Skip to main content

Lockouts Just Add to the Appeal of Vintage Players/Collectibles

Does there seem to be something missing on the sports landscape these days? Isn’t there supposed to be some other activity than just baseball, golf and the women’s World Cup?

If you’re still thinking about it, my guess is you’re already not a big fan of the NFL or the NBA. After all, the NFL has been in virtual lockout mode since March, and the NBA decided to put its league on hold a few weeks ago. The good news for the NBA (sarcasm noted)? That labor mess is supposedly much worse than the NFL’s, so who knows how long that situation will last.

It will be interesting how sports fans react to two leagues having labor strife at the same time. It happened by chance, with each league’s collective bargaining agreement expiring in the same year, but for right now, it has effectively shut down two of the four major sports, cutting off free agency, training camps, solidifying rosters, etc.

I won’t go into much as to whether the fans will come back or not. The NFL is a no-brainer as long as no games are lost. The NBA has an image problem from the start, so any labor issues will have some impact, I’d imagine.

I’m a tad biased when it comes to what I’m going to say next, since SCD slants toward collectibles and players of days gone by, but is it any wonder that when it comes to collecting, the draw is to vintage pieces and the players those pieces are associated with? When you’re talking about billions of dollars being tossed about by today’s leagues and players, it turns a lot of people off and turns their attention instead to when players made modest sums and worked jobs in the offseason to make ends meets or to provide for their higher-end tastes.

So many of today’s players and owners can’t even relate to the average fan in the simplest of terms. They have everything catered to them, nobody ever says “No” to them and a simple wave of the hand or snap of the finger brings whatever they want.

This type of behavior trickles down to the collectibles market in many ways. Getting players to sign for free before or after games has been increasingly difficult over the years. Those who do take the time to sign at shows want more and more money to do so. Heck, even some of the kids who come straight out of college for the NFL Rookie Premiere want extra padding in their wallets during the event just to do menial tasks like sign their name or pose for a trading card. The sense of connection and thankfulness for the position they are in is gone.

This is why you will continue to see high demand for vintage collectibles related to Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson and others. These players not only excelled on the field, but they made inroads to make the fans feel like they were part of the success, and that stays with a lot of collectors.

For those who make the trek to Chicago the first week in August for the National Convention, there will be a decent amount of collectibles related to today’s players, but the real thrill is in the old stuff, and it doesn’t have everything to do with scarcity and value.

I wonder, if you look ahead 25 years, if you’re going to see the same clamor for Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Roy Halladay, etc. I just think the real draw will always be the “old” guys for a number of reasons, not the least of which is humility.