PDA

View Full Version : Revival Brainstorming


abothebear
02-21-2012, 01:36 PM
Sometimes I think about how can the things that are appealing about pre-war cards, and in particular the things that are appealing about the most popular pre-war cards, be brought to the present era of collecting. The reasons for the demise of the hobby has often been discussed here. And there seems to be a regular discussion around here of how folks were lured into the vintage and pre-war part of the house. With the experience and passion here we, as a community, have an advantage for understanding the products and markets and thereby an advantage in coming up with ideas for a profitable venture based on reviving the modern hobby with the values of the pre-war hobby. How would it look to successfully and profitably revive the hobby in the image of pre-war collecting? What ideas can you add? or where am I off-base?

The Product
In general, I think it is a safe assumption to claim that a big part of the appeal of the most popular pre-war sets is their graphic integrity. If we consider the big two (T206 and R319) we see a nice balance of technical detail and graphic simplicity as well as a broad yet not unlimited range of colors. The real layers of ink also provide a visual and tactile depth that is missing in modern printing (not to say modern printing doesn't have its graphic advantages).

Many of the most popular pre-war issues are smaller in size than modern cards. Why does size matter? I have a guess that it has to do with the graphic style and proportion. And the standard tobacco card is slightly narrower than the golden rectangle. Is that a factor in their appeal?

Another interesting element to these cards is their lack of information. I think this is an underestimated element of attraction for the sets. Again taking the big two as examples, the T206s have an appalling lack of info - giving only the player's last name and city name of their team. The Goudeys do a lot more but mostly just include biographical info and previous season info in narrative form. I think the take-away is that these cards do not allow for instant judgement and relativization of the players. They require an personal investment by collectors to appreciate their place in history and within the sets themselves. You may find out that Red Ames was no big deal, but you'll also find out that he was so wild he lost a no-hitter. The lack of info does two things, it encourages the collector to gain expertise, and it gives common cards value by virtue of the personal investment needed to pass judgement on it. Cards packed with information are great, but they are doing all the work of the relationship. Cards without info require relational investment from their collectors.

A final note on the product. I think the backs of T206s, the Red Crosses, some of the Obaks, and others have to be considered a plus for their product. It is the right kind of branding, visually engaging, immediately recognizable. And within the T206 set the variety and layers of subsets within the master set is also a compelling aspect of the issue.

Without directly copying the issues of the past, how do we determine and capture the essential elements of the best of the past and reintroduce them in the modern context?

The Distribution
This is harder for me to think through. And may be the biggest key in achieving success. In some ways it is difficult for us to judge the success of pre-war card distribution methods because the cards really were secondary to the product they were sold with back then. The success of it for us was a long term effect of their methods. And nowadays the accompanying product no longer accompanies it (unless you consider the chance for inserts to be the product people are buying... hmmm that is something to consider). But I'd think, if we were aiming for a desirable set of cards that was cheaply gained and increased in value over time we'd want the cards to be distributed with something that was sold on a national level. Something that children could buy and would buy, or that their parents would buy enough to regularly supply the kids. Whatever they are sold with ought to have market demand on its own without the cards and be cheap. I also think the including 2 or 3 max with the product would be best. What product is out there that fits this description? Something that can safely carry with it a small rectangular shaped piece of cardboard hidden until the product is opened?

A box of raisins comes to mind. But that doesn't seem like enough. There would have to be a collective of healthier snack boxes, preferably with a few regional types products mixed in. Perhaps a whole new product line would have to be simultaneously introduced. I imagine there could be a huge demand for this kind of thing - healthier snack boxes that come with a "new" kind of baseball card. Any other ideas?

Conclusion
So, in short, do you see a market for this kind of full scale re-doing of baseball cards or a market that can be successfully coupled with it? How prohibitive is it to artistically render 8ish color-layer versions of photographs? What is the reasonability of reintroducing large scale lithographic production? Is there other ways of achieving the same end results (there was a topps masterpieces set a while back that had some good visual aspects to it, the effort as a whole was flawed, but parts of it were nice)? In what ways will the modern hobby market forces distort these kinds of efforts when put in action, and are there ways we can foresee them and adjust the product and distribution ahead of time to hedge against it?

I suppose, since this is publicly viewable, if folks did have business ideas along these lines they might not want to share them here. But maybe some of us amateur speculators and marketing hacks can do some valuable brainstorming here and help some folks along with their ventures.

barrysloate
02-21-2012, 01:45 PM
Well you've hit on something important, that the design and printing of vintage cards is very appealing, and to a great extant that is what draws collectors to them. And that design, applied to a modern product, could be successful. But isn't that what Topps is doing with all those retro sets, the ones in the style of Allen & Ginter, or T206, or whatever other set they use as a model? So it's already being done. Is it possible to still make money today using these classic designs? Possibly, but I'm not sure. Interesting idea, but it's already out there.

Runscott
02-21-2012, 01:54 PM
Well you've hit on something important, that the design and printing of vintage cards is very appealing, and to a great extant that is what draws collectors to them. And that design, applied to a modern product, could be successful. But isn't that what Topps is doing with all those retro sets, the ones in the style of Allen & Ginter, or T206, or whatever other set they use as a model? So it's already being done. Is it possible to still make money today using these classic designs? Possibly, but I'm not sure. Interesting idea, but it's already out there.

Barry, David and I had an interesting lunch discussion last week about litho printing. Part of the allure of the old cards (other than the '20s b&w, whose appeal can't be explained :)), is the printing. Can that style be replicated today? I think, like the incredible quality of a 1940's felt Stetson, those labor-intensive techniques just can't be used today to produce output quickly and cheaply enough for today's McDonald's society.

If they could, someone would take the time and spend the money to re-create the litho technique used to create the T206 Wagner. Despite the financial limitations to creating a profitable set, I'm still surprised it hasn't been done - in the hands of a motivated forger, one Wagner card would pay for the equipment easily. If it could be done in 1909, it can be physically done today - just would take some work.

Reproducing a T206 Wagner exactly would be impossible (though in a slab it would tougher to tell, and we already know that what's under a slab, if Wagner-like, will not be questioned by an owner, once purchased), but certainly you could create a good color litho set if you invested the money in the equipment.

I'm sure Steve will have ideas on this.

barrysloate
02-21-2012, 02:07 PM
I agree that the printing couldn't be replicated to the point that one couldn't tell the difference between a 1909 T206 and one made in 2012.

I do however think the spirit of the design could be applied to a modern day product. But could one make money doing it? Don't know.

abothebear
02-21-2012, 02:12 PM
Barry, I think the Topps retro sets don't go far enough. Some of their sets have a portion of the appeal, where they succeed illustrates that there is a market, but their efforts are also illustrative for their failure - exposing the limits of modern mass printing as well as the distribution issues. The distribution is the same as all modern cards which resigns these sets to mere filler material for insert speculation purchasing like all the other modern cards.

Runscott
02-21-2012, 02:15 PM
but their efforts are also illustrative for their failure - exposing the limits of modern mass printing

I think that's the key. A Topps T206 has no more eye appeal than the best T206 reprint.

barrysloate
02-21-2012, 02:28 PM
Yes, those Topps retro sets leave a lot to be desired. But how would you get the equipment to take your printing up to the next level? My favorite printing style was the chromolithography that was widely used in the 1880's, but I doubt there is any way to duplicate that today. Same with the 1910 style of printing. You would have to find something finer than the glossy mass produced designs used by Topps, even if it wasn't exactly the style of a century ago. Maybe we need a print expert to come on and explain what can be done with our current technology.

abothebear
02-21-2012, 02:41 PM
This is me writing out of ignorance, but I wonder how a multi-pass, thicker ink, on a textured card stock (maybe like a linen postcard style stock) would look? I think it would be awesome to duplicate the old litho process, but if it is extremely cost prohibitive then maybe something like what I described would give it the same degree of eye-appeal if not exactly the same kind.

Here is an example from the 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces set (I incorrectly referred to it as a Topps set above). I would make them smaller and still do something refining with the printing but I think it at least conveys the potential of alternate card stocks for adding texture and depth.

<a href="http://s1199.photobucket.com/albums/aa471/abothebear/?action=view&amp;current=Picture13.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1199.photobucket.com/albums/aa471/abothebear/Picture13.png" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

ullmandds
02-21-2012, 02:45 PM
Sadly...I think the only way to create a beautiful...cost effective bb card today...would be to have it made in china...or india...where labor is so cheap.

jp1216
02-21-2012, 02:52 PM
When I was 8 - I didn't collect cards for their future value. It was cheap & fun. Topps or whoever, needs to get back to 50 cent packs without all the autos, 1/1s, pre-war stuff etc. Let kids be kids and let them enjoy the basic, common cards. My best memories were picking up 7 packs a week of 1980 Topps for about $2. Trading with friends and building sets. Not looking for 1/1s and throwing the rest away. Most kids that enjoy collecting today, will enjoy collecting tomorrow.
Cost effective? Probably not....
Unfortunately in 20 years, Pokemon PSA 10s will be all the rage...

BleedinBlue
02-21-2012, 02:55 PM
I think distribution is key. For most of us older collectors, the cards were an insert that came with something of value. Granted, the Topps gum of the 70's wasn't really "valuable" but you got something with the cards. I think part of the decline of the industry has been the transition of cards from being an "insert" in a product to becomming the product itself. In today's world you don't "collect" the cards when you buy a product, you buy the cards direct. There is no cross-over. Either you buy the cards because you want them or you don't buy the cards. But, to gain some traction you need to get the cards into the hands of people who don't want them. Once they see them then perhaps they will develop the interest.

In re-creating the "vintage" feel to this new venture, deciding what product to include the cards with will be important. As an example, what if cards were included with fast food meals. I don't want to encourage the consumption of more fast food but go with me on this. The card is something that is included as an incentive to encourage a purchase. But there are sufficient brands out there to re-create some of the magic that the T206 set offers. Imagine a product where the same cards are labeled with the logo of the distributing restaurants. A McDonalds backed set, A Burger King backed set, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Sonic, etc. Regional issues could be available such as Carl's Jr, Jack in the Box, White Castle, In N Out Burger. I think collectors would really go for this. Especially with the internet out there to help them pick up the more difficult brands for their sets. One problem though is most of these brands would not want to run a promotion like this for more than 4-6 weeks and would not want the product competing with other brands. Perhaps a Candy Bar manufacturer would be interested and would brand the different backs with the candy product it was distributed with. I hate the idea of using Fast Food restaurants and Candy Bars but I just don't see a Carrot, Celery and Apple backed set going anywhere. Perhaps Grocery Stores would be interested in handing out the cards with every $10 purchased. Somehow we need to get many millions of these cards out there and keep the distribution going for an extended period of time.

The look is important as well. There have been food issue sets in the past but the airbrushing away of the logos seriously harms the attractiveness of the product so you need an MLB license. I don't think that the image needs to be artwork either. A photo is probably more attractive to kids at this point anyway but adults will buy in either way so long as there is some sense of accomplishment in the pursuit.

ullmandds
02-21-2012, 03:03 PM
I agree with Jon P!

abothebear
02-21-2012, 03:46 PM
I agree with Jon P. too. That is kinda the point. I buy my son base card cast offs from insert hounds. I'll get the occasional "special" card for him if the price is right and it is a worthy player. The inserts and high pack prices have really narrowed the modern hobby in such a way that refined collectors (and kids' with budgets) have little to no interest in it.

Topps and others have tried various cheap sets but they don't have the staying power or the depth of engagement that the kind of set I am envisioning would have.

abothebear
02-21-2012, 03:52 PM
Brian, I agree, distribution is the key. I like everything you outlined about he fast food scenario except the fast food part - for two reasons (just my amateur opinion), fast food is considered the bottom dweller of the food world, associating with the lowest common denominator of a particular group might have a negative marketing impact. Fast food used to be cooler than it is these days. But the biggest reason I don't like it is the price point and frequency of purchase. I think something more in the one to two dollar range, and something that could reasonably be purchased/consumed 5 days a week.

But, the fast food thing is almost perfect for the multi-back plus regional markets of the same master set aspect.

steve B
02-21-2012, 05:04 PM
The technology is still around. There are places doing fine art prints from stones. So the process wouldn't be the problem.

What would be the problem is the licensing. The license for current players would be hard to get, and pretty expensive. Probably expensive enough that you'd be forced to overproduce somewhat, or have a very expensive set.

Steve B

veloce
02-21-2012, 06:15 PM
I think cereal boxes are a natural fit. I know this has been tried in recent years, but mostly with small sets. The 200 card Post sets of the '60s appeal more to the right personality type to become serious collectors, in part because they would be more difficult to complete. I also think of breakfast as a perfect time to capture a kid's attention... you sit there for 10 minutes eating your cereal and admiring the cards.

Other than that, why not make them secondary to the gum again? Take a package of extra, and throw in a couple baseball cards. Kids will always love candy.

I wish MLB and the player's association would give Topps a cheap or free license to distribute kid friendly sets. No inserts, errors, short prints. It would probably be worth something to Topps and MLB in terms of promoting love of the sport and the hobby. Unfortunately, I don't think of MLB or card companies as thinking long term.

barrysloate
02-21-2012, 08:25 PM
How many kids today, say under the age of 12, try to piece together complete Topps sets by opening packs? Does anybody do that anymore?

abothebear
02-21-2012, 08:37 PM
Barry, I would doubt any kid would. It would cost a fortune, and you can go to Target and buy a factory set for $50. Or wait a year and get one cheaper from ebay. or you can buy base card lots of already opened packs for much cheaper. But I can't imagine anyone trying to do it the old fashion way.

The whole system discourages set collecting and thereby discourages any real demand for base cards. commons used to be have a minimal value because of set collecting. Not anymore. Any attempts at reintroducing the set collecting element to the hobby needs to begin with creating a demand for the common card. No facgtory sets. No inserts. Affordable access to the cards' entry point.

mawitzi
02-21-2012, 11:11 PM
I don't think that there would be that much interest in these cards. I might like them, but I don't think many other people would. Modern card collectors would not want them. Anything that it does not have large memorabilia pieces or autos is considered junk. I also don't think that vintage collectors would buy them. We complain about new cards because we simply don't like new cards. Vintage collectors buy old cards because they like old cards. It doesn't matter what the new cards look like or how they are distributed, they will still be new. Vintage collectors will not buy new cards.

Don't let me stop you. I am wrong a lot.

Runscott
02-22-2012, 12:55 AM
I don't think that there would be that much interest in these cards. I might like them, but I don't think many other people would. Modern card collectors would not want them. Anything that it does not have large memorabilia pieces or autos is considered junk. I also don't think that vintage collectors would buy them. We complain about new cards because we simply don't like new cards. Vintage collectors buy old cards because they like old cards. It doesn't matter what the new cards look like or how they are distributed, they will still be new. Vintage collectors will not buy new cards.

Don't let me stop you. I am wrong a lot.

If it's a piece of art, some vintage collectors might want it - look at the paintings shown on the memorabilia sub-forum. Also, some of the Perez-Steele issues were/are collected by vintage collectors.

If I had the means to duplicate the process used to create the late 1800's lithos, or even T206's, the first art might be a bit larger - maybe postcard or cabinet-size color recreations of famous Conlon, Van Oeyen and Frances Burke action photos. You could include an ordering list in a product, perhaps a Sports publication.

ullmandds
02-22-2012, 10:52 AM
The more I think about this topic...the more pessimistic I become about the hobby of collecting sports cards...or really any other cards ever becoming popular again with kids today...and tomorrow.

The tobacco industry was a relatively new industry in the late 19th c...and the card inserts were enticements to buy a particular brand. These days...most products are sold online...most kids are living in a digital/virtual world...an altered reality if you will.

I believe the hobby will be around in the future...but it is dying a slow death!

barrysloate
02-22-2012, 11:56 AM
There will always be people collecting baseball cards, they will just come into them differently than my generation did. Baby boomers bought packs and built sets when the were 7,8,9 years old, then worked their way back to older cards as they became adults. Future generations will likely start in their 20's and 30's when they are earning enough money to be able to afford them.

abothebear
02-22-2012, 01:44 PM
Peter,

I think you are on to something about the product tie-in. Perhaps a card renaissance not only needs reformation of the product line, but also needs to be marketed with a new product, or a product newly presented to consumers. That is one reason I keep coming back to the idea of developing the corresponding product simultaneously. I don't know if dried fruit snack boxes are the best idea, but I think it may be a good illustration of the type of necessary thing. Fruit crates have had a long tradition of dynamic graphic art, perhaps a company could do what sun-maid does with raisins for several kinds of dried fruit. Or, similar to the early tobacco industry, perhaps their could be a marketing oversight association that coordinates the packaging and marketing of independent/local dried fruit companies. I think this is the ind of product that could really take off. Parents would want their kids to buy these things vs. candy, kids would want to buy them for the cards, and they could be sold anywhere candy is sold.

ullmandds
02-22-2012, 02:03 PM
Good ideas!

steve B
02-22-2012, 08:07 PM
Barry, I would doubt any kid would. It would cost a fortune, and you can go to Target and buy a factory set for $50. Or wait a year and get one cheaper from ebay. or you can buy base card lots of already opened packs for much cheaper. But I can't imagine anyone trying to do it the old fashion way.

The whole system discourages set collecting and thereby discourages any real demand for base cards. commons used to be have a minimal value because of set collecting. Not anymore. Any attempts at reintroducing the set collecting element to the hobby needs to begin with creating a demand for the common card. No facgtory sets. No inserts. Affordable access to the cards' entry point.

And for an insane idea, maybe make the set with "common" stars and rookies, and make the commons the tough cards. Maybe hand numbered to the players homerun total or something silly like that. So print a million Pujols cards and only 4 J.D. Drew.

There's a blog with a lot of great direct info about the licensing.
http://blog.heritagesportsart.com/2011/06/introduction-to-insiders-guide-to-world.html

For an inexpensive pack/box you'd need to sell around 500 thousand packs just to cover licensing fees, AND apparently most licensors want you to be the manufacturer. Which means the expense of equipment and people to run it.

Steve B

abothebear
02-23-2012, 09:39 PM
Thanks for the info, Steve. Interesting stuff.

Anyone know where the line in the sand is for what constitutes using MLB club marks and logos? I wonder if a card with the kind of lack of team detail like a T206 could get away with only a mlbpa license.

steve B
02-23-2012, 11:23 PM
One of the posts describes making prints showing team uniforms over time, using just the uniforms, no names, but actual numbers.

The NHL licensed the uniform images, but the players assn questioned wether the players were being paid. short story. NHL says fine. NHLPA says no. NHL says tough it's fine. NHLPA says see you in court. NHL tells him to recall the posters and redo with unused numbers or ones used by many players.

And the league and usually the players assn have a lot of control over the art. I read through the whole thing, and Basically you've got to go along with whatever plan they cook up including sudden logo changes.

It looks like if someone wanted to do a very retro set they might go through Topps assuming Topps would even consider it. I'd think of that as a maybe, they do special stuff for major retailers, but I'm sure there's a lot of money involved. Maybe they'd so a sublicense for a high end very traditional set. It would still take a load of money up front.

Steve B