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Fewer card brands seen on dealers' shelves at NSCC

By SUSAN LULGJURAJ | SPECIAL TO BECKETT MEDIA

BALTIMORE — With wax boxes piled high at the National Sports Collectors Convention at the Baltimore Convention Center, it was easy to notice the number of boxes not from this year.

Most hobby boxes dated through the decade with plenty of wax from 2007-2009, but this year’s boxes were hard to come to by. With more exclusive licenses in the industry, there are fewer products on the market. Dealers, collectors and companies all feel the effect — for better or worse.

Some dealers like to have fewer products where as others see less product as less money.

“For every good product, there were a lot of losers and the risk for me is higher,” said Chris Edmonds, owner of Redman’s Dugout in Glasgow, Ky. “But now, the market can handle all of the products because there are less of them. There is less risk for me.”

Edmonds had two tables at the National with wax products. He dabbles in higher-end wax and thinks fewer choices are better for his customers. Smaller dealers don’t have the shelf space as bigger retailers. Too often, product just sits around.

But bigger dealers such as Dave and Adam’s Card World would rather have more products.

“Having fewer releases is a challenge for us. There is less to buy. Then, there is less to sell and harder for us to make money,” said Adam Martin, co-owner of Dave and Adam’s. “I feel the losses of many products. These are products that may never come back and we lost customers because of that.”

Collectors feel strongly both ways. Mitch Rice, a customer of Edmonds’ from Alabama, understands why there is less. He sticks to high-end and when there are too many products on the market, he won’t spend his money on everything.

“I’m thinking they could cut out more,” said Rice, who collects football, basketball and entertainment cards. “In the lower end stuff, the cards aren’t worth as much and it’s hard to get your value back.”

Some collectors love to grab everything they can put their hands on. They love the idea of chasing sets.

Jon Ourbach of Ocean City, Md., collects hockey and football cards. He loves what Upper Deck has done with hockey, but was thrilled to hear Topps had another shot at football.

“Cards are great to have and I want to have options when I pick which sets I want to collect,” Ourbach said. “There is no thrill when people are making choices for you.”

When Major League Baseball announced Topps received an exclusive deal, the trading card world was amazed by the news. MLB pared the number of baseball products over the years, but many were still surprised with the exclusion of Upper Deck.

Even when Topps learned MLB was going strictly with them, Topps still prepared for Upper Deck to have the MLB Players Association license and continue making baseball cards. Then, Upper Deck stopped when they were sued by MLB for using trademarks and logos.

Topps was by itself in the baseball card world.

According to Mark Sapir, Topps’ vice president of sports, the exclusivity allowed the company to invest in different areas that perhaps weren’t viable before. Competition created a tougher market where they had to spend resources in a number of other areas.

Instead, Topps was able to allocate different resources to other areas such as the Million Card Giveaway, Topps Attax and even Stephen Strasburg.

“The one thing I would say for collectors is I understand appreciate that monopolies could result in complacency, but I don’t see that happening,” Sapir said. “I know the people that work at Topps and I don’t see that happening. Exclusivity isn’t forever. Eventually, that relationship will end and when it’s over, we’re going to be graded. So it’s in our best interest to do the best we can.”

Initial reactions about fewer products and exclusivities are across the board at the National. Some love it and some don’t.

However, they all agreed on one thing.

“Even with all the stuff going on, we’re just going to have to wait and see what it all means,” Ourbach said.

Susan Lulgjuraj is a sports journalist. She also blogs at A Cardboard Problem. You can also follow her on Twitter at @CardBandits.

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