In a word – yes. In another word – absolutely. If the National only has vintage cards, the National is little more than an antique store. With modern cards come new products, innovation, and change. The National becomes an event and newsworthy. (This is really a continuation of my post from yesterday.)
The Beckett blog had a post about making the National into Comic-Con. Comic-Con is huge. The exhibition part of Comic-Con is just of piece of the full show. What else happens at Comic-Con? Previews – previews of movies, games, shows, and products. It is the entertainment industry. Entertainment is huge, so Comic-Con is huge.
Why can’t the National be the same way? Sports are entertainment. Sports are not as big as Hollywood, but they are plenty big. The National could tie into all kinds of announcements and events. This past weekend was the Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the Hall of Fame exhibition game in Akron (about an hour outside of Cleveland). If the National is in Cleveland, they should find a way to tie into those events. The NFL is a monster now. Take advantage of it. (Tieing into sports is more than holding the National in a city that happens to have a home baseball series.) Madden 11 was released on Monday. Get EA Sports to do their release at the National. Does ESPN have any projects in the works? Could they be announced at the National? (You know that ESPN would hype the National if ESPN was there. ESPN hypes everything.) The late July-early August NASCAR races don’t match well with National venues, but NASCAR has shown that they will move races to find new fans (just ask Atlanta). There are loads of possible tie-ins. Even companies like Nike and Under Armor might be interested. This should be about more than getting Topps and Upper Deck to do a little open house.
What does this have to do with modern cards? Everything. I don’t have any demographic data, but I’m guessing that the kind of person who collects modern cards (any sport) is exactly the type of person who does things like attend sporting events, play sports video games, and watch sports programming. Vintage collectors do those things too, but I think the average modern collector probably spends a little more impulsively. The modern card collecting demographic is a prized group, and merchandisers want their attention/money.
One dealer in the Beckett story was quoted as not wanting events at the National to pull people’s attention from the sales tables. Open your mind. If people spend 25% less time on the floor but you have 200% more people, then you come out ahead – big time. The goal is to increase traffic, and that kind of traffic is only possible if you get modern collectors to show up. If the broader sports fans show up too, then dealers will maybe find some new clients.
The cost of all this is that dealers would become a smaller piece of the National pie. (I doubt that exhibitors call the shots at Comic-Con.) Dealers would have to lose some of their control, and that might be too scary. If dealers are happy with what they are making now, then they may not be willing to change the National.