The Baseball Card Bubble - When Will it Burst?
November 4, 2010
by William Szczepanek
We've seen bubbles of all kinds in the last decade - the dot-com bubble - the stock market bubble - the housing bubble. In the economic sense they can be termed speculative bubbles, financial bubbles or price bubbles. Overall, it means the trade of products with inflated values. Bubbles are often caused by excessive expansion. Are you starting to get the picture? The commoditization of baseball cards began slowly in the 1970s and then increased rapidly in the mid-1980s, when kids bought cards and quickly checked the price guides to verify the return on their investments.
Expansion in the number of baseball card producers in the 1980s, caused the prices of those commodities to plummet. Cards prices from that time have never recovered. Since then we have seen a continual rise in the number of cards produced and the number of sets to choose from. Kids got out of the market when they got burned in the early 1990s as values dropped. The kids never returned, but have instead been replaced by adults who have more money to invest and who can afford to lose it.
So, when will this crash happen? Since there is still a slight conflict between the value of the baseball card as a commodity and the value of a card from a altruistic viewpoint, it will happen when the real value transfers to the commodity. Is a piece of cardboard from the 1950s the same as a piece of cardboard from the 2010s? No. There are fewer of the cards from the 1950s and they represent years of buying and selling data keeping. Why is the T206 Honus Wagner card worth millions? Because someone has millions of dollars to spend on something that's somewhat unique. It will probably continue to go up in value as long as the rich get richer.
The demise of baseball cards will happen the same way that buggy whips and typewriters have become obsolete, and how, now, newspapers are sliding into oblivion. There will be new things to replace newspapers, like digital magazines and the Internet, but most importantly, the mind is changing.
Yes, our minds are literally changing. The connections are being rewired. It is now much harder for us Internet-savvy beings to think linearly. It's harder to read a novel without losing track of the story. The capacity to concentrate is disappearing. What we used to ogle, we now Google. The long gaze is gone, replaced by the quick glimpse; then something new needs to be examined. The Internet and video game software have created an experience that is changing how we think. The virtual world is a new world that some adults are not yet fully immersed in. But kids have grown up with computers, cell phones and image-fixating devices that have forced their minds to work differently. The mind now becomes restless more quickly. It needs to be fed like the Web feeds it.
At some point looking at and holding a cardboard baseball card will not generate feelings or responses in the brain that are adequate for people to desire that experience. At that point in time all baseball cards not encased in plastic will turn to dust. The end is near. Are you prepared? Then, into what form will the baseball card morph? Digital? Holographic? Imaginary?
Someday we will say, "The baseball card is dead. Long live the baseball card."