This is the last card that I pulled out of a pack that I bought off a shelf at Target.
Will it be the last card that I pulled out of a pack that I bought off a shelf at Target ever?
Today is the final day that Target will sell baseball cards -- and football, basketball and Pokemon cards -- at its stores, according to a statement from Target itself. Random stores may still sell those cards but in general Target's policy now is to only sell them online, saying it is temporarily suspending in-store sales.
It makes sense. Target made this decision after a childish display at a store in Wisconsin in which four grown men got into a fight over sports cards and one of them ended up displaying a gun before arrests were made.
Kids and guns. I hope their moms are happy.
I've gotten to the point where I don't have a lot of hope for the future when it comes to common decency in public. The fact that grown-ups don't know not to do this and that it was trading cards that got them to this point tells me there is an epidemic of people being raised in barns.
I blame Target's decision mainly on the bad behavior of consumers. People shouldn't have to line up once a week to buy sports cards, as they have been doing for weeks, anyway. They should be able to walk into a store, casually enter the card aisle, and purchase cards from a decent selection of inventory, basically what I was able to do between 2006-19.
But bad behavior led to the lines and the empty aisles. More appalling than the fact that people were filling their carts to the brim with card product was that there were people angrily justifying their behavior with seemingly not a conscious thought that they were defending the worst "out for myself" attitude that I have seen in the hobby in more than 45 years. This is the only question I need to ask when I'm wondering what I am doing is correct: "Am I being kind to my fellow human being?" If those flippers had asked themselves that question once, Target would not be suspending in-store card sales.
That doesn't absolve card companies though.
This is a problem I saw coming long before the pandemic hit.
When I returned to the hobby in 2006 and I was figuring out where I could buy cards, I was amazed that the only place I could find them was at Walmart (this was before Target came to our town). It stunned me. What kind of strange world is this where I have to go to this one, giant store and stand in one giant line to buy a few packs of baseball cards?
When I was a kid buying cards in the '70s and '80s, I bought them at multiple drug stores. I bought them at corner stores and convenience stores. I bought them at delis. I bought them at gas stations. My mom bought them at grocery stores. I remember somebody buying some at a shop inside a hospital once. I bought a pack at a bicycle shop, at a record store, at a sporting goods store. Sure, we bought them at department stores but we bought them at book stores, too. Even into my late 20s, I found cards everywhere.
Basically, anywhere you could buy candy or gum, you could buy sports cards. And we knew: if we were in a store where there was candy, we'd better damn well look to see if there were cards, too.
I don't know when all that disappeared. Obviously it happened when I wasn't collecting.
I understand that a lot of those stores don't exist anymore, you don't find a lot of corner stores these days. But there are plenty of shops that could still sell cards. And if you could find cards at multiple stores, it would certainly cut down on the race to a single store to consume product. Step up production a bit, increase distribution and you won't see fights or lines at Target.
I don't know the economics of production or distribution, my guess is cards migrated from every store on the street to only Walmart and Target because Topps and the other companies wanted to control the distribution, they found it easier, more profitable, it cut costs, whatever the reason. But when you narrow the pipeline, you're going to have a bottleneck eventually. That's just common sense. Also, whatever happened to getting as many eyes on your brand as possible? If someone can see "Topps" everywhere they go, isn't that good for business?
Another issue that's led to this problem is the lottery mentality of current sets. This has been going on since the mid-1990s and as someone who collected long before that mind-set was common, I've been suspicious of it all along.
This is not realistic but: If cards today did not include inserts or parallels or hits or even rookie card logos, nobody would be clearing shelves or fighting over cards. Yeah, probably sales would plunge rapidly, you can't put the genie back in the bottle and all that. But somebody like me, who collected happily all through the '70s and '80s and early '90s without any lottery-type card to be found, would be just fine with a set of pure base. A set of just 660 or 792 cards to collect? That's all I want.
So card companies are also to blame for slowly, incrementally creating this monster. It took a pandemic and a lot of bad behavior to put it in plain sight to everyone -- and to Target -- but we've been headed in this direction for awhile.
I stopped going to Target to look for cards a couple of months ago. It was pointless and I didn't like seeing the "cards available at customer service" signs that were popping up online. Even over the past couple of years, I had cut down on my card purchases at Target and Walmart quite a bit, mostly because I didn't like the cards.
But all you have to do is read the first 8 or 9 years of this blog to know how important card visits to Target were to me. It was the lifeblood of my collection and I couldn't imagine back then that they wouldn't be available. I was the only one in the aisle! Nobody else cared! The thought of a ransacked aisle would have been ridiculous.
So, that makes me sad for that time.
The last cards I bought off a Target shelf before I found the 2021 Series 1 cards was a box of 2020 Topps Chrome Update that I was startled to see. But in a reflection of how much card buying has changed for me and how the blog has changed, I never bothered to show off these cards. I didn't have anything to say about them. 2010 night owl can't imagine such a thing.
Some people think this is the end of retail card sales. I don't. Sure, more cards will be sold online in the future. But this flippers mentality won't last (taking cards out of stores will help) and we will return to the days of people laughing at us for playing in a kids' hobby again. Cards have been sold in stores for nearly a century. Give it a couple years or more but it will happen again and the cards will come back to stores.
Just like the junk wax era that we laugh about now, we'll laugh about this.
But I still won't be laughing about how people think it's OK to brawl in public over a trivial thing like cards. It's a shame we can't buy cards in Target anymore. It's more of a shame that people behave like this.
Be kind to your fellow human being.
It's our only hope.