TNI Editorial - When Collecting Is No Longer Fun

by Jay Cochran
May 13, 2021
If you haven't heard, starting on May 14th Target will no longer sell MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokemon trading cards out of concern for safety of their employees. This move by Target is reportedly due to a fight that broke out among 5 people at a Target parking lot in Brookfield, Wisconsin on May 7. This was over a dispute involving trading cards where a gun was actually drawn.

The secondary-market prices on many trading cards have been sky-rocketing in recent months due to a perceived scarcity from limited production runs for many of these cards including Pokemon. This in turn like always has drawn many people to the hobby who's only interest is to be able to make a quick buck by getting them at cost and then turning around to re-sell them on sites like eBay for a much higher price.

Now the production shortage of these cards has primarily been blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic which I am sure has certainly played a part. However this type of thing really isn't anything new for those who collect any kind of pop-culture memorabilia. It doesn't matter if it's trading cards, action figures, POP! Vinyl figures or what-have-you. These things often seem to get produced in limited numbers at least starting out, which was happening well before COVID.

In my view this is a tactic called Scarcity Marketing, which is something I see being used more and more. For those not familiar with the practice, scarcity marketing is a marketing tactic that capitalizes on a customer's fear of missing out on something. It's based on the psychological principle that people want what is difficult to acquire. When something is "deemed" scarce, it then miraculously becomes more valuable on the secondary market. Once something is "deemed" valuable, people who wouldn't normally be interested in said item all of a sudden want it, hence increasing the overall demand for said item.

The downside to this however beyond things like fights breaking out in Target parking lots is that it simply takes the fun out of collecting. People who where collecting said item simply because they liked said item can no longer find it on shelves. The people running in to get said item only to turn around and resell it at a significantly marked up price (Scalpers) end up becoming the dominate demographic of the hobby which then eventually drives away regular collectors.

While thankfully we haven't quit gotten to that point where people are drawing their firearms in the parking lots of their local Target's for action figures, one has to wonder how long it will be until we see a similar story pop up involving people trying to get something like the latest Target exclusive Hasbro Cobra Island figures or NECA TMNT figures? And as sad as that sounds, the way things are going in this hobby, wondering if that might happen I don't think is to far-fetched.
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Last 10 comments - ( Read All Posts )
K9K1N6 - 2021-05-14 @ 5:50 pm

great, even madness is coming for the action figure collectors now, like geez using a gun to get any item no matter if it's a card or toy it's a big no no regardless, i don't want to be afraid by such tactic or fall into it for that matter and this comes from someone who prefers buying things in retail markets or small stores for figures rather than online, but even then i will admit at the same time i'm not sure if going out will still be worth it, not because of what happened in target.

But in another point of view i'm just not sure if i'll be able to find certain figures in stores with good access and normally retail price, since lately some stores i've gone into get this, they raise them 10 dollars plus, which is outrageous for me, even when i went to supermarkets in my store i had a worst case than empty pegs, there absolutely was no marvel legends in pegs, no black series either, not even the G.I. Joe classified series, obviously i am aware there are stores that have them but in the walmart i went through once, nothing of that at all, even a rare occassion i found the black series the child figure which was the only black series figure i found in the store, the only one, i didn't bought thoughit since it wasn't one of my top figures i wanted, i mean i am a cherry picker when it comes to action figures and all.

Even at this day i'm still am not sure if i even should try online buying really due to wondering how bad can shipping and taxes can be, even if i did i prefer to buy it from decent prices rather than scalper prices, overall i'm just not sure if this might be the end of my hobby or what, it truly breaks my heart how things are about to feel like a battle royale trying to gain something we want rather than a peaceful escape and enjoying the hobby that feels powerful for me.

memocromatico - 2021-05-14 @ 3:37 pm
15 minutes ago, DrLava said:

its not about scarcity withcards. i dont understand where youre getting that from. its about dollars. its not like there is only one autographed card and thats it. theres literally thousands of autos that are all worth hundredsof dollars, some worth thousands of dollars. this isnt perceived value or an investment. this is real money that same day type of value. this isnt gi joe or neca tmnt or black series or anything where the $20 figure sells for $50-$100. this a card from a $3 pack getting you $300-$3000. people arent tracking and stalking the neca reps when they come to the store. its another level with the cards. theyre fighting in the parking lot over money. they didnt jump this man to get one card.

the only real similiarity might be that the card scalpers are justmuch better at their job than the figure scalpers. the pinnacle for scalping would be the card guys cause it takes a different level of dedication to make that your profession. its like organized retail crime rings. theyre not just random grab n run junkies. they do research, they scout, they know procedures, where cameras are, who the ap are, etc. these guys know stuff on the labels, they know what theyre looking for, and where to be to get it.

You pretty much nailed why it's a problem.

We, as an action figurecommunity, aren't there yet but we could. The thing is, when something worth $3 bucks (or $25) can be sold for hundreds, the people collecting because they enjoy the item are isolated and disregarded. The point being made by JayC is that. It doesn't matter what the item is, this type of practices (buying and reselling at a higher fabricated value) is what drives fans away.

I used to hunt at stores. I used to support online sellers on scarce figures.One day there was a ML event, they were finally opening the boxes and make the Giant Man, Space Venom and another wave available. A pregnant woman punched me in the face because I grabbed a Black Panther, the only figure I wanted, while she had at least 10 figures already in her cart. I stopped going to stores to hunt, I stopped buying from scalpers.

Outsiders - 2021-05-14 @ 3:31 pm
13 hours ago, DrLava said:

lol i bet you enjoyed that $100 gift card though

How did you know about that? That happened one time and it was from a Kohls store and they called the Police on me because I was checking their palettes at like 2 in the morning, looking for that stupid tinted Cobra figure. I forgot it's stupid name but they called the Police and they showed up and questioned me and patted me down. I called corporate the next day and ripped them a new ass for how they treat their customer looking to buy merchandise from their store. A week later, I got a gift card in the mail.

JayC - 2021-05-14 @ 1:16 pm
38 minutes ago, DrLava said:

youre still trying to compare an autograph to a figure though. and theres no scarcity to these cards.

I think your trying to split hairs and as far as scarcity you better tell that to those fighting about them in parking lots of Target. If its truly gotten so bad someplace like Target honestly has to pull the product off shelf out of concern for safety of their employees, well I think you can understand why I dont see it your way.

chickenfeetrfun2eat - 2021-05-14 @ 12:15 pm
29 minutes ago, JayC said:

Its one of the reasons I am not a fan at all of Funko POP stuff.

Ah yes, Funko POPs - the next generation of BeanieBabies. You show me a POP that's worth $500 and $11and both of them still would look bland to me.

bashpics99 - 2021-05-14 @ 11:43 am
4 hours ago, DrLava said:

actually you do know how many. it even says on the card and that number is released well before the set releases too. no secrets or trickery or marketing ploys. we're not talking a refractor or sepia or any other chase insert card. you keep trying to compare collecting autographs to action figure variants and its not a good comparison. the value of the auto comes from who signs it, not the rarity (or perceived rarity) of the card itself. the rarest card in a set isnt always the most valuable. sports collectibles is another world compared with toys.

I can get the argument that autographed cardshave an inherent value, but how does that apply to Pokemon cards? Ain't like Pikachu is signing cards.

JayC - 2021-05-14 @ 11:34 am
4 hours ago, DrLava said:

actually you do know how many. it even says on the card and that number is released well before the set releases too. no secrets or trickery or marketing ploys. we're not talking a refractor or sepia or any other chase insert card. you keep trying to compare collecting autographs to action figure variants and its not a good comparison. the value of the auto comes from who signs it, not the rarity (or perceived rarity) of the card itself. the rarest card in a set isnt always the most valuable. sports collectibles is another world compared with toys.

Yeah sorry man, I dont by it. I grew up in the late 80s and 90s and got burned to many times by these companies to be willing to fall for it again. Anytime I see companies drastically trying to artificially create demand with some kind of scarcity tactic it turns my stomach. Its one of the reasons I am not a fan at all of Funko POP stuff. There are plenty of people beyond just the trading card companies themselves making big money off this latest mad craze trading card frenzy so there plenty of people out there who have an invested interest that the proverbial curtain isn't pulled back on this stuff to reveal what a house of cards (pun intended) this stuff is built on, and your welcome to believe what you want. Maybe you have some of these cards that you've been led to believe are really valuable, IDK. Again having gotten burned in the 90s on that stuff myself I realize how much it sucks when you start to realize all that stuff you spent time, energy and money collecting ends up being mostly worthless, but when you deem something an actual "collectible" and people start buying it to be a "collectible" and companies then start using tactics to make it seem like something is rare, well that's generally what you end up with. Sure the short time flippers, scalpers ect ect might be able to make some quick money, but long-term wise your essentially left with fools gold.

ghostbogey - 2021-05-14 @ 8:56 am

This is so sad...

"When Collecting Is No Longer Fun"

I can see the new TV show now....

Now that would be funny =^)

JayC - 2021-05-14 @ 5:51 am
33 minutes ago, DrLava said:

well in 2021 you can pull a card of value and not have to wait 20 years or have it graded to have it be worth thousands of dollars. i dont think youre understanding the differences between figures, comics, and cards. in 1990 not a single card was autographed for upper deck and placed into packs. it wasnt a thing. for a card to be worth serious money you had to invest the years and though, even their comic cards have autos from the artists. the autograph is where the value is. you get the autograph and certificate of authenticity right on the card. rookie autos can have massive value even that same year. you talk about 22 years after the griffey cards release it soldfor $7k. go see what a 2017 patrick maholmes auto card goes for just 4 years after release. that same year if you pulled that card, you pulled yourself a new car. that same day. thats why theres the insanity there is in the card collecting scene.

A so called autograph is no different than a limited edition variant or a chase figure. Its just another tactic or gimmick to try and make people think its rare and hence valuable. Again I dont really follow trading cards anymore but my guess you have no idea of how many so called autographed cards are out there. Its no different than blind bag toys where you have that one so calledhard to find thing. These kind of tactics are nothing new.The reason why the Ken Griffey sold for 7k in Feb and then a fw short months later was lucky to get 2k is because the perceived value wasnt real. It was an illusionthat has slowly warn off as more and more of those cards started to re enter the market.If the card was really rare it would only go up in value. The reason why a mint condition copy featuring the first appearance of Superman is trulyrare and valuable is not only because Superman is a popular character, but also because when people bought it when it came out, they werent buying it thinkingone day it would be valuable. They bought it to read and then would generally roll it up and toss it away. So over a long period of time the number of mint copies left in existence became very small and hence was actually rare and actually valuable. The truth is something is only worth as much as someone else is willing to pay, so the trick is how many people one can convince or con into thinking something it rare and hence supposedly valuable.

JayC - 2021-05-14 @ 4:18 am
2 hours ago, DrLava said:

but there isnt any marketing tactic needed for an autographed lebron james card, or autographed mike trout card. the value isnt perceived, its real cause thoseplayers are someof the very best. the reason thosecards arevaluable is because its signed by the player, not cause of what someone will pay. once they inkthat card, it already has a defined value. and its not topps and panini setting that value either. topps and panini arent out there telling us who the top athletes are or who the most popular athletes are. thats already established.

Im not that much into the trading card scene anymore and I don't know your age, but let me take you back to a time in the 90s and tell you a story about this little card here. The Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie card. See Mr. Griffey at the time was an up and coming shinning star in the world of MLB. This card at the time was herald as the holly grail of baseball cards. Everyone at the time thought if they had one, one day they would be able to sell it and retire or pay for their kids college tuition. Yes Griffey was a good ball player but thats not why the card was deemed so valuable. It was deemed valuable because people were conned into thinking the card was rare. As it turned out Upper Deck who was well aware of how popular this card had become began printing these things out like there was no tomorrow so they could make lots of money. Eventually it was discovered what Upper Deck was doing at which point the perceived value dropped to pretty much nothing.

Now fast forward to the present. Now you have these grading companies who if you pay a modest fee will kindly based on their expertise tell you if your card is a high rating or not. Of course if you get like a 10 its now perceived valuable. So take this Ken Griffey card, even though they are still a dime a dozen, if these grading companies were nice enough to give you 10 you could then run to eBay and sell it for big money. In February a PSA 10 Ken Griffey was going for around 7k. A few months later as more and more Griffey cards started hitting eBay again as word started getting out they were selling for big money the value then dropped. Now they sell for 2k which is still way over priced, because again the card isn't rare. There tons of them out there and most people because it was deemed a "collectible" took care of it and they are all still in really good condition. These grading companies as I understand it are doing bookoo business these days (hmm I wonder why) as word has spread if you have a high graded card you can all of a sudden sell your worthless cards for big money because people have been convinced that actually means something. These grading companies have gotten so backed up it will not take you months to get your cards graded. So if you can't tell just like the trading card industry in the late 80s and 90s have found ways to artificially create a bubble that has heighten demand for said products which sooner or later will burst.

Now if you have time I can tell you similar stories about the comic book industry in the 90s as well.

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