As with every Friday night for the past couple of months, I have made sure that I turned on Cardboard Connection Radio and tuned into their discussions about trading cards. In fact, I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago about hearing the story of Mario from Wax Heaven and my thoughts on kind of a dark side the hobby may bring people into.
But tonight was interesting as it had Brian Gray of Leaf and Lance Fischer of Onyx Authentics chatting about their small companies. Brian Gray is the owner of Leaf trading cards and puts out several products featuring prospects and some top names in sports like Ichiro Suzuki and Mohammed Ali. Lance Fischer owns Onyx Authentics which sells authentic autographed memorabilia as well as game worn items from prospects and top players like Jon Lester and David Price.
They got into a chat about why they feel the hobby is going downhill and things that really infuriate collectors out there. They talked about redemptions, sub-par customer service, and brought up the “game used” issue that may not exactly have been game used. (In case you missed it, there was a recent operation in which sold jerseys that appeared to be game used to card companies that was taken down by the FBI.)
So what infuriates you as a collector? For me, there are a couple of things I’m not a fan of. I don’t get infuriated over many things, cards is not one of them. I’m a pretty calm person and just take things as they are but there are things I think need improvement.
- Redemptions. To put it simply, if a player does not sign by a certain amount of time then they don’t get paid and you have someone else sign and get that done quickly. Money talks in this world and if athletes realize they don’t get paid if they can’t meet a simple deadline of writing their signature 1000 times then maybe they will get things done. I find it hard to believe that it takes that long to acquire signatures from athletes. Stop coddling them like they have been done their entire lives. Or do us collectors a favor and stop using athletes that take forever to honor their commitment. I like seeing products like some Upper Deck hockey products where there are no redemptions. Guess what? We don’t have to worry about expirations on redemptions that they don’t have. That means more sales for shops as people won’t be hesitant to buy older product. Cutting down redemptions will aid in your “save the hobby shop” campaigns.
- Sticker Autographs. If you can send someone a bunch of stickers to sign, you can send them a bunch of cards to sign. I know this risks damage to cards, which is why you have them sign a few extras just in case something is damaged during transit. Or even better, have them come to your office or have a few acquisition people around the country with the task of sitting down and getting cards signed. You’ll have in person authentication and instant payment to the athlete when they are complete. I’m not sure exactly how this works now, but a regional acquisition person would be great as they could set a time through a player’s agent and either show up at their house for signings or at their stadium/arena of work. It may cost a bit more, but better looking cards and less worries about redemptions would improve the hobby and allow more trust in your brand which would mean more sales. For that idea, you can hire me for the Northwest/West Coast region. Just sayin’.
- Memorabilia. We haven’t heard quite yet which companies bought the forged memorabilia but something needs to be done to assure the authentication of such items. Work with the player’s associations of each sport and get them from the association, the player’s agent, or the player themselves. You would think there would be markup if bought from a third party anyway, get it directly from the source. If you’re going for a retired/deceased player, make sure you can verify where each jersey came from through the timeline. You guarantee your items are authentic? It’s time to prove it.
- Customer service. For one, there would be less of a strain on customer service if some of these ideas are taken into consideration. But customer service people should at least know something about sports and cards if they are the ones taking calls about product questions and replacing redemptions. Speaking of redemptions, a response within a reasonable time frame whether it’s by phone or email needs to be implemented as well as coming through on promises of replacements in a reasonable period of time. How does it take 6-8 weeks to replace a card? Is the redemption department completely unorganized? Why isn’t there a system in place that shows an item needs to be replaced and a section of inventory which is used for replacements? Find equal value, pack, and ship. I understand it can’t be that easy, but why can’t it?
I don’t know. Maybe my ideas are outlandish and somehow can not happen under the current landscape of the ways each company is set up. But there needs to be improvement in these areas from pretty much every large company out there. The smaller companies do a great job, but they have a smaller collector base and less products to begin with.
So tell me what infuriates you and how you think it can be fixed. I know all the complaints out there, but I would like to hear some ideas on how you would fix things.