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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Upper Deck Diamond Club - and some Panini hate

This somewhat secretive club has been known for years. The question has always been, How does one become a member?

From the video I have linked to above, you become a member by spending a shit ton of money on overpriced wax. At one point early in the video, Chris Carlin states that they basically wanted to reward customers and alleviate concerns of shops. Shops don't want to lose those customers that come in and bust case after case of product at their LCS. Well no shit.

Some of you out there purchase quite a bit of product from your LCS and that is great if that's what you choose to do. I am not one of those people. When you consider the latest Panini shenanigans of essentially attempting to artificially inflate and/or keep prices on wax high, this does not bode well for us collectors.

If you haven't noticed, since MLB bent UD over the hood of their Bentley, there has been a glaring lack of products out there. We have had Topps base, Heritage, Finest and a dearth ie a smattering very few shitty bowman products are slated as well. The general lack of product has moved us into a dead zone in the collecting world. I personally have noticed not so much a lack of enthusiasm, but no enthusiasm at all. What does this all mean?

Greed, money green, greed. Blah blah blah. Why do I say that? Its obvious. Card shops often charge twice the price for wax as online retailers. I know what you are saying, but they have to make money. Sure they do, but its a lemonade stand problem. You can sell one box of Panini Elite lemonade at $100 bucks and make $40 or you can sell 10 at $70 and make $10 a box and $100 overall. Yeah, that's how that works. But think about the children!. Personally, I don't give a damn about cardshops surviving when they rely on greed to do so.

"A fool and his money are soon parted"
That's really the point here. Essentially what card shops are trying to do is convince you to pay more money than you need to for their benefit. How do they do that? Through obligation. "You have to keep us in business" "It's good for the Hobby" Is it good for the hobby when I can only afford 2 boxes instead of 5. The singles aren't going to be worth any more. The Rhett Bomar RPA's are still only going to be worth $5-$20 even if it is an Exquisite.

Obviously the fact that the card came out of a $100-$500 means little. The exquisite goes for a little more but given the price difference in the boxes, its immaterial.

In my opinion Panini, MLB, NFL, and NBA are putting us back to the 90's. Way way way over priced wax, singles that really aren't worth anything, and no product choice at all. Keep in mind, my opinion of there being too many products on the market is still there. There is no diversity. What I mean is there are too many products at the same price point aimed at the same market. Topps is shit at high end, Upper Deck is brilliant at high end, and Panini is still eating sticker ass. With UD out of the game we have no high end.

Maybe Panini products are ok, but what I have seen thus far I have no compelling reason to give their boxes a try.


dogfacedgremlin said...

I am anxiously (sarcasm?) awaiting their new hockey release in August. They have said it is going to be a resurrection of Score. Should be craptastic.

Max Power said...

I don't think "derth"[sic] is the word you are looking for . . .

Max Power said...

Oh yeah, I had a point there somewhere before I hit post too soon. Great write-up about the card shops ripping people off. One of the guys here in Lexington never has anything below $100/box unless it's base stuff. He never sells any Ultimate mini box/pack for less than $115, when I can get them online or at shows for $80-$89/box-pack. He was selling this year's SP Game Used Basketball for $315 a box, when you could get it online for $185. Needless to say, I rarely buy much of anything from him anymore and check the online guys first. Dude is a scammer.

Regarding Panini, their Classics Basketball is actually a nice product. There are some really nice on-card rookie and legend autos.

beardy said...

Don't get it twisted, there is a great lack of enthusiasm, at least on my part. Why do you think I haven't busted anything new in 2010?

It all sucks, all of it.

Alex said...

While I agree with some of what you said, there are some simplifications that don't tell the full story. For example:

"You can sell one box of Panini Elite lemonade at $100 bucks and make $40 or you can sell 10 at $70 and make $10 a box and $100 overall. Yeah, that's how that works."

Not really in the real world. Why? When you sell online you have the whole of North America or the world as your market. With this bigger market you can therefore afford to have a much smaller profit margin as you have a much larger customer base and your lower prices will likely attract more sales throught the world, thereby increasing your overall profit margin.

When you sell in a bricks and mortar store your market is much, much more limited - it maybe only people who live an hour or so drive away from the store. By reducing the price and your profit margin you may attract more sales, but not that many more because your customer base is so much smaller. There are only a few collectors in the area in which you sell to. So in your example, if they sell the boxes for $70, they may sell 3 to 6 boxes, instead of 1 if it was sold at $100. If they sell 3, they make only $30, or less than selling the box for $100. If they sell 5 or more then they are better off. However, I somehow doubt they would sell 10.

Do I think bricks and mortar stores are the heart and soul of the hobby? Hell no. Do I like Panini's model which will likely limit online sales? Hell no. However, should card companies do domething to help facilitate the ongoing viability of card stores? Yes. Here's the thing. If hobby stores go under, this will likely be followed by smaller online retailers, who can't compete with the big guys on price, so that eventually you may have a duopoly or oligopoly. What does that usually mean? Higher prices. Yes, once the few have eliminated competition and the market is controlled by them, prices almost always rise. Concentrating power in the hands of a few online retailers is not the way to lower prices.

One solution may be to have "Hobby store" boxes with additional inserts or better odds of pulling something for bricks and mortar stores.

As for people whinging about Panini's and Topp's monopolies, I agree that Monopoly is not a good thing. But when Upper Deck had a monopoly in Hockey you didn't here them complain, and very few people complained, I suspect largely because they didn't collect Ice Hockey. Well Upper Deck and your silence bought forward this Brave New World of exclusive licensing, and as such you'll now have to live with it.

One last thing "Upper Deck is brilliant at high end" Yes and no. Yes, Exquisite is very good (though extremely overpriced) and Premier was good (though they canned it). UD Black football and 2009 Ultimate football however were terrible products.

Oh, and does your word verification have some hidden message? It was "cones" for this comment.

stusigpi said...


The volume issue is certainly there, but LCS's could certainly increase their volume by selling on line too.

The other fix would be to have a lower margin. You see, I already know not to bother with the LCS because he is 50% higher than online. Additionally, back in the day there were many LCS that would do basic advertising and were priced the same or just a few dollars higher than the big retailers. I would always buy local.

the sewingmachineguy said...

I have not given it much thought until I read this. But there is apathy in the hobby. Maybe it's the UD problem. I had a week or two of fun with 2010 Topps base, but now, meh. The Million Card thing is a bore. Heritage, meh. Lately, I have been buying cheap blasters of 09 206, and looking at old sets from my youth.
As for the card shops in my area; One guy is a total tool and has everything way overpriced. One guy is 10%-ish over online, and the other guy is in the middle, but I shop there because the staff is cool. I shop local because I like to walk in pick it out, and walk out with it. The waiting is the hardest part of buying online.

stusigpi said...

i expect lcs to charge more than online and 10% isn't too shabby.

One thing that has struck me is that I have seen very very few box breaks online that are not sponsored. Especially compared to 08 and even a year ago.

Alex said...

I don't disagree that "bricks and mortar" card stores can be way overpriced. I also agree that decreasing the profit margins on sales can increase sales, and total profit - to an extent. Limited market will always restrict number of sales. In all likelihood however a LCS can't compete with an online store for price. That is where card stores have to offer things to attract and retain customers - and this involves work that many aren't willing to put it. Saying woe is me won't fix anything.

So yes, many LCS stores need to do more to attract and retain customers, including reducing profit margins, but the companies should also help to compensate for their lack of price competitiveness, though not in the way Panini proposes which almost seems like an attempt to strangle online sellers.