From the beginning, cards were just pieces of cardboard. I don't know about how they were received way back when they first came out, but I'm sure they didn't hold much value. As the years went on, people realized that old cards were desirable and began collecting them. As more and more people collected, the prices for these older cards went up. And soon enough the condition of a card became a factor.
Before the age of insert cards, every card was practically a base card. Players had one standard card in the a massive set. Some players could have two (or more) if the company made a special subset card of the player (all-star, stat leader, etc.). Print runs were pretty much equal (yes, there were short prints as well as double prints) so cards were all on equal footing with each other save for the player depicted. If you bought a pack of cards and got a star player's base card... you were pretty happy. I know I was back then.
As trading cards changed, special cards were introduced. Inserts became all the rage as companies made cards harder to find and also fancier. Special textures of cards came to being, die-cutting was something companies wanted to do as well. There were all sorts of ways to make the trading card cooler.
Serial numbering gave cards more rarity and more appeal. And then of course there came memorabilia and autographed cards. These type of cards got you a piece of the action or as close to the athlete as possible.
Inserts... autographs... memorabilia... all these things were game-changing concepts in the hobby.
But where do we go from here? Is there anything more that can make trading cards even any different or better?
I don't know. There might be. But I don't have any ideas.
So right now I believe the only thing thing keeping the hobby fresh, new, and exciting are the players on the cards. This is how it was in the beginning, and this is how it is again.
The bells and whistles are all here, but this year collectors aren't flocking to the stores - online or off - to bust boxes and boxes of stuff.
The card companies need good rookie draft classes in all sports to create a buzz. I just don't think they can do it on their own anymore. Collectors have had and seen too much.
So is it out of their hands? I think so. Hopefully next year's rookies will be amazing. Hopefully we get superstars in hockey, football, baseball, and basketball. Our hobby needs them. Pretty badly.
Let me know what you think of what the card companies need to do to improve their sales. Is there anything they can possibly do? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!