There has been a lot of talk about the rising prices in signed sports memorabilia, especially in relation to signed football helmets and I hear people talking supply and demand like professional economists when these concepts have very little to do with this hobby and business. We are not selling widgets, in fact, we are not selling anything tangible. We are selling spots. So, we are not retailers. Stop acting like it.
THE REAL STORY
The breaking/razzing community is so small that we have become a BARTER economy. A small village of addicts trading helmets like bread and water, until everyone in the community is so tired of what they're regurgitating that an outsider brings in a Speed Flex doughnut and now all people want is doughnuts. It's insanity. Soon doughnuts won't suffice, and Brady will start signing jelly-filled doughnuts and then only the jelly will do. Ridiculous example? Nope.
I can remember our first series. It was filled with (aghast) replicas! Plain ole white bread. People ate them up. They were cheap, they were filling, and the hunger was abated. Then someone won a Proline and holy hell, white bread was out. This progression happens so fast from winning a replica to dropping hundreds a week for a chance at a Brady Speed Flex that the hobby is not a hobby, and maybe it never was. It's an addiction. I can remember my first experience with the opposite sex. First base was something so desired that we adolescent boys spent all our free time figuring out how to get there, and once you were there, it was second base or nothing. Once you rounded second and third, and finally hit a home run, the thrill was gone. The thrill is gone, and we are soon to follow.
Major Problems to Fix Now!
1) Stop the cannibalism. Customers are becoming breakers faster than we can buy our next series. The temptation is great. You watch a break room sell a hundred helmets a week, many that you paid for, and think, "I can do this!" So, you do. You start out by putting in helmets from break wins, and then compliment those with more expensive helmets. HEADLINERS! Then you drum up support from the break rooms where you spent money and then feed off of those for a while. The Empire Guys always promote other rooms, but this is to support customers. It is not to create a war for customers. NEW CUSTOMERS ARE A MUST!
2) Sell the hobby, not your room. Despite my recommendation to stop the cannibalism I simply despise when people yell "poacher." Hoarding customers to yourself is fear-based. This tells me YOU are not doing enough to sell yourselves or to further the hobby. You are about you, and this is a problem. NEWS FLASH!! Your customers are not loyal to you because they're too stupid to realize there are other break rooms. If they come in your room or participate in your razz, it's a choice. Be fearless. Sell the hobby, tell everyone you know.
3) Diversify and differentiate. Whether you want to believe this or not, you are in business. What are you doing to set yourself apart? Are you pushing the envelope of product offerings, price, service? Are you just riding the coattails of another room? Be honest with yourself. The fact is that there are way too many break rooms and razzes. Most won't make it, and this is a major reason. It's impossible not to copy some things of other rooms, but set yourself apart, or your business is dead.
4) Pricing and elitism are killing the newbie. Our community is small, too small in fact to sustain the number of breakers and razz rooms. The bubble is about to burst, and many will fall victim to being their worst enemy. Pricing is out of control. The newbie (your potential new customer) sees their favorite player's signature on a helmet in a razz room and does the quick math. 100@$25, and they become disheartened. $2500 for a Mahomes, they think, and then go back to Amazon to spend their money on a Chiefs jersey. It's what they can afford. If you think this doesn't exist, you're wrong. We had a break series going with 20 items that cost us nearly $20,000. The line was 20@$60 and we had luxury watches, purses, unicorn autographs...and a Playstation listed. I can't tell you how many comments we got that said, "You're selling a PlayStation for $1200???" This of course is ludicrous when you consider any helmet break with a Brady is going to have a Lem Barney every now and then, but nobody says, "You're charging $640 for a Lem Barney??" The mentality is completely different when you are razzing. The customer KNOWS what they're potentially going to win, and they can do math. Simple.
In addition to the pricing issues, there is a real elitism coming from the customer side that is very discouraging to growing our community. Like I said in the beginning, good ole bread and water are still the staple foods for most civilizations. Doughnuts are treats. The replica, which is indeed the gateway for the new customer, is being shunned like Trump 2020. This is ELITISM and it stems from the need for bigger thrills. You win $100 at Caesar's in a slot machine and then you're never satisfied again until you win more. Read that again. YOU are never satisfied again. Letting the addiction to the thrill of winning "bigger and better" is destroying our hobby. This need is unquenchable. Soon the Speed Flex will be today's Proline and spots will be $200/division and only those with large disposable incomes will be customers.
5) Communities that do not grow become ghost towns. The new customer is our saving grace. Making a safe, inviting environment for those customers is our mandate. Right now, we are headed toward a caustic atmosphere of complainers and hustlers who have one agenda. Themselves. This reminds me of the first time I encountered the Jazz community in my hometown. For many of them, it's JAZZ or nothing, and any other type of music is beneath them and not worth their time. If you play country, or pop, or rock, you're not as good and have no place being on the same stage. Elitism. They should be preaching the beauty of music and the joy it brings, as we should be doing with collecting. We need customers that are building PC's and not a break series. This means you as a breaker and razzer have a responsibility to lead the charge for enthusiasm. Do not discourage those entering the hobby. If you hate replicas, fine, keep it to yourself. Don't let your jaded opinion close the door on the newbie. You were new once, so find a good experience and replicate that for the beginner. People should not be excluded from this hobby and your business, because of their financial status.
In closing, the future of our hobby is on our shoulders. There is light ahead, but we must gather the troops and make an inviting place in this community so we can grow and become a city. Otherwise, get ready to move.