One of the most often cited problems in the baseball card collecting hobby is “Junk Wax”. Back in the 1980’s, baseball cards got so popular that the card companies cranked up production to unsustainable levels. It seems like everyone who was a kid in the 1980’s has a huge collection of baseball cards sitting in their parents’ basement storage.
You see, there is a common misconception that baseball cards appreciate in value as they get older. Not the case with junk wax. These cards are so plentiful that they depreciate as people remember their childhood collections and try to unload them on the market for cash. In fact, collectors today have trouble selling their late-80’s and early-90’s junk wax cards even for a penny a card!
This is a classic business school example of massive supply + low demand = low value. There are only two ways to increase the value in this situation. That is, either kill the supply or increase the demand.
What I’m proposing is that card companies should offer buyback programs to the public (a.k.a. “recycling programs“). A company like Topps can drastically reduce junk wax by allowing collectors to resell unwanted cards back to the company for a penny each. Instead of paying out cash, Topps could give collectors vouchers to use for buying new cards. This would pretty much ensure that people will continue to buy new cards. The company would then destroy all cards that it receives as part of the program. Destroying unwanted baseball cards would also have the side effect of increasing the value of the remaining cards (i.e. reducing supply).
Of course, the biggest bottleneck in implementing such a card recycling program would be in the logistics. Shipping costs might prove to be prohibitive (perhaps they can strike a deal with the post office or non-profit collection organizations?). Also, they would have to hire some extra employees and buy more equipment to ensure proper destruction of the cards and payment to collectors. But think of the possibilities… A rebate for unwanted base cards? More publicity and demand for new cards? A world without junk wax?