There are countless attics, old bedrooms and storage spaces across the country filled with baseball cards. Remember when kids used to spend their allowance on those packs full of cardboard photos, complete with player statistics and maybe even some bubblegum? Those days are mostly gone, but baseball card companies are now adapting to modern times to create a new product that appeals to the kids of today.
Popular baseball card company Topps has created an app called Bunt that lets users trade cards on their gadgets. In some ways, the app is familiar. You purchase packs and then open them on your phone. Some cards are rare, which means they're more valuable. But, there are a lot of modern differences, too.
First off, you never actually hold the cards - they live on your phone. Every person who collected cards as a kid remembers the excitement when they tore open the pack and found a Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron. The app tries to recreate that feel by causing the phone to vibrate while confetti blasts across the screen when you open it. You can also trade with other app users and play a fantasy style game with players that you have.
At one point, the baseball card industry was booming. Kids everywhere spent their hard-earned dollars on packs, and sometimes it even paid off. Rare cards could be worth a lot of money. But, then card companies overprinted them and killed the value.
The industry responded by printing tons of cards: 81 billion per year by the early 1990s, which looks like a joke but is in fact a widely accepted estimate. People my age responded by buying a ton of cards and keeping them. Without scarcity, the cards would have no real value. The industry’s self-thwarting tsunami of supply did not so much exceed demand as extinguish it.
There's also the fact that kids today have grown up with technology, so collecting cardboard seems old-fashioned to them. With Bunt, Topps is basically trying to introduce the same collecting frenzy that surrounded physical cards into the digital world in order to attract its target audience.
Eighty-one percent of Bunt users are between the ages of 13 and 25, and as such find nothing terribly weird about a baseball card that doesn’t exist in any corporeal sense.
This seems like a strong effort by Topps to bring an old-school hobby into the 21st century. Who knows? Maybe in a few decades, the kids of today will talk about thrill of feeling that shake and seeing the burst of confetti when they picked up a Mike Trout card.