After a very successful National Convention held in Chicago just two weeks ago the baseball card industry captured that momentum nicely with it’s National Baseball Card Day. At first, my thoughts wandered a bit; Is this like Christmas in July? Do collectors have their own holiday now? Do I get the day off from work? It’s a holiday, right?
Well after missing the premier of this special day last year I set out to make it a priority this year. Through my experience I believe I figured out what is the underlying purpose of this day but first allow me to give you the run down:
- Who’s idea was this? Card manufacturer Topps revealed this concept at the 2016 Industry Summit. They partnered with the MLB and participating hobby shops throughout the U.S. With lots of collaboration they strategically made a plan to bring baseball cards to the masses.
- When does this take place? This happens one day a year, typically mid-summer. Benchmark dates are established early. This year it was on Saturday, August 12, 2017. I saw promotions for it at the National Sports Collectors Convention, hobby publications, and even Heidi Watney gave it a plug on my favorite show Quick Pitch on the MLB Network.
- What do the baseball cards look like? This years design is borderless and full of live action photography. I zoomed in on the upper right hand corner of the card to show you what makes these cards unique. A foil stamp indicating, ‘Topps National Baseball Card Day 2017’. The bottom of the card gives us a fancy digitized ribbon with the player’s name and team on it. The back of the card, sorry to say, does not impress me much. They give us a sentence or two on the players accomplishments in the prior year, that’s about it. In my opinion there just seems to be a lot of empty space in the back of the card. Also included into packs were randomly inserted autograph cards.
- Where does this take place? This is the part that amazes me. While supplies last, participating hobby shops – a little over 640 of them listed, gave out free packs just for walking through the door. You got a second pack which featured, 2016 AL MVP Mike Trout with the purchase of $10.00 or more of any Topps product. Moreover, every Major League Baseball game, 15 total, that was played on August 12th, gave away packs to everyone in attendance. These are “In-Stadium” packs and are not part of the “In-Store” set. However, card design and NBCD foil stamp were the same.
- Why does NBCD exist? What’s the purpose? Hypothetically speaking, the businessman in me says, marketing. It’s all about getting the product into the consumers hand today, at no cost, in an effort to gain potential consumers tomorrow. Genius concept if that’s the case. The collector in me says, resurgence. I’m thinking card manufacturers are trying to revive the hobby to the glory days of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Or perhaps taking the hobby to the next level. But my experience on August 12, 2017 paints a totally different picture. Allow me to explain.
Looking at the list of participating hobby shops the closest one to me was More Fun Sportscards Store in Dyer, IN. This really took me by surprise because I thought there was only one card shop left in my neck of the woods. But behold a second card shop about an hour away! So I set sail. I imagined it’s what Christopher Columbus must have felt like while he was exploring new land.
Upon arrival I noticed it was busy. There was a wide variety of choices and of course a couple of the regulars sitting off to the side, to me it wouldn’t be a card shop without having some of the regulars loitering a bit, these guys were greeting customers as the owner, Ken Zajkowski took care of customers and they kept things lively with good conversation. These are the card shops I grew up with, this is the type of card shop my middle-aged heart longed to see.
The one thing that stood out the most was the owner Ken. I have never seen such a high level of genuine customer service. He was answering customers questions in shop and/or on the phone with a level of professionalism and knowledge and still made the time to come greet me and offer his assistance. He gave me my space and allowed me to check things out and once it slowed down a bit he and I engaged in great hobby conversation. I asked him, what he knew about National Baseball Card Day? He said this,
“It’s designed to entice and grow collectors, the only way to grow collectors is to excite people with main stream product and also encourage people to come to hobby shops. This helps support small business and hobby stores; unlike retail outlets we also sale singles, supplies, and you could ask questions and get an honest response.”
Some interesting stats Ken was sharing with me. Just prior to 1995 there was approximately 30-50 thousand baseball card shops throughout the U.S. Today, its more like 4-6 thousand hobby stores open for business, he attributes this not to the downfall of the hobby but to the internet/eBay era, its proven brick and mortar shops are a dying breed but their still very important to the hobby. Ken is a thirty year card shop owner, and he has a hard time understanding why a hobby shop would not embrace and support this all important day in the hobby of sportscard collecting.
All in all the NBCD-2017 was epic! Why? Because I consider myself a seasoned card collector. I’ve been back into it for a few years now and I was a collector without an LCS (Local Card Shop). I don’t consider myself an orphan any longer. And that is what I believe is the fundamental purpose of this day: Participating in this day helped me to realize that it was all about getting collectors to step away from their keyboards and visit their LCS; it’s about reigniting the flame in former collectors in an effort to draw them back into the hobby and at the same time plant seeds for the next generation of collectors. Thank you Topps and thank you More Fun Sportscards Store for taking positive steps towards hobby growth!
MY PACK OF NATIONAL BASEBALL CARD DAY 2017