|eTopps - Sports Cards: The Next Generation||| Print |||Send|
Written by Matt Crowder (Contact & Archive) on March 20, 2003
Sure, collectors can order IPO's of their favorite players and teams and have eTopps send them in guaranteed mint condition in protective cases. But the vast majority of collectors prefer to leave them with Topps and hold them in their online card portfolios where they can monitor their value as of their last eBay (tm) sale from hour to hour. Traders can jump in and take advantage of changes in the value of players' cards to make a quick buck or buy-and-hold their favorites. Buy-and-hold investors look to the finite number of cards produced for each IPO and the new collectors that will be flowing into the eTopps program for years to come. What did that economics teacher say would happen when demand outstrips supply?
With eTopps, the card collecting hobby is morphing into a true electronic exchange. With the standardization and liquidity eTopps has created you really can invest in a player just like you do in a company's stock. If the player performs markedly better your investment will increase in value and you'll be able to easily trade your shares (er, cards) on the eBay Trading Floor. The transaction can be consummated with a few clicks of the mouse using an online payment service like PayPal (tm). With no need for checks or money orders this works in many ways similar to stock market. eBay and PayPal will take their cut just as your brokerage takes their cut when you buy or sell stocks.
Many strategies have emerged among collectors and investors. Collectors usually go after certain players, teams or assemble complete sets (sets have been offered for over $2,000 - ouch!). On the other hand, investors take other tacts. They can invest in rookie year issues like 2001 Alfonso Soriano and Adam Dunn cards or cards of future major-leaguers like Wilson Betemit and Joe Crede. A case can even be made for technical analysis just like in the stock market - buy low and sell high by monitoring the day-to-day activity of a card's price. The scarcity factor is an attraction for others. While the eTopps program was just gaining traction in 2000 and 2001 many IPO's were produced in tiny quantities. There were only 186 cards of one football IPO, the 2001 Tony Banks, produced. That card now sells for well over $200 on the eBay Trading Floor despite the lack of success Banks has enjoyed! Don't you wish you had bought that card at its IPO for only $6.50? New IPOs are released weekly and someday one of today's IPO's may reach that value. This is where the collector's gauge of a player's talent (and supply/demand analysis) is tested.
With eTopps still in its infancy there are many improvements to be made to the system but after more than a year the significant glitches have been worked out. Topping (no pun intended) the list of deficiencies are the lack of statistics for cards held by Topps compared to those delivered to the hands of collectors. It has been estimated approximately 85% of the cards are held by Topps but exact numbers for each card are needed. In addition, the portfolio interface needs to be updated to display the collector's gain on cards from the purchase price, not the IPO price that the collector may or may not have bought at.
What's next for eTopps? An eTopps Classics line of baseball cards will feature the likes of Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. It's likely only a matter of time before other card companies follow Topps' lead but don't under-estimate Topps' first-mover advantage. Barring a catastrophe, eTopps will always be the leader in this new generation of sports cards.
Will this spell the death of today's baseball card? Will fans kiss their packs goodbye in favor of managing their card portfolios online? It's too soon to tell. It's hard to picture two schoolchildren agreeing to trade a Sosa card for a Bonds card and then logging on at home to make the transfers. At the same time, this could prove to be a great educational tool, interesting today's youth in investing at an early age. Whatever comes of it, it will be fun to watch as it unfolds.
You've seen in it financial columns. I'll be the first to do it with eTopps! For full disclosure purposes, the author owns shares of 2001 Adam Dunn and 2002 Wilson Betemit at the time of this writing. :)
You can find more about Matt and cards by visiting him at www.cardtarget.com