaves Leaf, who is about to drop a Family Guy product that should certainly benefit from the show’s incredibly wide demographic.  This should help Leaf’s reputation even further, as they are making baby steps in an effort to be the next impact card manufacturer.

Each day this week we will preview an upcoming product.  Not just reading the sell sheet, which is basically what your dealer would regurgitate to you at a show (“4 hits, 1 guaranteed auto,”) but getting down and dirty by examining the checklist and any known pack odds, and looking for innovative measures like including new players yet to have autos (Hosmer in Topps Chrome was great, welcome news to me), while speculating on print runs and possible hobby hype.

Stick with us here at ASC.  We won’t let you down.  The biggest difference between ASC and any other company, is that Josh prides himself on Customer Service, the lowest prices in the world, and not playing favorites with manufacturers by allowing op-ed pieces written on his webpage.  This, and constant new innovations, like a new, meaty blog this year, and trying new things like case breaks, plus things in the works for the future, make this the ONLY company in the WORLD I would want to share my opinions on.  I guess I am that blessed. 

Thanks Josh, and members of ASC Nation.  It will always be my pleasure.  See you next week,

Jamie Kennedy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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