Chances are you’ve seen the news: Target announced that it suspension of in-store sales of all MLB, NBA, NFL and Pokemon trading cards effective May 14, citing an incident outside a Wisconsin store as a tipping point. A fight broke out in the parking lot and a pistol was brandished, but not used.
It’s a hell of a tipping point. Fights and guns, because of the baseball cards.
This is madness. Complete and utter madness.
It’s not really shocking, however. In reality, it was only the straw that broke the back of the proverbial camel. The hobby – particularly involving retailers like Target and Walmart – has grown into a parking incident like this for almost a year. To tell the truth, I was more surprised to learn that there was only a brandished gun, not a real shooting.
I have written many times about the explosion of the collectible card industry over the past year, as people relapsed headlong into nostalgia when forced to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic. For most people, this has been a good thing. People searched for things that made them happy, and for many of us baseball and basketball, soccer and hockey scratched that itch. People found their old binders and boxes full of cards, then went looking for a real-time way to nurture their renewed interest in the hobby.
Add a few rounds of stimulus checks to that mix – pretty much everyone has had them, although not everyone has been fired or lost their job – and newly found money has poured in – unprecedented wave weather. Prices have skyrocketed for just about everything from the vintage card market to brand new out of the box cards.
Let’s take it back to Target (and Walmart and other retailers, although we use Target as an example because that’s where the gun incident happened). It didn’t take long for people to realize that they could buy these new versions of cards in some type of packaging – a blaster box, a hanger box, big packs or whatever – and resell them. immediately on eBay for a good profit.
The “fins,” as they are called, would go into a target, buy every bundle on the shelf, then go out and make money selling them on eBay. The shelves were much more empty than they were full, if not half full. So people started asking – or figuring out for themselves – when the shelves were full. The palms would appear when the store opened, clear the shelves and start over.
Target stores have therefore started limiting purchases to three items per customer per trip. It didn’t have much of an impact, as “three items per trip” meant you could buy three items for $ 10 each, go to your car and drop off those packages, then come back and buy three more. And you can repeat this process until an employee notices and protests.
Then most targets lowered that number to one purchase per person, and some moved everything behind the customer service counter. This slowed the tide a bit, but not completely.
Because here’s the thing: there was still money to be made. Lots of money in some cases. If you ran into a target earlier this week, there’s a good chance you’ll find Topps Heritage and Topps Opening Day cards. Maybe, if you were really lucky, a Donruss baseball pack or two.
But find a Panini PRIZM basketball pack or a Select football pack? Fucking unicorns.
Let’s look at a real-life example: A big Panini PRIZM pack, with 15 cards in total, costs $ 9.99 at Target. Do you know what they are selling on eBay? At least $ 40. Lots with two PRIZM grease packs regularly sell for $ 100 or more.
Think about it. You can – well, could – spend $ 10 on a product, get out of your car, take a picture with your phone, and post the product on eBay and immediately make a profit of $ 30. At once. There is no other product at Target that offers anything close to this type of money making opportunity. Now PRIZM basketball is the extreme example.
Select Fat Packs retail at Target for $ 10 and are sale on eBay for $ 25. Donruss 30 Card Basketball Fat Packs sell for $ 5 and are regularly sells for $ 20 on eBay. A 2021 Bowman blaster box retails for $ 25, and they sell for $ 45.
There is money to be made. It should come as no surprise that anger and violence follow closely behind.
You see the picture. Look, pinball machines take a lot of crap in the hobby, and they deserve a lot of what gets sent to them, but it’s hard to blame someone for wanting to make that kind of money easily for doing very little, other than setting the alarm. a little earlier than normal and take a trip to Target. And moving the online-only collectible card sales won’t solve the problem of keeping the proceeds out of the hands of the palms, but I think Target knows that.
Cost issues aren’t just for Target and other retailers. Prices are on the rise everywhere. When the 2020 Topps Series 1 base set came out last year, you could purchase a 24-box hobby box pack for around $ 70. 2021 Basic Series 1 boxes hit the market for a minimum of $ 120. Part of it was an increase in the cost of the dealership, but mostly a reflection of what people were willing to pay.
The same goes for the Panini PRIZM leisure boxes. When the 2018-2019 hobby boxes came out, they were selling for around $ 300. However, these had Luka Doncic’s rookies and prices skyrocketed in the aftermarket. The 2019-20 PRIZM set had Zion Williamson, and the hobby boxes started at a low of $ 1,000 north. This year? Panini was selling PRIZM hobby boxes for $ 2,000, and they didn’t last long.
So what happens next? This is an excellent question. The market cannot continue to grow at the same rate as last year. Does a bubble bust happen? Or maybe a slow decline, similar to a market correction? Will incidents like the one at Wisconsin Target turn people off enough to stop buying cards? It is doubtful. Will retailers find a way to keep the products on their shelves? Seems questionable too. Will Topps and Panini step in and find a way to make sure their products are available to kids who have allowances in their pockets, and not just adults who have stimulus checks in hand?
I would have liked to have had a good answer to these questions.