The Rise and Fall of Baseball Cards
Dave Jamieson, author of “Mint Condition,” on the 1994 crash of the baseball card industry—and the outlook for a once-cherished hobby.
Are all the big-name manufacturers of the boom era—Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, and Donruss—still producing baseball cards?
At this point it’s just Topps. Last year Major League Baseball (MLB) decided they were only going to renew their contract with Topps. Part of the reason the industry failed is because so many different companies rolled out so many different sets that the hobby became sprawling and hard to wrap your hands around. Part of what MLB wants to do is to streamline everything.
What else might be done to resurrect the industry?
They have to figure out how to get kids to collect baseball cards again, and it’s really hard now because you have incredible video games and the Internet. But Topps has made a little headway. They have simplified their card line and slashed prices. And they have added an online element to some of their sets. One that has sold pretty well has a fantasy baseball component where you can compete with your friends based on the cards you’ve got. But it’s a very difficult road ahead. There is so much competing for a kid’s attention that it’s hard to give them a stack of cardboard and expect them to spend a day on that stuff.