Hobby Hotspot | Tracking the Hobby’s Monthly Trends

February 2024 Trends in The Hobby

Date: Mar 7, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: Hobby Hotspot, How To Collect, The Hobby
Length: 899 Words
Reading Time: ~5 Minutes

Welcome to the inaugural column from RIPPED senior writer Greg Bates. Each month, he’ll examine The Hobby’s current and emerging trends and offer expert opinions on all things collecting.

February was a fun month to be involved in The Hobby.

In particular, it was great to be a baseball fan. With 2024 Topps Series 1 dropping on Valentine’s Day, love filled the air with Elly De La Cruz rookie cards, Shohei Ohtani in a Dodgers uniform, a special insert set of the Kid, and even celebrity Kevin Hart making a “small” appearance.

What really resonated with me over the last few weeks is that the Flagship product release is almost like a second Christmas for baseball card nuts. It’s tradition. It’s Americana. The set holds a special place in collectors’ hearts, especially for father Barry and his son Ryan Alick. I talked to the enthusiastic duo a week and a half before Series 1 was released. You could tell in their voices that the Flagship brings immense joy to their lives. Product release is something the guys anxiously await all year. The Alicks celebrate release day — like it should be recognized as a national holiday, similar to Festivus — every year by getting together and ripping jumbo boxes all day. Man, that sounds pretty sweet.  

Collectors’ habits for Series 1 run a gamut of directions. Some piece together an entire set. Others will patiently wait for the factory set to be released. Some will pick up team sets. Others will go after the players with the coveted “RC” plastered on the front of the card. There’s not a wrong way to collect Series 1. Just have fun.

As a kid embedded in the middle of the card craze of the late 1980s/early 1990s, Topps was always my go-to product. It was a routine I got accustomed to, heading to the grocery store for a couple of packs or making a special trip to a hobby shop after school. The first set I remember hand-collating was 1986 Topps. The black and white borders with the prominent color-matched team name at the top of the card is a fascinating design. It’s burned in my memory. Growing up in Minnesota, I was a diehard fan of the Minnesota Twins and an even bigger Kirby Puckett fan and collector. The ’86 Topps card of Puckett taking a mighty swing while wearing the Twins’ beautiful baby blue uniforms scratched me right where I itched.

My heavy collecting stage stretched until 1993. One set I cherished was ’89 Flagship. The 792-card set was a marathon to hand-collate. But I got it done. The main cards that have stood out to me for 35 years — has it really been that long?!?! — are the Future Stars of Gregg Jefferies and Gary Sheffield, as well as the #1 Draft Picks of Jim Abbott and Robin Ventura. That Ventura has always stuck with me. A few years before Ventura was nearly TKO’d by Nolan Ryan on a pitcher’s mound, he had this iconic card. I think it originally captured my attention because of the flashy, bright orange Oklahoma State University jersey Ventura was wearing.

Photo of the author’s PC.

That trip down memory lane leads me to this year’s Flagship product. With it being the 35th anniversary of the ’89 release, Topps took advantage of that opportunity. The 2024 Series 1 product includes inserts that use the 1989 design, which features a mix of current players and retired stars. Along with the base cards, there are parallel, Foilboard, and on-card autographed variations. While ripping some Series 1 packs a few days ago, I pulled a Byron Buxton ’89 base card. What a pretty-looking specimen.

I also really like the Celebration of the Kid inserts in Series 1. It’s a 24-card set featuring Ken Griffey Jr. in various action shots from the three teams he played for during his illustrious 22-year MLB career. Of course, Griffey’s first Topps card was in 1989 — acting as the focal point of the Traded set.

New direction in hobby shops

The Hobby is in a great place. That was utterly apparent by the collectors that showed up in droves at their local card shops on Topps Hobby Rip Night on February 24.

Over 400 stores nationwide participated in the second Rip Night event. Two shops showcasing their impressive new digs were CardsHQ in Atlanta and AA Mint Cards in Cooper City, Florida.

These two shops have been open for less than a month. They are the latest to grasp the concept of modernization in The Hobby — modeling their approach after Apple Stores. The shops feature state-of-the-art layout and design with heavy emphasis on customer service and easier customer access to such areas as card prices; this is just what is needed to keep The Hobby moving in the right direction.

Piece of the Game in Wappingers Falls, New York, and MINT Co., Ltd., in Japan are two shops that paved the way in modernizing the look and feel of hobby shops.

I love the new hobby shops. They are clean, easy to maneuver the show floor, and feature cool innovations. It’s the wave of the future.

Drop me a line at gbates@collectfanatics.com and let me know your favorite new hobby trends.

Fanatics Collectibles senior writer Greg Bates will write a monthly column exploring the trends of The Hobby. Prior to joining Fanatics, Bates was a freelance writer for Sports Collectors Digest for 10 years.

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