Are we overlooking potential of stickers?

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

They’re inexpensive, printed on paper and packed in pouches only to be peeled and slapped into albums.

While they’re mass-produced and might be cut less precisely than our cardboard, they’re also affordable — something that goes a long, long way with getting people involved. They are, by most accounts, the entry point for kids in the industry and something that card companies can bank on because unlike the other stickers we’re used to — you know, sticker autographs — they’re much less expensive to create.

Many stickers probably meet a demise more random than the album, though, being affixed to random items in life by younger collectors. Meanwhile us older and “more advanced” ones don’t even touch them at stores even though there’s far fewer boxes and packs than the “more-important” stuff that we collect.

But do we — the “advanced” collectors — have it all wrong?

1985stickers

Here’s my collecting confession — my collecting habit started 30 years ago with the sticker book you see above, not cardboard. My sticker days didn’t last long, but it was a project to keep me busy when visiting relatives on vacation. They didn’t sell the albums or stickers where I lived. By the time our cross-country drive and visit was over, my book was closer to full — and barely in one piece. But it got me interested. (All those rack packs I passed over at the grocery store because they weren’t stickers, though … let’s not talk about that.)

My point here isn’t with stickers being overlooked as an entry point for collectors — that’s a given. But are we overlooking stickers as a segment of the hobby that could be a money-maker if people just paid attention to it?

The wax boxes of the 1980s are drying up — even the stuff from 1987, a hot and previously plentiful year when many of us got on board. With that growing scarcity for wax, the prices are going up and the ability to rip a pack for a potential Pristine 10 BGS card are getting harder and harder.

But what about stickers? The boxes can be pricey — and they can be tough to find. But what about getting a BGS 10 on a sticker? The way they are packaged, the way they are stuck to albums, the fact that we don’t see them “as important” as cards — that should mean that there aren’t that many in slabs. Is it an untapped market? Is it one where perfect specimens are even findable? Part of me wonders about these variables and more — and part of me wants to compare it to others we don’t even hesitate to spend our money on that were found in the past and pounced upon.

Of course, some of us “serious collectors” just stick them in albums like kids do — not thinking about what we’re doing. (Or, not caring because it’s a low-cost way of having some fun.) We’re just making that market for grading and stickers even tougher if we do that. Nothing wrong with that — it just makes me want to grade some stickers even more.

Which ones? Key players’ early stickers would be the first ones I would look for — whether it be the 1985 Dwight Gooden or the 2015 Joc Pederson — and then the hunt for a perfectly centered, grading-worthy copy would begin. It’s probably harder than you think. (And stickers aren’t just about baseball — there’s plenty from the past from other companies and other sports to explore. Stickers are actually much more popular than cards in other countries. And vintage sets? Whew.) Or, of course, one could start with tracking down all of the stickers of their favorite player and slab ’em up with that collecting approach to justify it — ones for the player collection.

Is there money to be made there? Some graded stickers sell, some don’t — but I bet part of that is because people simply aren’t looking for them.

In closing — and to spark a discussion — I leave asking these questions. Do you collect stickers? Do you stick them? Do you page them? Do you top-load them? Do you grade them?

What would you do with this sticky and interesting scenario? Where would you start?

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrisolds2009.

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8 comments

  1. phillies_joe 11 March, 2015 at 10:18

    Great article. Myself and my daughters started “collecting” the stickers in earnest 3 years ago. They each get a book each year and we work on completeing them. Daddy gets to keep all the doubles which end up going into a box. Some of the bigger named players get sleeved, but nothing in toploaders. If i was 100% certin that there was a seperate grading scale specifically for stickers, I might think about getting some of them graded. The quality is very uneven (color/centering), so there definitly would be ones that graded higher than others. At this time, I wouldn’t buy a graded sticker….though I do trade for ones needed for my Phillies PC .

  2. kris buonocore 11 March, 2015 at 13:03

    i put them in top loaders now. when i was a kid i stuck them in the books. i may slab certain ones someday. why not. i would by graded stickers (actually watching some as we speak on ebay) i only buy bgs or bvg

  3. Zeprock 11 March, 2015 at 13:15

    I have tons of stickers in my collection. All my stars are in 9 pocket pages and my commons are in boxes. None of them are affixed to anything. In addition to cards, I collect matchbooks, magnets, pocket schedules, coins, stamps, stickers, pogs, tattoos, mini posters and now poker chips. Anything that will fit into a 9 pocket page in my binders. Anything larger is not collectible to me. Still pining for that Ted Williams condom for my collection.

  4. Dan M 11 March, 2015 at 14:57

    I collect stickers for my player collection only. I’d consider collecting them more if the market wasn’t flooded with other products. Thinking about filling my 1982 album though sure brings back some good memories. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think stickers will be a great way to introduce my kids to the hobby.

  5. Mike 11 March, 2015 at 17:15

    I don’t,actively,collect stickers.I have my early to mid 80’s sticker books full and they just sit in a box.My best one is the 1984 football one.I think that if they would’ve stopped putting one player on the sticker side and one on the “card” side,it might’ve lasted longer.I think the idea is right trying to get kids into cards,but most sticker packs go unsold.I see them all the time in dollar stores for fractions of the original price.Let’s face it,hobby stores won’t take space away from faster selling products to load up on stickers and retail sales are mostly adults and most kids aren’t interested.The kids I see at Target or Walmart walk right past the stickers straight for packs,blasters,or that yu-gi-oh stuff.Maybe it’s different in other places, but until you can get an auto or a mem out of a sticker pack,it’ll remain a pack here or a pack there type of thing.

  6. Torrey Copfer 11 March, 2015 at 17:32

    Great article. However, I would also apply this across the board to ALL sports! Panini has been in the sticker business since the 1960s. Producing mainly soccer and Olympic sports products. I myself have tried to stick to Basketball, but have since gone to the Olympic, Hockey, and Soccer stickers to deal with to those of us that are “advanced” player/team collectors. There are several (what I believe) to be “key” stickers that were produced by Panini in the early 1960s/1970s. Lew Alcindor, Cacius Clay (Ali), Kareem, Bird, Magic, Jordan even. How about Kresimir Cosic (who I collect). Beckett…how many Cosic cards/stickers do you list?? Answer is a big fat -0-! He’s a Basketball HOF player, Multi-Olympic gold medalist as player/coach, but still none. Well, Panini in the 1970s has several sticker of him! “key” sets in my opinion produced by Panini!! IMHO, they should be checklisted and priced by Beckett!! These sticker sets are important to the hobby!
    Another example of some sticker madness, is the 1989 Yugoslavia “CAO Muflon” Basketball stickers. Listed by Beckett, yes, but highly under rated for the hardcore collectors (especially Michael Jordan). Recently, I was lucky enough to find several packs, a couple of posters (not albums, but poster to stick on), and received 3 Jordan’s! The highest selling for $6,750. YES! A sticker! Ungraded! Forget about a BGS 9.5 or 10! So in my opinion, yes, stickers are fun! Kids like them for sticking to albums, they are cheep. But hardcore/advanced player collectors…we search out and sometimes treasure the hard to find, unstuck, stickers. Older stuff? How many were stuck to albums, not sold, trashed by the kids. Makes them harder to find in good condition and another part of our obsession as collectors to collect “cards”.

  7. Jonathan W. Iwanski 15 March, 2015 at 08:13

    I pick up a few packs if I find them, but I don’t go looking for them. One thing I like is that cardboard will use the same picture on multiple variations of cards but stickers are shots I’ve never seen before. These suckers are hard to take care of. I could see these being worth something in the future just because I haven’t found a way to very safely store them. Finding one you want in good shape (and not stuck in someone’s album) down the road could be quite difficult. Overall, I like them, and once in a while someone even asks for one in a trade.

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