Back in the late 1980s, tearing into a new pack of Upper Deck baseball cards rivaled opening presents on Christmas morning. Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1989 rookie card was fetching $150 — a small fortune my buddies and I who used to ride our bikes across town to the nearest card shop to slap down a couple bucks for a pack.
Today that card is barely worth $15. Industry experts say sports trading card sales are in a serious slump. Sales have fallen 80 percent from over a billion dollars in the early 1990s to about $200 million last year. There’s been much speculation on what’s caused such a decline, but many credit a flooded market, the popularity of card-based games such as Pokemon, and of course, the rise of the Internet. Today, if someone wants to know Albert Pujols batting average his rookie year, they’re more likely to search for stats online rather than the back of a piece of cardboard.
But why not combine traditions of the past with the innovations of the future.
Hoping to do just that is well-known trading card company, Panini (formerly Donruss) who has partnered with media tech team Recom Group to develop the first ever video trading cards. The Panini HRX (Highlight Reel Xperience) cards will be made of thick cardboard and feature a thin screen covering one side. The cards have a 2GB capacity and come pre-loaded with highlight footage of the athlete featured on each card, in this case basketball players Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant or John Wall.
Kids these days might say, “So what? I can look up highlights on my smart phone.” But consider this young sports-loving technophiles, these cards are re-writable and can be loaded with your own data, such as cartoons, homework or your own highlight reel of you dunking over your buddies on that hoop you lowered with a broom handle.
However, these cards won’t be for sale. In an ingenious move to entice pack sales, Panini is distributing redeemable video card vouchers inside regular packs of cards.
Panini’s new voucher-laced packs may have a few more bells and and whistles than the chalky gum-laced packs I remember opening, but nothing beats tearing into new pack and looking for your white whale.