The True Story? Sports Collectibles Hobby is Alive and Well for Panini America

CBS News chief investigative reporter Armen Keteyian recently took a stab at covering the sports card industry for a segment that aired over the weekend. Frankly, the piece was light on investigation and heavy on sources seemingly hand picked to validate a preconceived conclusion: The collectibles hobby is dying.

CBS News chief investigative reporter Armen Keteyian recently took a stab at covering the sports card industry for a segment that aired over the weekend. Frankly, the piece was light on investigation and heavy on sources seemingly hand picked to validate a preconceived conclusion: The collectibles hobby is dying.
The collectibles hobby is dying? That’s a new one to us here at Panini America. In fact, just last month, CW 33 news anchor Walt Maciborski visited Panini America HQ for a compelling segment on an industry that has been radically transformed in the last, oh, two decades or so. That story fittingly leads this post.

Oh, and then there was the report last summer from FOX News on Panini America’s pioneering HRX Video Trading Cards. Both the CW 33 and FOX News reports would seem to indicate an industry that is not dying at all but transforming for a new generation.
To be sure, the one-sided CBS News segment struck a chord with countless folks inside an industry whose job it is to ensure that sports cards not only survive, but continue to thrive. One such insider is Panini America Vice President of Marketing Jason Howarth, who engaged Keteyian in a public Twitter debate shortly after the segment aired.
“I’m all about engaging in smart dialogue,” Howarth said Monday afternoon. “I, like many in the trading card category, was shocked by the tone and direction of the report. As someone that works for the world’s largest sports and entertainment collectibles company, I felt we needed to point out the mistakes – and there were many — that were just too blatant to overlook. You can’t do this story and not mention how the category has evolved and that people can now find the rarest of cards, or collect their favorite players, all while sitting on their couch. To not even factor that into the story is disingenuous.
“If you look at any business over the last 20 years, you are going to find that the consumer and the market strategy has evolved. The manufacturers, hobby and collectors have all stepped up their games and have become more savvy in this industry. It’s why we have seen and celebrated some of the most unique, one-of-a-kind cards selling for thousands of dollars over the last year, along with new innovations. What I felt was the biggest miss in the story is what separates Panini America and trading cards from everything else: There is no other category or product that delivers that connection and deep level of personalization between today’s athletes and their fans.”
Howarth’s Twitter points regarding the CBS News segment that apparently paid no mind to the massive role the Internet has played in reshaping an age-old industry:

  • Going to a hotel for a show and saying that’s the category is inaccurate; look at mass retail, hobby and the Internet.
  • Go to The National in Baltimore in August and see a cross section of card companies and retailers and watch how much money moves.
  • Lots of things could have been incorporated, like representatives from manufacturers and leagues that drive the business.
  • Look at any business in a setting that worked in the 1980s and everyone will tell you the way they do business has changed.
  • [The industry’s] down 75 percent from what? Fewer kids does not equal category dying. It’s evolved. Males 18-55 drive the category.
  • Of the 60 plus sports products Panini America produces in a year, 10 percent targeted to kids. This is no longer a wax/bubblegum category.
  • The late 1980s/early 1990s was the boom time with mass produced product that held no value. The category is now more refined and cards hold secondary market values. Cards sell for big money.

Howarth ended his passionate back-and-forth by personally inviting Keteyian to be a guest of Panini America at August’s 2012 National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore.


49 Replies to “The True Story? Sports Collectibles Hobby is Alive and Well for Panini America”

  1. Panini, Beckett and the rest just don’t want to face the future. Their livelihood depends on the industry staying alive. Of course they’ll give lip service to that fact. But the truth is the gimmicks like HRX can only stave off the reaper for so long.

    1. I agree, the vid only shows a small part, sure 1% sells well but the other 99%, doesn’t. just look at the past, cards where overproduced, so they went to limited liecencing, did this help no, know they over do it with jersey cards, look bottom line if you don’t get kids involved, the future that tracy embraces is short lived, he say’s future but he really means next product, i understand that he has a job to be positive spokesman, for his company, but there are two side. and i just don’t see it in this vid, and you won’t get it, from someone that has to be political in his or her responce. yes things have changed, and change is good, its a fact of life, but when you pay for somthing and you have to wait “redemption” you lose a part of the thrill, and as collectors we have validated this, let it become ok, hoping that it won’t take to long, so the card retains it value, and you can make your money back or a small profit what i would like is for someone to give the best non political opinion, someone who has nothing to lose or gain. if that exsist, i don’t know

  2. We are operating under the assumption that Keteyian approached his material without an agenda and with an objective eye. Unfortunately, the American media has developed a habit of crafting and casting facts to support a preconceived conclusion. I don’t know if Keteyian set out to deliberately mislead, but mislead he did. The industry is clearly far healthier than it was just a decade
    ago, a new breed of collector has emerged AND the kids in my “Trading Card Collecting Club” (Gr. 1-5) say reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated!
    The Internet has allowed collectors to cultivate and amass customized, specialized snd niche collections, as well as provided them the opportunity to netowrk with…and purchase issues from, sellers around the globe. Lastly, the hobby is enjoying a period of innovation and creativity the likes of which has not been seen since the introduction of the first Game-Used memorabilia and autographs were integrated into the manufacturing process. Manufacturer-collector relationships are being fostered…let me pause for a breath here; all in all, i would like to go on record as saying that Mr. Keteyian “covered” the wrong angle on this…”story.”
    Nuff’ Said! 🙂

  3. Awesome vid….great job on brightening up collecting’ future…really liked how they put the past in there because in all fairness the excitement was true and still is in many of us…

  4. I read about and saw this segment last Saturay and i couldnt believe what i heard! I actually sent an email to CBS about how their story about the card industry being basicaly dead was 100% wrong. All the above points made by Jason Howarth was dead on and i hope they make another segment about how they was wrong and how the card industry is very much alive and well. My local cardshop is always busy and i told them to go to ebay and go to the card category and watch how many cards are being sold every almost every minute on there and see how much money is being spent and made on there. Im sorry but im very passionate about this great hobby of mine and that segment made me mad. I wish they could be there when i have my MEET and GREET with Kobe Bryant next month because of a GOLDEN TICKET that i pulled out of a pack of a GREAT product Gold Standard from the BEST card company Panini and maybe they will see just how innovative and how rewarding this great hobby still is! Keep up the great work Panini!

  5. Although Keteyian’s point was heavy handed, I see both side as having a point. Is the hobby dying per se? NO, of course not, however the hobby that the masses have come to know and that drew us in years ago, cards of favorite players/teams, to trade, that were “affordable” to kids and adults( and yes,I know affordable will/is always a fluid price,depending on the indivdual),is that version fading away? Maybe, and things like having the newer, more expensive products come out with hard signed autos while redemptions for the same athletes(John Wall in my case) remain unfilled far beyond the projected time. While changes, innovations, ect. are good for business and the hobby as well as excitng, it has started to change this into a more affluent persons game as shown by some of the card prices sited. “Good” for the BUSINESS and hobby, yes. Closing out the “hobby” as it was, and in theory, still meant to be? I’m afraid that point is becoming a little less clear>

  6. Just not embracing rookie cards this year in any NBA basketball product. You wont see it right away, but when no one is buying 2011-12 products say 5-10 years from now, because they cant pull a Kyrie Irving RC, then you will truly see how much of a blunder this years products were.

    1. We appreciate your opinions, candor and passion. You’ve gone on record plenty of times with your disagreement of our dual rookie redemption program that will begin with 2011-12 Past & Present Basketball. It was something our NBA Product Development team felt strongly about in trying to capitalize on a double-stacked 2011-12 and 2012-13 Rookie Card crop.
      I guess time will tell whether or not this was a good choice.

        1. “OBJECTION! Prosecution is badgering the witness, Your Honor! Panini has never attempted to short-change the collector, this simply an argumentative line of questioning.”
          “Objection Sustained, let’s move-on.”
          Nuff’ said

      1. I don’t know if the double redemption is a good or bad move, but I’m curious what the reasons were to not include rookies in this year’s product. Any way to elaborate on that?

  7. I’m glad you guys stood up and are hitting back at the misinformation that has been placed out there by this report. It seemed like very lazy reporting. The thing that stood out to me was that the swap meet they attended was at a small suburban gym or that they then contrasted with some ancient footage of a large show that was quite busy. They were worlds apart both obviously in the size of venues and chronologically.
    Speaking as someone from outside North America the internet has allowed the hobby to thrive and grow. Without the great forum members on Ozcardtrader here in Australia I would not even have the Huge (dare I say it very unique) Ray Allen collection that I do today. When when you add E-Bay and online stores such as the Beckett Marketplace into the mix you have a virtual swap meet. Sure there may not be the face to face interaction but the amount of people that I talk to online and consider mates is growing every month. And what brings us all together is the passion we have for the cards and the hobby. There are the bad eggs that take advantage of people online but the community soon roots these people out.
    As for Panini America the way you have embraced social media and interaction with the fans is nothing short of phenomenal. Every other week you are having a giveaway on the Lance, interviewing athletes and showing us behind the scenes video of how exactly these cards are developed and then manufactured. The innovations you continue to come up with to add more excitement to the hobby such as letting hobbyists pick subsets HRX, Golden tickets and athlete meet and greets also enhances and cements your spot as the #1 company out there today. Sure it’s easy to sit back and take consumers money but Panini America goes the one step further and gives back to the collector after the fact.

  8. Isn’t it pretty much the case that it’s an easy story to knock something as dying? As we’ve seen with reality TV, editing can make any story appear to be the way someone wants it to look.

  9. The hobby is not dead. Why would a company like Panini go out and keep getting licenses??!!! Why bother if the hobby was dead. Why wasted the time and money. Seems to me every week Panini adds something new to their lineup of licenses or products. There is no way this hobby is dying and thank you Panini for responding to this. Yes, the hobby has slowed since the hype of the 90’s. But dead, I don’t think so. I hope Panini finds a way to get CBS or ABC or a big news network to do a real story on this.

  10. This is just crazy! To produce a story that is as inacurate as this speaks pretty harsh about the news company themselves. It just goes to show that those who don’t know, critisize! I am amazed that someone can say the market has gone away and been reduced. I am still amazed at the new products being released and the amount of interest I see all over about each new release.
    Good on Panini America for making a statement and stating the real facts. I am willing to assume that this “reporter” was not at the Industry summit the past week? Had he been there his outlook may have been diffrent…and also may have been correct.
    Keep up the good work Panini!!!!

  11. I hope Keteyian takes up Panini’s offer to be a guest at the National this year. Even if he’s only at the convention for a day, I think this will be an eye opener for him. Maybe then, he’ll run a story illustrating the real truth about the hobby. Thanks, Panini!

      1. If Mr. Keteyian does take you up on the offer, he had best get there early. Otherwise he will simply have to wait in a long line with several hundred other collectors wanting to break open Panini products during the wrapper redemption. Maybe that will change his perspective on the hobby!

  12. I agree. That CBS special was absolutely and intentionally making it seem like the hobby is dead. The hobby is not dead, the hobby is not dying. Look at products and services that have changed over time. Cell phones, computers, etc. If trading cards never changed from those time periods, yes, it would have died. But companies like Panini have seen the hobby from every angle, and have done things no one could of ever imagined before to revolutionize the industry. Mr. Hackler can certainly vouch for this point that I have sent in my concerns as well as kudos for their products over the past year or so. It’s companies like Panini who listen, and have that interaction with the consumer who purchases their products that make this industry what it is. I applaud Panini for their ability to take America’s apparently dying past time, and innovate. Some of you call things “gimmicks”, when all their doing is testing the market. Who would of thought of a video trading card. Some people like it, others don’t. But you’ll never know if you don’t do it and at least put it out there. I purchase only Panini products, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead, especially after hearing some of the things there going to be doing from this years Industry Summit in Vegas.
    Panini, keep doing what your doing, and to Mr. Hackler, keep doing what your doing. It’s outreach and services that you provide that keep me buying and supporting Panini products. Here’s to a great 2012.

  13. Great piece!! The hobby is alive there is no doubt about it! The CBS piece never mentioned the shift from local shows to ebay and online forums where the hobby truly takes shape! Glad to see you guys respond to that story, keep up the good work!!

    1. With my issues aside with the products for the 2011-12 season, I agree the hobby has adapted to the accessibility of the internet, ebay, and online forums such as Beckett. I would like to know how much money and trades are done online worldwide versus in person at card shows and hobby shops like how CBS portrayed it.

  14. -I agree the hobby is NOT dead. I work at a middle school, and everyday I see the students talking sports, trading their cards, and enjoying the hobby. The cards the students trade may be mostly low – mid end products, but they enjoy the players and cards. This is why I love the variety of products Panini offers, as I also collect the mid – high end products.
    -Our local card shop hosts different events which promotes the hobby, including birthday parties for kids, trade night raffles for all ages, girl and boy scout events, and they also promote a “family atmosphere” and support many of the youth and high school athletic teams.
    -Great work Panini America and a shout out to our LCS (Matt’s Sports Cards in Joliet)

  15. They do make valid points in many aspects, but in many others I do believe that the hobby is stronger than ever. The replies to this story by Panini make many more valid points as to how the business has evolved.
    Of course the hobby will NEVER be the same as it was in the 1980’s, or even ’90’s. The internet changed everything. And not just because kids are surfing the web instead of collecting, but because everyone realized how much product was acti out there. Collectors really began to understand what RARE was, and it wasn’t the 1 of 10,000 Donruss Elite cards from the early 1990’s. Enter industry-wide paradigm shift.
    Don’t forget that Mint has an agenda by saying and supporting that the hobby is dead. As a buyer, and arguably the most recognized name in the hobby, the more the general public think cards are worthless the more he can take advantage of people by paying 5 cents on the dollar for “unknown” vintage collections like he did in the ’89’s and ’90’s.
    Just sayin’.

  16. Lots of good points made above, well done. Its nice to see so many passionate hobbyists as well. One train of thought I haven’t seen yet is one of, dare I say, a “monolopy”. Sorry to say it, but yes, Panini is running the card business. Hats off to them though. We’ve heard grumblings that UD is on its way out. How can they compete with no major contracts? Can Exquisite save them? When one company is getting this much bigger than its next competitor, its never good for anyone but the leader. Tracy, I hope you post this. You would truly be portraying a realistic landscape. Great for Panini for making their way into this hobby. I just don’t want to see competition go away.

  17. @chris olds, it is a great thing to see a card company respond to this, but and i stress i might be speaking just for a minority of the collecting public but know the issue is how do we get card companies to quit pricing the true collectors who might not have the most money in the world but have been in the hobby for years out of the hobby?

  18. The long version of my thoughts on the subject is in the “Hobby in crisis” links at the bottom of the page (the sensationalist title is part of the commentary), but the real problem here is that this was a 5 minute fluff piece, not anything resembling journalism. This is filed alongside “Aliens are controlling gas prices!” in the annals of the news media. Whatever legitimate concerns the piece may have touched on have been undermined by the sensationalist message that does not fit with reality. There are reasons to be concerned about the future of the hobby, but takes a bit more digging to truly understand them. That’s apparently more effort than CBS News thought the story deserved.

  19. Do I think the hobby is ‘dying’? Nope.
    Do I think the hobby is evolving? Yup.
    What I do think is a ‘dying breed’ are the monthly card shows (especially if you’ve got them on a weekday). I try to support them when I can because I enjoy them – a great deal. To be able to go out and talk face to face with other hobbyists, to window shop for cards I’ll never own and to dig for that elusive card on my wantlist. I love the fact that I have a monthly card show I can go to.
    But I have no doubt that if the trend continues, they will be gone in the next 10 years. Only to be left with a ‘once a year’ big show (if I’m lucky enough to live in a city that hosts one).
    I cringe thinking of that day. I don’t want those shows to die.
    As for the news story……I didn’t mind it. I read into it a lot of things I think are true. Did I get the whole picture? No way. Not enough time to do that. But with news, I don’t believe everything I hear. I ingest the information presented and then come to a conclusion or base an opinion myself.
    I can appreciate that if nothing else, this story created some discussion (hopefully positive discussion at that).

  20. I have a lot of down time @ work and to fill this time I sometimes bring stacks of cards with me to collate and such. I’ve often been asked by my customers if those were baseball/football cards. It strikes up conversations all the time and several guys have said they still collect or recently started to collect again because of how the hobby is changed. The late 80’s/early 90’s were a lot like the days of Atari for video games. Both were so popular, but because there was so much of it around it wasn’t worth anything on the secondary market. Then the market crashed and things changed. The trading card market may not have crashed like the video game market did, but the companies realized they needed to change up things.
    I don’t have deep pockets, but I do enjoy collecting and I wait for the day my daughters are old enough to enjoy this hobby more. I’ve already hooked my 2 year old on the Panini Hello Kitty stickers. Too bad they sold so well that I can’t find them anymore!
    My point is the hobby is alive and well. The whole landscape of card collecting has changed…for the better or worse, but people are buying, collecting, trading and talking about cards again.

  21. Was a long time collector with my pops that have cards from Cap Anson to Ken Griffey Jr… was on a 20, year haitus and got the bug back opening a pack at Target. Slowly building my modern collection now and bought cards on the internet from Austria to Hong Kong to Australia; never did that when I was a kid. I dropped more money in a day now, then I did cumulatively combined when I was a kid, now that I make my own lunch money. I’m sure there are many like me that are getting back into it. Sure its an older crowd, but we are the ones with purchasing power and who do you think we will give our cards to. My son is going to either be really lucky, or a rising star on ebay. Hope it’s the former… =)

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