Can't Find It Means Can't Collect It
By Rich Klein
Donruss Baseball returned to the hobby recently, and initially, the product was expected to be a huge success in
the secondary market. With such bells and whistles as a graded vintage Donruss card as a box topper in every box,
innovative inserts that football card collectors have come to know and appreciate, and a well-established brand
name, how could 2001 Donruss Baseball fail?
Well, it won't fail on the secondary market. But it will fail in the collectors' world.
Why? For the same reasons it will be a success. There is a pent-up demand among traditional collectors for the
Donruss name. Donruss had produced sets since 1981, and many collectors assumed they would be able to add to their
run of nearly 20 straight sets. They're beginning to realize there are almost no cards out there and some, unfortunately
for Donruss/Playoof, are beginning to learn that they can live without Donruss in future years.
Unlike Topps, which is a company that has built up its product equity and whose base brand set is readily available
to consumers, and even Fleer, whose base brand "Tradition" set has found a niche in the hobby, Donruss
- at least in the 2001 form - is tough to come by. There is no shortage of Topps and Fleer. And has the sheer amount
of Topps Series II product hurt the price of the Topps Ichiro RC? I don't think so.
I'm worried that Donruss/Playoff has used the Donruss brand name to turn a quick profit so their next product sells
well. To me, this is thinking only a few months ahead instead of looking a year or more into the future. This is
the same type of marketing that - in my opinion - failed to serve Score/Pinnacle well after about 1995 or so. Donruss/Playoff's lack of long-term vision with the release of the limited 2001 Donruss Baseball product could eventually hurt the Donruss name.
With many dealers moaning that they were only allocated five boxes direct -- and their belief that many collectors
would have bought enough boxes so those dealers could have quintupled their order -- my question is this: what
customers get the product? How do these dealers decided who gets the product from among their loyal customers?
Obviously, those collectors on the short end of the foil pack are not going to be happy about it.
My belief is that is Playoff needed to do a short-printed product, they could have done so with another brand line
such as Playoff Preferred or Donruss Elite. And that probably would have given them their "winner" right
off the bat. But the basic Donruss product should have been left alone.
Has it been a hit on the secondary market? After a somewhat slow start, it has done quite well. Will it be a hit
next year? I'm guessing no. I just think too many collectors will have gotten fed up trying to get 2001 Donruss
Baseball that their Donruss collection will permanently end with 1998.
Planning For Success By Limiting The Downside
By Eddie Kelly
In what now seems like a distant past, I can remember like yesterday my best friend, John King, and I opening up
box after box of this new brand of baseball card on the lime-green shag carpet of my living room. The quality of
the cards wasn't that great, but the gum was. Have you ever tried to chew 36 pieces of gum at once? My dentist
must have been a consultant for Donruss in 1981. Over the next decade the Donruss brand brought me hours of fun,
financial means for my collage education (thank you, 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly) and I am sure a few cavities that
So it came with personal intrigue when I read earlier this year that Donruss/Playoff would be offering the Donruss
brand again. The next thing I know I am at lunch with my friend Rich Klein and he says how Donruss/Playoff is going
to damage the long-term collectibility of the Donruss brand by limiting the production on their initial release.
Doesn't that sound backward? Limited production hurts long-term collectibility? I must have missed something.
Donruss/Playoff has taken the stance that it is better to limit their downside risk and insure the long-term stability
of the brand by printing less than anticipated demand on this initial Donruss release. From all the hype that surrounded
the pre-release of 2001 Donruss, it certainly appears as if Donruss/Playoff left a good deal of money on the table
by not printing to perceived demand. But, the worst possible scenario would be for Donruss/Playoff to take a chance
and overprint Donruss. Saturating the market would not only damage the product's reputation but also have a negative
impact on all future releases. I don't believe Playoff paid millions for the baseball card license just so they
could go out and over saturate the market.
Mr. Klein has the idealistic aim of a Donruss card in every Donruss collector's pot. In his eyes, anything short
of that would be detrimental to the loyal following and cause that loyal legion to abandon the brand. However,
I assure you, the loyal throng doesn't want their favorite brand to be worthless. As we all know nothing is more
detrimental to the "long-term collectibility" of a brand than over production.
Playoff didn't buy the Donruss brand because they wanted to get rid of the loyal Donruss collector. They wanted
to build on that asset. Their biggest challenge was to find a happy medium where they could produce enough product
to be profitable and meet a majority of market demand but not overproduce and saturate the market.
The launch of Donruss by Playoff is the single most important step for the company's MLB product line. It's a core
brand of baseball cards with a history and a loyal following. All eyes will be on Donruss/Playoff to see how their
initial entry into baseball cards fares. Donruss needs to be a cornerstone product. They need the initial release
to be successful to help set up subsequent MLB product releases and provide stability. Donruss/Playoff has made
the tough decisions at the front end of the equation to set itself up for the opportunity to have a successful
product launch. Now it's time for the product itself to deliver. The best planning in the world won't save the
product if the collectors don't like what they see.