What The Sports Card Industry Can Learn From Nintendo & Dominoes

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Industry Evolves – Poorly Run Companies Don’t

I was reading an article on a completely different business the other day, that described a ‘cigar butt’ type business. Basically a cigar butt business has been on a steady decline for many years – but still has one last puff of smoke left in it that can keep it alive for a little while longer, before burning out for good.

Sounds like an industry you know???

Sports trading cards aren’t quite down to the cigars wrapper, but it’s getting close. A while back CBS posted a piece that discussed how kids were long gone from the hobby – and that the hobby will ‘die out with the (old) collectors’ who are still around today.

Painini’s reaction was immediate denial and understandably most collectors felt the same way. In the midst of ‘hot’ or ‘double’ rookie class years, things might seem brighter than they appear.

Also, I’ve never been to a collector coin show or a gun show. But I’d bet a Michael Carter-Williams RC it’s all old men at those shows too.

I’m guessing those industries think we’ll all get into guns & money as we get older.

They’ve been right for hundreds of years, so who’s to argue with that logic?

So industries can survive, even if only old people are collecting the stuff … but the card companies haven’t evolved over the years to adjust to the times. What exactly does Topps & Panini do differently than the last card company that went broke?

Not much right?


The CBS piece I link to earlier blames, in part, video games for kids leaving the hobby. Appears now that iconic video game maker Nintendo is now realizing their business model is stuck in the 1990’s too.

I must be getting old. Nintendo killed sports cards … now Nintendo is dead?

Super Mario

The card companies business model has not changed since Super Mario 1 came out. And neither has Nintendo’s. Sure the consoles, games and sports cards look a little flashier & cost more – but under the hood of Topps, Panini & Nintendo you have the same tired motor they were running in the 1990’s.

One strategy I think would be effective for anyone in this industry to do – is to start being honest with your customers!

Often speaking up in the sports card world means you don’t get free boxes, you’re not welcomed to things like the Industry Summit and you don’t rub elbows with the employees of the ‘little guys‘ that run these sports card manufactures.

But look what Dominoes Pizza did a few years ago. They admitted their pizza sucked – and have embraced trying to make it better since then. The company embraced declining sales & quality – then used it to fuel their growth in the years ahead.

These sports card idiots have it all wrong!

When the prevailing perception of your product is that it sucks and could get a lot better – the best thing to do is embrace that fact!

Wide-eyed kids don’t collect these cards anymore. Your consumers are older and have bills/responsibilities they didn’t have when they were 10 years old. On top of that consumers are more educated & informed these days about the products they buy. They appreciate honesty. When Dominoes came forward and admitted something I’ve known about their product for years – it completely transformed how I thought of that company & I never tried their new pizza!

The elephant in the room of many sports card circles is that it’s fading away. But when someone acknowledges that fact – they are belittled by a few hundred people and companies who still have the same practices they did 20 years ago. Your un-invited to industry events and certainly no one will send you something for free.

The very few industry events I’ve attended – even fewer people in this business are willing to candidly talk about the future of this business. Most are in denial. That goes for card companies, card shop owners, bloggers, group breakers and conference operators. This hobby is fading away in part because of that denial, and the unwillingness to listen to anyone that challenges decade old business practices that by all accounts aren’t generating massive profits for anyone in the business.

Forgive me for wanting to help you guys make more money. Instead everyone is so focused on keeping their existing piece of the shrinking pie – they can’t see 4 or 5 years in front of them. Anyone who wants to address that question is treated like they don’t know what they are talking about.

Dominoes will tell you its profitable to listen to your customers … even go as far as to put their negative comments in your own TV commercials. People in the sports card business could learn from that.

Colin T

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