Like many children growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I collected sports cards. Of course, the sports collectibles industry is a huge, serious business - licensed collectibles do around $18-Billion in sales annually, with cards somewhere around $200-Million of that figure.
I wondered how this industry has changed with the advent of the Internet era. There is a certain feeling and excitement about holding a tangible, physical sports card that owning a virtual card does not provide. As such, I was curious as to how sports cards manufacturers leverage the Internet without undermining the experience of collecting and trading cards.
While it turns out there are virtual versions of cards as well, I found one particular hybrid offering to be quite interesting. I recently sat down with Jason Masherah, President of Upper Deck, one of several companies that makes sports trading cards and other memorabilia. Among other things, we discussed the firm's e-Pack offering - it's a marketplace that allows people to buy unopened packs of cards online without ever having the cards delivered, but, yet, the cards are physically owned by the buyer who can request delivery if he or she so desires.
I found this offering to be interesting - as it combines technology and old-fashioned cards, and simultaneously solves several problems that the technology-era also creates. It's easier to scam people with phony card packs now than when I was a child - the Internet offers the shield of anonymity and expands the reach of criminals all over the world to solicit victims far from them geographically. While there are other ways to certify a card or pack as genuine, having a service that sells and creates a market out of only legitimate packs simplifies trusted trading in the age of cybercrime.
While I do not collect cards anymore, I did find it to be quite fascinating to learn about how technology has changed - yet preserved - the experience that I and so many of my peers enjoyed in our youth.