Skip to main content

Sports Hobby Getting Mainstream Press - Good and Bad

From CBS declaring the baseball card hobby is dead to ABC's 'Ball Boys,' the sport collecting hobby is getting some mainstream attention.

In between the NCAA tournament coverage, Tim Tebow mania in New York and Tiger Woods’ latest victory, there has been a fair amount of mainstream press focusing on the sports collectibles hobby.

ABC premiered the series Ball Boys on Mar. 24 with a pair of 30-minute episodes. A few days later, Bill Goodwin of Goodwin and Co. was all over newswires with the projected $1 million (or more) sale of a T206 Honus Wagner. And finally, as part of its Sunday news special on Mar. 25, CBS’ Sunday Morning ran a nearly five-minute segment on the dying nature of the sportscard hobby.

That’s a lot of mainstream press that didn’t involve arrests, burglaries or a player having to sell off his memorabilia to satisfy debts.

Let’s get to the negative report first. The CBS “report” was a producer’s idea to try and generate a story. The basic premise of the piece was that kids aren’t involved any more, there are no more shows that are well attended, all of the cards produced in the 1980s and ’90s are junk and the trading card hobby is on its deathbed.

To prove its point, CBS went to a local weekday night card show in New Jersey, compared it to national shows from 1991, talked about how new cards were over-produced in the 1980s and ’90s and maintained the overall baseball card business was maybe a third of what it was at its peak.

To those of us in the hobby, the overproduction of cards and lack of a youth movement in the hobby is well known. However, the show flip-flopped a lot between modern cards and vintage cards. SCD advertiser Alan Rosen was interviewed for the piece. Rosen is a vintage card expert who shared that his call volume has gone from more than 100 calls a day 15 years ago to 20-30 per day in 2012. And the show kept showing vintage cards (and images from shows 20 years ago).

The fact is, the modern card market and the vintage card market are in different categories. Look at the auction results from vintage cards (and some of the rookie cards of modern players) and see the prices they can fetch. Are shows down? Yes. Are fewer kids collecting? Yes. Is the hobby dying? No. It was evolved with time, and continues to bring in million of dollars on an annual basis.

The show did have a good impact, however. It got a lot of people fired up, banding together and talking about the hobby, which is never a bad thing.

Over on ABC, Ball Boys premiered with two pretty good episodes. The show is produced by the same folks who did Pawn Stars, so the basic premise is the same. People come in looking to sell something and the owners and customers haggle over price.

Some of the pieces featured in the first episodes were a Reggie White game-used jersey (authenticated on the show by MEARS’ Troy Kinunen), a Jim Brown signed full-size helmet (authenticated by Brown on the show) and Notre Dame championship rings a customer had requested.

It looks like the show will be memorabilia-based, with the personalities of the staff at Robbie’s 1st Base, where the show takes place, part of the focus. It airs Saturdays from 3-4 p.m. EST on ABC.

I enjoyed seeing the warehouse at Steiner Sports. It’s that behind-the-scenes stuff that I like, as most of the memorabilia brought in has been around the block, so to speak.

Anyone see any of these episodes and have any comments?