The AJ's celebrated Episode 50 of the Card Authority Podcast, and I thought it would be interesting to reflect and delve back into the boys FIRST ever episode! Assuming that not many of you were introduced to trading cards prior to 2020, I highly recommend going back and listening to Episode 1, as not only is it a good introduction to the world of card collectables, but it truly shows how far we've come as a developing hobby. Some things have changed, some have stayed the same. So how does the AFL trading card hobby landscape look three years into the future? Let's find out!
How AFL Trading Cards Have Stayed The Same?
Market Built On Trust : Something that I think will never waiver, no matter how far trading cards evolve, this market will always be built on trust. As soon as people are unable to trust one another, or even card manufacturers, it's game over. It's a wild concept to explain to a complete outsider that within the span of a new release, you could realistically be transferring $1,000's of dollars to people you've never met. And for the most part, it doesn't really come with any added stress. If you're a part of trusted Facebook groups, we expect both parties to successfully hold up their ends of the bargain without question.
'What's The Next Chase?' : 'Janks' said it best... Collectors are addicted to the chase! Being able to put a full stop on a long-time trading card goal, or finishing a difficult chase, gives us the same dopaminergic satisfaction similar to completing other big milestones in our lives. Whilst long-term collectors are excited to see how Select have upped the ante with their trading cards come release time, the excitement also lies with the fact there's something new to accomplish. It's human nature to collect spanning across many generations, so it's unsurprising to find that our desperate desire to continually chase new trading cards has not only remained, but arguably strengthened.
The 'Human Element' : Thanks to the continued progression of social media, and the different types of people which are now utilising these platforms, collectors are more connected to each other than ever! While human nature is what draws people to the trading card hobby, it's the interactions and the forming of relationships that keeps them here. Whilst times are slightly different, where bonds were formed by helping one another complete sets, the focus has shifted more towards 'buyer and seller' relationships and different dynamics of helping people acquire the desire for their collection. However the root cause remains, this hobby wouldn't be a hobby if there weren't the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals is what enhances people's enjoyment.
Collector Identity : While collecting styles are less concrete compared to the landscape of 2020, for the most part collectors align themselves with a certain sub-group of collectors, providing them with a certain 'collector identity'. At the end of the day, AFL trading card collectors are tribal. There's a reason why our market is designed differently to that of overseas hobbies, and while there is definitely growth in other areas of the market, positioning your collection within a certain team or player is a part of the fabric of AFL trading cards. As I opened with, collector styles are becoming more fluid as time rolls on, however it seems as though collectors are adding different cards to their repertoire, as opposed to flat out replacing them.
Different Price-Points For Different Collectors : Sometimes I think that collectors including myself are culprits to being too 'hobby product' focused. In order for trading cards to continue to the next generation, Select have to provide an accessible and affordable product to "blood" a new wave of collectors to eventually form part of the hobby market. And while we marvel at how far Series 2 and premium releases have come in short succession, it's also important to recognise the importance of continuing to develop Selects flagship product 'Footy Stars', which has seen just as much growth in the same period.
How AFL Trading Cards Have Changed?
Collecting Stigma : I'm not too well versed on this issue, considering I joined trading cards during a 'boom' period. But from what I can gather,, the old adage of 'grown men (or women) playing with cardboard' seems to be moving into the rear view mirror, as non-hobbyists are gaining a greater appreciation for trading cards. Whether that's peoples views organically changing, the rise (and fall) of cryptocurrency and NFT's, or increased publicity from the mainstream media, there's much less outside judgment in the space. If anything, I find it to be an engaging conversation topic that's often led by my friends, as opposed to being personally driven. The reduction in stigma could help reconnect past time collectors who fell in love with their hobby of choice as children, or conversely be a hobby that is transferred from childhood straight into early adulthood.
Collector Tiers : If you have been around AFL trading cards for long enough, you'd probably begin to get an understanding as to why some teams' trading cards are worth more than others. Listening to Episode 1 of Card Authority, the AJ's talked about a distinct difference between Collingwood and Richmond trading cards in comparison to the rest of the competition. Due to a combination of fanaticism and supporter bases, collecting tiers develop which provide a rough guideline to card values. Well three years on the landscape look a bit different. Carlton and Essendon, plus the leagues flavor of the day (usually the most recent premiership team), join Richmond and Collingwood at the top of the collecting tree. The increasing popularity of subsets like 'Rookie Cards' and 'Draft Pick Signatures' have created more fluidity with card values, with the hobby recently experiencing particular North Melbourne rookie cards, a club with a relatively small collector base, selling for in excess of $1,000. Prior to Legacy 2023, this was relatively unheard of., but potentially is a sign of things to come as more people dabble in the area of 'speculation'.
'Unicorn Hunting' : A staple of the Card Authority Podcast for many episodes was 'Unicorn Hunting', where the AJ's tried to acquire cards submitted by viewers which seemed elusive or "didn't exist". However due to increased awareness of the industry, product distribution channels and more active participants than ever before, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a genuine "unicorn". Long gone are the days where Series 2 releases sit on Selects website for years, starving the market of singles and particularly the rarer cards. Product is being ripped at rapid rates upon release, further accelerated by the 'SCC', and the increased usage of Facebook groups has led to more cards being listed for sale. So instead of being physically unable to find a particular card, most of the time the mission is finding the particular card at the price you're comfortable acquiring it for.
Market Ceiling : This is probably the biggest change to the trading card hobby, which influences the various other intricacies of the market. At the time of recording, Jankie discussed being in a year-long eBay stand-off over a card priced close to the $2,000 range. He refused to pay that amount for that particular card, and regardless of the details of said card, it highlights a big change in the market. While the overall ceiling of trading cards hasn't exploded, it's not surprising to see $3,000 transactions, whereas only a few years ago deals of that magnitude would be considered very rare. So while we haven't seen a $100k sale by any means, the overall market ceiling on individual cards has definitely risen. While this can have differing effects to different types of collectors, I think more than anything it just highlights how great the surge in demand for a domestic product has truly been.
Listen to Card Authority Episode #1 in FULL below! 👇
So with all that being said, if we ran this article again in another 3 years, what do you think will be the next big change to the AFL trading card hobby?