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The transformation of promo card collecting and selling
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Bronze Card Talk Member
Picture of promoking
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Over the last 3 decades, there have undeniably been very few card collectors who have devoted their efforts to mostly collecting promo cards and their related brethren. Until recently, this was mainly an arcane area to most except for the information gleaned from Todd Jordan's PCE, if they happened to own a copy, NSU magazine or Jeff Allender's site. Yet, as thorough as these informational venues attempt to be, none has catalogued the several thousand additional promo cards which exist even through 2008, the latest version of PCE. Jess Duran has made a valiant effort to keep the pictorial side of the hobby alive on this very platform. However, despite these individuals' efforts, promo card collecting had become moribund until its resurgence recently, but with a twist.

People's renewed interest in non sport cards exploded in early 2020 with Marvel cards taking the forefront followed by all kinds of autograph cards, sketch cards etc. Although these types of cards have seen drastic ups and down prices since then, they have not, as a whole, gone back down to pre-Covid prices. The majority are selling for substantially more than before 2020.


As someone who follows the hobby very closely, I have unfortunately noticed that there has not been a commensurate similar price increase, other than as described below, in the promo card space. I attribute this issue to the same reason that has existed ever since the first modern non sport promo card was originally printed in the late 1980s,early 1990s. There simply does not exist sufficient information concerning provenance, number of cards made, venue of distribution etc.. which translates into people simply not knowing about the existence of one card or another! If you don't know it exists, you can't be looking for it!


But As more collectors enter the non sport card fold, websites are popping up that specialize in a particular genre of non sport cards(I will not name them as there a myriad). These sites are populating their content with the name of every card, including the promos, for that franchise giving knowledge to the collector.

Therefore, this hobby has morphed into a different phase which should secure its future for generations. Although promo card collecting as a hobby has been in general decline, a surge of interest has developed in certain genres which have catapulted their value . Some are the usual culprits: Marvel, Star Wars etc.. but the fascinating thing is that there are obscure, once relegated to the back seat properties, which are now selling at multiples of their alleged values. As a promo card collector for the last 30 years, I never shied away from acquiring a card as long as it could be referred to as being promotional. As a result, I have amassed an eclectic assortment of non sport trading cards literally consisting of thousands of cards covering the gamut of the non sport card collecting world. Melty Misfits anyone? But a single promo pack for this product sold for over $100 a few months ago.


What I am noticing, is that when I list a card for sale on Ebay, for example, the eventual sale price has practically no relationship between the low/high prices listed in any non sport card publication, website or price guide. The prices are now guided by the popularity of a certain character, movie, event etc.. reflecting that currently, collectors' tastes are so amorphous. Which promo card is "in" this month(and my wishful thinking I had more to sell),to it becoming next month's pariah, is the new normal. I have listed an avowed scarce/rare promo card for 20%, not only of the common knowledge price among promo card collectors, but also the prices of the publications, and have had less than 5 views in three months and no buyers. Yet, I have had cards sell for multiples of those numbers within 48 hours after listing it, while originally thinking: if I get one bid I would be lucky. For promo card sales, it is literally the "flavor of the month" that governs the price. There is no rhyme or reason. The only guiding hand is to stay attentive to social networks, trends and the news to have successful sales.

The advantage of this development for promo card collectors is that regardless of which theme is "hot" at the moment, most of us collect promos across the board without prejudice against one type versus another and must become informed about every promo card issued during the era we collect, and the subject matter it covers, once we find it. As such, when the general card collector's interest in one franchise or collecting area wanes, usually another strong area of collecting emerges, which more likely has a promo card or cards attached to it, guaranteeing the promo card collector's, survival and longevity.


I also believe that within the next 5 years, promo cards are finally going to get their well deserved recognition in the non sport card universe. As more and more people are currently discovering that trading cards exist for their favorite TV show; movie; character etc.. it is inevitable that many will want the associated promo cards. I'm already seeing this trend emerging in the favored franchises(Marvel, Star Wars, Simpsons etc..). Also, there has been a marked increase lately in the sale of older promo cards on Ebay in the $1 to $3 range. This is a sign that more collectors are entering the non sports card arena and are completing their sets. Promo card only collectors most likely already have those common promos and acquired them long ago. It could also be newbie promo card collectors but I would be surprised. I've also noticed through my sales that more women are buying promo cards which gladdens me and could be an indication that they are finally discovering card collecting(Raven is a pioneer).


This hobby has changed so much since I fell in love with it 30 years ago. It used to be reserved for a few hardy souls who would exchange information in rarefied venues while attempting to ascribe a price to something that we knew had been free initially but about which there was mostly anecdotal information. Some were dollar cards back then, but those in the know were fast becoming aware of the scarcity of some promo cards and began to pay much more. Then, publications, and price guides were published which shed greater light on the subject. The listing information in those books is still invaluable for reference but the prices for promo cards are anachronistic. Today, there is a new measure for pricing promo cards and those values can change so much from month to month due to social trends and issues that any attempt to ascribe even an approximation of value is literally like "p.....g in the wind"!

This message has been edited. Last edited by: promoking,

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Posts: 975 | Location: Overseas | Registered: May 22, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The State of Promo Card Collecting, Summer 2022 Edition

Well-done, great info, and we'll see!

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Posts: 3147 | Location: California | Registered: December 23, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by promoking:
I also believe that within the next 5 years, promo cards are finally going to get their well deserved recognition in the non sport card universe. As more and more people are currently discovering that trading cards exist for their favorite TV show; movie; character etc.. it is inevitable that many will want the associated promo cards. I'm already seeing this trend emerging in the favored franchises(Marvel, Star Wars, Simpsons etc..). Also, there has been a marked increase lately in the sale of older promo cards on Ebay in the $1 to $3 range. This is a sign that more collectors are entering the non sports card arena and are completing their sets. Promo card only collectors most likely already have those common promos and acquired them long ago. It could also be newbie promo card collectors but I would be surprised. I've also noticed through my sales that more women are buying promo cards which gladdens me and could be an indication that they are finally discovering card collecting(Raven is a pioneer).


Congrats on your long-standing passion for promo cards and raising the awareness of them to other card collectors. You are after all the promoking! Thumb Up

And thanks for the mention. "Pioneer" may be overselling it, although I have been hanging around cards and autographs for quite a while now. Big Grin

I'm very happy to hear you say more women are coming into the card hobby. The past few years have slowed me down and I really wish I could get out there more and see things for myself. There are a lot more websites and Facebook groups, but that isn't the same as going to shows and shops and meeting fellow collectors and dealers. Some very good things have changed and they won't be coming back, but the present is where we live.

More women discovering these hobbies has been long overdue and even a small percentage increase would bring in a lot of new business. There are a few ladies who are Card Talk members for many years and post regularly. I won't name them because I don't want to omit anybody, but I would like more to join and more to post, more often. Society has changed in its broad ideas of gender identity and what patterns are acceptable to who. That is a big subject to chew on, but while hobbies like sports cards, comics and adult gaming have always been traditionally male centric, I never believed in the male voice or the female voice. It's just the collector's voice to me and everyone should be able to enjoy and discuss their interests and hobby experiences equally.

The expansion of non-sport cards to more women collectors, and by extension growth in promo cards and everything else that falls under the umbrella, should be welcomed and I hope your prediction for the next 5 years is accurate. Not simply because they are women, but because they are as knowledgeable and committed to the hobby segments that they follow as anyone else and because more collectors benefit all collectors.

Thank you for taking the time to keep contributing your expert knowledge to Card Talk so that we can all learn something. Smile

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Raven,
 
Posts: 9638 | Location: New York | Registered: November 20, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Interesting analysis, Albert. You might remember that time when Todd was putting together the first couple of editions/updates of PCE in the late 90's. Some collectors were actually against publishing "trade secrets" like the sources of various promos right down to the issue numbers of some magazines. I was all for Todd stuffing PCE with info. Yeah, it's true that it became harder for previous promo collectors to find more of the old stuff with newer people looking too but our hobby would not have grown to the extent it has without Todd and his creation. It probably kept some cards from going into the garbage.

However, with PCE2008 now out-of-print and no more recent editions, a lot of collectors have been left in the dark. Finding a copy of PCE2008 has become a challenge. Some sellers are asking more than $50 per copy. Beckett's Non-Sport Almanac is picking up some of the slack but it's still catching up in terms of listings and price updates. Allender's excellent site helps a lot too. Newer collectors looking for particular cards are starting to understand what's common, what's uncommon, and what's quite rare. And then there's that realization that what's rare doesn't always mean it's valuable and some things that haven't been that hard to find over the years have become in-demand.

Related to that, I'm thinking about that Brockum Rock Cards 20-card promo pack. You could find it for $15-20 even within the past two years but now it can sell for well over $100 or even over $200 because some singles from the pack have sold for over $20 each. I just saw that the Axl Rose card alone sold for $82 on July 12. He doesn't have a card in the regular set. Steven Tyler and other members of Aerosmith have cards in the promo set but not in the regular set so those cards, especially Tyler's, can sell for $15 each or more. As you know, the cards in the promo pack have a 1990 date and a holofoil stamp on the back while the regular cards have a 1991 date but no stamp.

Yes, the autograph and Marvel card craze propelled some Marvel chase cards and even base cards far beyond previous values and some promos enjoyed a jump in value (Marvel Comics Staff promos, some Marvel Universe promos, etc.) but it hasn't been the same kind of price explosion as a whole. Those Marvel Comics Staff cards were $5-10 cards with the Stan Lee #1 around $100 and now the average card goes for at least $20 each and the Stan Lee has sold a couple of times for around $300. We can celebrate those numbers but it can be sobering when we see Precious Gems cards having sold for more than some real precious gems in recent months. Promos just aren't performing at the same level. I think we should just count ourselves lucky that the hobby in general got some attention and even a boost during an uncertain time.

It's always been tricky picking what's going to sell and what's going to sit. Sometimes, the price is too high. I saw one of those Edenquest Anna Nicole Smith promos being offered for $100 last year. It's an uncommon card but I doubted it would go in that territory. It was still sitting earlier this year and then I saw another one sell for $30. That's a good jump from the $5-10 range it used to inhabit, telling me that collectors are getting a handle on what's rare but are not willing to stretch too far for something rather obscure.

There has been a general decline in promo collecting. Part of it is that we have lost some well-known collectors. Some have passed away - people known by their first names like Bill, Greta, and Fran. Others sold their collections and moved on to other things. There are some new people but they don't seem to be like you. They aren't looking for one of everything or almost everything. They fall in with the people who want just the promos that go with their regular sets or they specialize in Marvel or Star Wars or James Bond or other franchise. I don't know how many people are like me. I'm not hunting down one of everything but I also don't specialize. I'm sort of running around loose sampling from a lot of subjects with a taste for oddball stuff.

The promo world has changed over the years. I remember how cards were selling great right up to the recession of 2008. The card collecting hobby as a whole suffered then. Many hobbies suffered. People thinned out their collections or cashed out entirely. Recovery was slow, but between 2010 and 2020, it was a great time to look for cards. I found lots of bargains and not a lot of competition when something was up for auction. I got outbid relatively few times. Many cards (e.g. Sandman silver foil prototypes) started to bump back up toward where they were before 2008. The pandemic hit and that could have had a negative impact on collecting but many people stuck at home went back to old hobbies spending money once reserved for going out to restaurants or day-trips or going on vacation.

I think the future is bright too. Collectors like stuff that was only available for a short time and not meant to last. They like old advertising and the early 90's promos are officially vintage now. Who knows what the next thing to skyrocket in value will be. If we go to the moon again, maybe the space-related cards will make a giant leap. If there's a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, maybe the promos that have slipped into the basement will rise again. Something is going to break loose and you want to be there to see it.

Jess
 
Posts: 3663 | Location: San Jose, CA, USA | Registered: December 23, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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G'day Albert my friend. I trust Puerto Rico is giving you plenty of sun, warm sand and fresh sea breezes to fill in your days mate ?

A real insight to your thoughts on the promo card collecting hobby we love so much. Like you (I just did a quick calculation), Ive been in this amazing and sometimes daunting hobby for 30 years also and never tire of the hunt for our fav bits of promotional cardboard, and the information/provenance behind them. Like my career as a chef, I never stop learning and the face to face with collectors and dealers is always preferred over eBay, which is good but, to shake someone's hand, see a smile and have a chat, is what we all yearn for (I reckon, anyways) Thumb Up

I'm very happy to hear that more women are entering the collecting hobby, it's always been at the back of my mind, wondering if many women actively participate in Non-Sport Promo card collecting or card collecting in general ? Any women just starting in the hobby who want some promos to start them out or some information on what's available or it's original distribution, feel free to contact me. I'll try to help.

Albert, you may be right regarding the next 5 years of our hobby, with the completist card collectors looking to fill the spaces in their collections for the elusive promo cards that we payed $1-3 for back in the day, as you mentioned Star Wars, Simpsons, Marvel etc. But how many will be searching for the Amish Life and Heritage prototype from 1992 or the Futuristic Warriors from 1995..? As you say, it's all dependent on "flavor of the Month" and what's hot right now...fashion and fame...
But which collector among us, who's been holding onto their promos for 20-30 years, is also is willing to part with their much loved card ? I guess if the price is right and the need is greater (for the $$), then some collections may thin out a bit. I'm hoping its not me, just yet LOL

Great topic Albert, love your work mate Wavey Metal

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Posts: 673 | Location: sydney nsw australia | Registered: February 09, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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There are always female collectors at the Philly Card Show, so they've always been around
 
Posts: 12086 | Location: England | Registered: September 16, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by hammer:
There are always female collectors at the Philly Card Show, so they've always been around


Of course they've been around for a long time, but I believe that women are discovering non sport trading cards en masse since the pandemic began. I'm also often getting this commentary, or a similar one from several online male buyers lately: "I love the card but my wife controls the budget and she won't let me spend more than $xx on this card. So please accept my offer of xx".


At first I was skeptical of these people's veracity but it seems there are many households where the woman controls the budget for the family, including the husband's card buying habits. So yes, women have always been on the scene but now they are buying more!
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Posts: 975 | Location: Overseas | Registered: May 22, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The other good news is that when you look at the number of views some promo threads have been getting, you see that they are more than holding their own when compared to other discussions. As of today, August 8, 2022, there have been:

Do They Exist or Not: 24,492 views
List of All Inkworks Promos: 17,197 views
Unlisted Promos Picture Guide: 35,489 views
1994 Skybox Sandman Silver Foils: 12,400 views
Simpsons Downunder Rare Sample Bartarang: 10,533 views
PCE 2008 Additions, Deletions, Corrections: 59,135 views

That last one hasn't been updated much recently and yet it has the most views. I was focusing on the Unlisted Promos Picture Guide over the past few years but have pretty much covered all the cards I have other than a few odds and ends. I guess I need to buy more cards! I assume some of the views are from "just curious" individuals but some of it is from serious collectors who are looking for more background information on what they have or what they are thinking about buying or trading for. That's good. Maybe Beckett sells more NSU issues and Almanacs because of it too.
 
Posts: 3663 | Location: San Jose, CA, USA | Registered: December 23, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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