As we work our way through 2018, you may find yourself amazed by the latest technology and trends. Self driving cars, robot assistants making your phone calls for you, smart homes. Smartphones and apps have changed our lives. We can stream movies and live TV almost anywhere in the world with the touch of a button, order almost any item and have it delivered to our front door in 2 days or less through an app. The old adage is “there’s an app for that” and sports cards are no different. No, I’m not talking about the eBay app so you can order cards while on the road. I’m talking about digital sports cards. Yes, digital. As in “on your phone or mobile device.” Digital sports cards might sound like a gimmick but they’re more popular and necessary than you think.
Collecting Digital Cards
Digital sports cards are trading cards you can view and collect on your phone through an app. Topps offers Topps Bunt, Topps Huddle, and NHL SKATE, Upper Deck has Upper Deck E-Pack which offers a wide variety of card options and Panini broke up their sports into three different apps: FIFA World Cup, NFL Blitz, and NBA Dunk. Upper Deck and Topps also offer exclusive non sports versions such as The Walking Dead, Star Wars, Alien, and Marvel Comics themed digital cards and apps. Typically, with these apps you create an account and can buy digital packs with either tokens that the app gives you daily or you can spend real money for virtual cards to open more packs.
Now before you scoff at the idea of spending real world money on digital items, there are some benefits to digital cards. For starters, digital cards take up less room than the real thing. You never have to worry about running out of boxes or closet space with digital cards. It is all in your phone and on servers. Plus they save the environment to an extent as those are cards not printed on cardboard, packaged, or shipped to stores. (I am aware the servers used for the apps hurt the environment.) Like real cards, digital cards have inserts, autographs (often called signatures), and relic cards. The apps let you connect with other collectors and trade cards to build your collection, post in forums/boards so all users can see what you are looking for/offering for trade. But what might shock you the most is that digital cards have real monetary value and be sold on the market for hundreds of dollars per card.
A Mike Trout signature variation card from Topps Bunt sold for $440.00 on eBay. $440.00 for a digital card sent to their Topps Bunt account. Essentially a photo of a card with Trout’s autograph on it to look at whenever. You don’t need understand to the market or how it works, just know that there is a market for digital cards. Upper Deck’s E-Pack is the only app (for now) where you can have the cards you buy shipped to you in physical form (with the exception of base). Even cooler, you can combine a certain number of base cards to create silver and gold foil parallels which are E-Pack exclusives.
I think the most underrated part of digital cards is who their target market is and who they appeal to. The millenials and young collectors are a demographic regular cards have struggled to appeal to. Topps Bunt reported they had 2.5 million active users in 2015. While not all of these users would go onto physical cards for collecting purposes, that’s 2.5 million people exposed to the hobby and what Topps offers.
You collecting purists might be scratching your head wondering why on earth anyone would like digital sports cards over the real thing. Truth be told, I agree for the most part. Opening a pack of cards or finding an old box just has that nostalgic factor and satisfaction a virtual pack fails to provide. Spending real money for digital copies of cards doesn’t seem like money well spent. If I’m going to spend money I’d rather have a physical copy of a card than a JPEG of a card on my phone, personally.
Digital cards require more money than regular cards. You can’t find discounted boxes, packs, or eBay deals on digital cards. The only place you can buy digital packs is through the app. The app is designed by the card companies, which means they get to set the prices and have more control over what hits you’ll get than with physical packs. It’s similar to going to a casino and opting to play video poker over the real thing. Sure, it can be fun, but the house gets your money, gets to set the prices, and program the odds of winning/payouts.
Last Word on Digital Cards
Because digital cards are the latest innovation in collecting, there are critics and supporters of the trend. These cards have their pros and cons. I personally have yet to jump on board with digital cards, with the exception of the Upper Deck E-Pack. I might be more inclined to try Panini or Topps if they could ship any digital hits to me in a physical form the way Upper Deck can. It should be noted that E-Packs use digital cards and sets that are the same as those you can physically purchase. Topps and Panini use sets designed exclusively for the app.
I do think digital cards are the future of collecting. They are a necessary evil, but I do not believe they will ever replace physical cards completely. Not as long as I’m around to voice my opinion anyways.
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