Strasburg Mania Not A Hobby Catastrophe

(“Collectors Corner” by Rich Mueller, Managing Editor of Sports Collectors Daily) –Yet another 2010 Bowman 1-1 Stephen Strasburg rookie card is up on eBay this week.  For collectors of vintage baseball cards, it may not even elicit a yawn.  “Manufactured rarities” don’t fly with those who prefer Sandy Koufax or Christy Mathewson.  The first card offered sold for over $16,000 and the second one, a ‘red autograph’ 1-1, will surpass that by quite a margin.

Veteran hobbyists will make fun of the hype around the still wet-behind-the-ears pitching phenom and the “poor suckers” who buy his cards.  Many will say it’s a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the hobby.  Sorry folks, that ship has sailed.  These cards are a part of the industry and they’re not going away.  Prospectors will prospect.  Some buyers will spend their money on what amounts to a very expensive lottery ticket. 

So what.

The media interest in the first Strasburg card was more free publicity than the industry could ever buy.  The winning bidder was once a card collector who is now back in the hobby because he saw a national story on the auction.  It’s clear he has some disposable income.  Maybe his next purchase will be a Mantle rookie card or a 1965 Topps set.  Who cares what the guy collects?  And there are, no doubt, more like him.

Some will see the auction and agree with the assessment that it’s a roll of the dice.  They may do some online research and decide that high grade pre-War Hall of Famers is where they’d like to enter the hobby.  Maybe they aren’t interested in Strasburg’s cards, but they choose to start an autograph or game-used collection for themselves or their kids.  Others know the odds of getting one of those cards are small, but they’re still willing to buy new boxes just for the fun of it.  Guess what?  That’s another new customer for someone and the hobby needs as many of those as it can get.

We tend to believe that those who aren’t serious collectors are gullible rubes who will buy anything based on hype.  That’s not so.  The public has more access to research than ever before and most people will decide for themselves what they want to buy or which auctions in which to participate.  The most important part is that they take action and if it’s a hot, new rookie card that serves as the call to action, that’s something the hobby as a whole should be happy about.

Rich Mueller is the editor of Sports Collectors Daily (http://www.sportscollectorsdaily.com), an online news aggregator for the hobby.  The site offers fresh content every day, gleaned from industry and mainstream media sources.