Archive for March, 2012
Tim Doull our Athlete Relations Manager came by yesterday and shared he expected we would be getting a package from Tiger Woods shortly and I told him to come over and get me when it comes in. We opened it together and marveled at the contents. We received Tiger’s tournament-worn red Nike shirt and hat from Sunday where he won the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
We marveled at how small the shirt was, but how big Tiger looks on television as of late. I guess a small shirt is a reason why. What was really cool about the package is that Tiger left on the duck pin that he wore during the event.
If you watched the tournament, you may have wondered what these duck pins were that so many golfers were wearing. They are wearing them in support of fellow golfer Jarrod Lyle who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Lyle is just 31, but he was initially diagnosed with the disease when he was 17 years old. This month he found out it returned and began chemotherapy treatments. Lyle has a duck headcover on his driver so golfers are hoping these lucky duck pins will help bring Lyle some luck, or at least lift his spirits as he goes through treatment.
The shirt and hat will be signed by Tiger in the coming weeks and then offered up through Upper Deck’s Suite One-of-One program. This memorable piece of history will surely become the prized item of the collector lucky enough to capture it.
Most college basketball fans are still lamenting over their busted brackets, but almost everyone is excited for the match-ups in the Final Four. With Ohio State set to take on Kansas and Louisville preparing to take on Kentucky, there is a lot of excitement in New Orleans as the Final Four is set to tip off this Saturday. As the official trading card of the NCAA®, Upper Deck plans on being a big part of the weekend festivities engaging fans at Bracket Town. The fun is scheduled to take place Friday, March 30 through Monday, April 2 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA.
Upper Deck will have a variety of trading card and memorabilia products for sale at the corporate booth and with any purchase of a $1 pack, fans can get in the game at the Personalized Trading Card Station. UD will have jerseys from each of the Final Four teams on hand along with a green screen where fans can go through the experience of having their own personalized trading card made. When the photo shoot is over, fans can take home their very own Upper Deck collectible card. Upper Deck will have three stations running at the corporate booth throughout the entire show.
With any purchase of $19.99 or more, fans can score a commemorative card Upper Deck produced exclusively for Bracket Town featuring Grant Hill, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird limited to just 250 total copies. There will be some great sales items as well including a Michael Jordan print signed by artist Shepard Fairey for only $99 (regularly $300).
There will be a variety of free activities as well including trivia contests and pack wars where fans can score great prizes from Upper Deck. Additionally the Upper Deck crew will be handing out some complimentary cards from the company’s new World of Sport product. We look forward to seeing you at Bracket Town, don’t miss it!
A recent piece done by reporter Armen Keteyian on CBS Sunday Morning this last weekend has a variety of industry leaders up in arms objecting to this one-sided look at the trading card industry. Keteyian spent some time at a trading card show in New Jersey and reported that the industry is on the brink of death. I couldn’t be less worried. I heard the same thing in 2009 when Sports Illustrated produced a similar piece. I have seen lazy reporting like this before. Back then I put out a story refuting those claims, not realizing all the exciting new things that could happen in less than three years. It is interesting to look back at that now and I’m inspired by what is still to come for the industry.
The business certainly is different than it was in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. It had a boom, but it is not on the brink of death. If anything, it has stabilized over the last year in particular and is actually poised for growth. There are a variety of encouraging signs and for those of you who were panicked by Keteyian’s story, I hope to put your fears to rest. Here is my NEW Top Ten Reasons Why I Know the Sports Card Industry will be Fine:
10. YouTube – Sports card shows like the one Keteyian visited are dying off not because collectors are gone, they are just changing the way they collect opting for the convenience of opening cards in their home in some cases. They still share their experience with the product however through YouTube. In 2009 I shared that if you search YouTube for “Upper Deck Box Breaks” you would find approximately 15,000 videos. Today that number has almost doubled. Collectors are producing videos where they open packs, boxes and cases then sharing what they get online. And the most interesting part is that other collectors watch these videos. Many of these videos have thousands of views and all they consist of in most cases is a pair of hands and trading cards.
9. Diversification – Manufacturers realize that in order to reach new fans and collectors it is important to diversify the subject matter for trading card releases. At Upper Deck we still produce trading cards of baseball, football, basketball and hockey players, but we have expanded our offerings to trading cards of soccer, golf, MMA, boxing, lacrosse, surfing and other extreme sports that interest sports fans.
Additionally in some of our new trading card sets like Goodwin Champions, we have had tremendous success with producing non-traditional cards that are extremely collectible. Who would have thought Animal Patch trading cards and Entomology cards that include real insects would be popular with collectors? But they have and routinely sell for double and even triple digits. These quirky and weird cards are helping to create fun stories about our industry and bring new collectors in.
8. The Las Vegas Industry Summit – There was a time when this annual trade show comprised of the industry’s top trading card shops really was on the brink of death. It was held in Hawaii and it became increasingly more difficult for retailers and manufacturers to jet out there for this annual event. It has been resuscitated by a gentleman named Kevin Isaacson who, along with his team, have made it an extremely relevant show that serves to educate and inspire shop owners and manufacturers on how we can make this hobby better. If we are approaching “the likely death of a national pastime” as Keteyian asserts, then what are all these small business owners doing here?
7. The Upper Deck Volunteer Alliance – In 2010 Upper Deck created the Volunteer Alliance program. As we engaged more with collectors through social media, we found there was a core group of passionate collectors who wanted to work to make this hobby better. We decided to mobilize them and we routinely use them as a resource to help get the word out about new programs. These collectors are eternal optimists who are inspired to use all the resources they can to help make the hobby better, and Keteyian would be surprised to know that many of them are younger collectors.
6. Improved Distribution – Last year Upper Deck changed the way we distribute our products to help eliminate a gray market that was emerging. We felt it was important to partner with the right distributors and only sell to brick and mortar retailers. It was not fair to have new Upper Deck product get into the hands of online resellers or show dealers who do not operate with the same overhead as brick and mortar retailers so Upper Deck decided to level the playing field there. This is likely one of the reasons the show Keteyian visited is struggling. With this change however, we are seeing more shops setting up at shows like the National. With these changes retailers compete less on price and more on service. The results have been incredibly positive for Upper Deck and our network of Certified Diamond Dealers and Authorized Internet Retailers.
5. National Hockey Card Day – National Hockey Card Day is one of the many things that I believe is good and right with this industry. It is a program where fans can go to their local hobby shop and get a FREE pack of Upper Deck Hockey Cards. This season we brought the program to the United States for the first time ever and we were really pleased with the response. It will be back in 2013 and it serves as a fun way to get trading cards in the hands of kids and sports fans that may not normally collect.
4. Cards2Kids – One of the most disturbing parts of Keteyian’s story was the last sound bite from one of the show dealers he interviewed who said flatly, “Kids don’t care.” Well I’m here to tell you that they do and Upper Deck is proud to be helping to support one of them. John Makowiec is a high school kid who does care about trading cards and also getting them in the hands of other kids who may not have the opportunities to collect. He started a charity called Cards2Kids and it has grown leaps and bounds since their inception. They have collected over one million cards that they donate to children’s hospitals and Boys & Girls Clubs. John’s story is really inspirational, but I doubt Armen has a feature planned on him. Positive stories like this don’t get ratings.
3. Stability – In 2009 I shared that we worked with 1,200 active sports cards shops in the United States and 300 in Canada. We were in the midst of a terrible recession and the Sports Illustrated story said that shops were dying off at an alarming rate. I am pleased to share that is not the case. Today we work with over 1,100 active sports shops in the United States and close to 400 in Canada. There are many more shops still out there as well that do not work direct with Upper Deck. These small businesses not only survived the recession, but have grown in Canada thanks to a very healthy hockey card market. New shops are actually springing up which leads me to the next point.
2. Growth – Over the last year our hobby sales team has received over 200 emails about opening a hobby shop and working with Upper Deck. This is largely a result of the distribution change we made where those looking to start their own small business are coming to realize there is money to be made in operating a store. We had so many inquiries we realized we need to do a better job of providing information on how to open a trading card shop. This is why we recently began a series on our blog featuring industry experts on how to do just that. By providing these small business owners the information they need to be successful, I’m excited to see what this industry might look like three years from now when the next negative story comes out on our industry.
1. Innovation – It is one of the cornerstones of what we do here at Upper Deck. We are pressing the envelope about what a trading card is by continuing to produce some of the most innovative cards in the industry. In 2009 I never realized all the amazing innovations we would have hit the market between then and now. Here are just some of the cards that show how we are taking trading cards to the next level here at Upper Deck. For us it is important to continue to capture the imagination and interest of collectors and ultimately bring them closer to the game.
Evolution Video Cards – Yes, there are actually trading cards now that feature video highlights of your favorite players including Michael Jordan. Upper Deck launched Evolution video cards in 2011 Upper Deck Football and the basketball versions recently released in World of Sport.
Booklet cards – One of the biggest problems for innovating a trading card is you run out of space really quick. Well Upper Deck has put out some amazing booklet cards the last couple seasons that expand to show some amazing content in releases like Exquisite and SP Legendary Cuts Baseball.
Museum Collection – Originally released in 2011 Goodwin Champions, the Museum Collection cards are basically shadow boxes housing extremely rare materials. In 2012 Goodwin Champions the Museum Collection cards will have a Civil War theme that should be extremely compelling.
Exquisite Dimension – These cards are not out yet and this mock up really doesn’t do them justice because they are basically 3-dimensional cards that house the athlete’s signature on clear acetate at an angle. The autograph appears to be floating in air. These are truly show stoppers and they should dazzle collectors when they are discovered in packs this summer.
So is this “house of cards” about to topple? Not at Upper Deck. We are poised to continue innovating and engaging our customers. And as I shared last time, trading cards will go on. There is something indescribable about the bond between a father and child where fond sports memories are intertwined with that 2½-by-3½ trading card. There is something wonderful about trying to stop your hands from shaking after you open a pack of Upper Deck cards and discover an autograph card of your favorite player. It’s an experience to some, an investment to others, a business to the rest, but everyone with an affinity for the hobby got involved with it because it’s fun. And industries that provide their consumers with fun are not going anywhere. They are here to stay.
As part of our continuing series on how to open a trading card shop, we spent some time with Angelo Exarhakos from Universal Distribution. Take a listen as he provides some tips to be successful in this industry as a shop owner and about how Universal Distribution can help a new shop.
Angelo has a fair amount of experience with insurance and why that is important for a trading card shop owner. Take a listen to what he had to share on that subject:
CloutsnChara is a hobby shop in Kitchener, Ontario that works through Universal Distribution. I asked their owner Geoff Connolly to share some follow up questions we had:
Question: Why is planning so important before opening your store?
Geoff at CloutsnChara: “Planning is essential because you have to know what direction you want your business to go. I have always been a big believer of ‘evolve or die’ and planning out your routes, contacts and what you want to achieve will get you there. It is important to plan for the unexpected as well. Currently our store is open from 10 a.m. to Midnight every day of the week which is 98 working hours per week. You have to have complete dedication in your job and the will to keep improving, learning and building as you get started in this business.”
Question: They say location is important, what are things a new shop owner should look at in terms of location?
Geoff at CloutsnChara: “Location is quite important for any business, but especially for this industry. It is important to be in a market where there are teams and interest in sports if you want to open a trading card shop. We are currently one hour away from the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors and Argos. Having those teams playing year round keeps the buzz going for our business as well.
“Also, when it comes to location you want to know if there are other shops in the area. It is probably not a very good idea to open a shop right on top of another shop that has an established clientele. It is very difficult to win over collectors from an established shop. It is important to work with shops in the area if you can however. Creating a mutually beneficial relationship with them where you are sending customers to each other is a great thing.”
Question: How do you find good employees?
Geoff at CloutsnChara: “Unfortunately there is no specific formula to find ‘good’ employees. What we have found successful is to find fellow collectors and bring them to the other side of the counter. Having staff that can relate to your customer and guide them to the correct product they are looking for it is really important.”
Question: There can be negativity in this industry. Why is it important to protect your customers from that negativity and keep things positive in the shop?
Geoff at CloutsnChara: “This is very true, there is can be an incredible amount of negativity in this industry, but it is our job to show the positives about it. We won’t always be able to keep our customers happy, but it is important to remember why we love this hobby. Waking up to realize I love going to work each day and there is real growth opportunity in this industry give me tons of energy that I try to pass on. I have been very fortunate to build some great contacts over the last few years and it has opened my eyes up greatly. It has also made me realize that our hobby is going in a positive direction. That is important to share with our customers. And if the customers are happy, they are more likely to spend their hard earned money with you.”
Question: Why is working through a partner like Universal Distribution important?
Geoff at CloutsnChara: “Not only do they provide a great assortment of products, but the service we get from Universal is second to none. Unfortunately in our industry distributors are rarely recognized for all their hard work, service, advice, etc. They are an incredibly resource for hobby shop owners. Working with Universal Distribution for Cloutsnchara has been our best decision we have had made as of yet.”
Looking for more information on how to open up a trading card shop of your own? Check out other stories on how to open up a shop here:
The information provided in this story is for assistance only and is not intended to be and must not be taken alone as the basis for an investment decision. Opening a trading card store, like any other business, presents certain risks for the business owner. Each reader of this information should make such investigations as it deems necessary to arrive at an independent evaluation of an investment.
Collectors flock to Toronto in the fall and spring for the Sports Cards & Collectibles Expo. We had a great time at the event in the fall and we have some big plans in store for collectors when we return to Toronto on May 4, 5 and 6 for the show.
Upper Deck will have great items on display and free raffles throughout the weekend as we have done in the past. The Priority Signings wrapper redemption program will return where fans in attendance who purchase a box of 2011 NHL Parkhurst Champions, 2011-12 NHL Black Diamond, 2011-12 NHL Upper Deck Series Two or 2011-12 NHL SP Game-Used from a Certified Diamond Dealer at the show will receive a voucher. They can bring that voucher to the Upper Deck booth at specified times where they can exchange it, along with the wrappers from the box for a random 2012 NHL Priority Signings autograph card for FREE!
The checklist for the Spring Expo is strong with players like Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Carey Price and Steven Stamkos adding their signatures to the set. You can also find autographs from retired stars like Eric Lindros, Jean Beliveau and Wayne Gretzky in the 2012 NHL Priority Signings set. There will also be rare variations of some of the top players in the set as we have done in years prior to add a higher level of collectability.
We will be revealing a special promotion for case breakers as well for the show in the coming weeks. Below are the hours for the Priority Signings program:
Friday, May 4 – 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 5 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 6 – 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Another BIG addition to the Spring Expo is that Upper Deck will fulfill redemptions for customers at the show for the first-time ever. If you have outstanding redemptions with Upper Deck and would like to have them fulfilled or exchanged and available to pick up at the show, we will offer that service to you. To take part in picking up your outstanding redemptions and replacements at the Upper Deck Booth you need to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title “2012 NHL Spring Expo Redemption Program.” In the body of the email, please cut and paste the code and description of the card(s) you would like fulfilled or exchanged. In twenty words or less, describe the type of replacements you would like to receive focusing more on teams, regions and brands you are interested in rather than particular players if the card is not in stock. If you do not provide the information exactly as described, we will not be able to honor your request so make sure you take the time to get us exactly what we need in the format requested to help.
As this is a new program, we will only be able to assist with a finite amount of customers who are interested in participating. We will share with fans once we cannot accept any additional requests. To pick up your cards during the show you will need to provide a government issued identification and sign for them in person. Only the actual card owners can pick up the cards, so you cannot pick up items for a friend. Hours for pick-up are listed below:
Friday, May 4 – 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 5 – 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
If you do not think you can be at the show on Friday, May 4 or Saturday, May 5, we ask that you do not request this service. Additionally, if you fail to pick your cards up, you will not be able to request this service in the future and there could be additional delays in getting these cards to you.
Personally I am incredibly excited to be able to bring this service to show. I have talked to a lot of dealers and collectors at this show throughout the years who have indicated they wish they could have had their redemption cards for the show. Now they can. Redemption cards are seen as a poor customer experience and we hope that by putting this program together we can provide a heightened level of service for our loyal collectors.
Look for more details on the 2012 Spring Sports Cards & Collectibles Expo in the coming weeks!
Disclaimer: Priority Signings wrapper redemption cards are available one per customer, per day. Customers must purchase products from a Certified Diamond Dealer at the show in order to receive a voucher. Priority Signings cards are limited and we will run out of them. Make sure to get to the Upper Deck booth early in order to receive your card.