Monday, September 28, 2009

The Fallout of Inkworks' Vault Being Pillaged

If you're a non-sport collector, particularly autographs, you've probably noticed the chaos in the prices for almost every Inkworks card. When the company went under in the spring, Razor and a couple of other groups bought out their leftover stock and have been releasing it to the masses en mass.

Razor's approach has been to pack out the cards in two different releases: Ink Archives, which gave collectors one autograph per pack and Ink Vault, which offered three autographs and a sealed box (almost always from Inkworks). Ink Archives put almost 20,000 autographs into the marketplace while Ink Vault's 499 cases has resulted in another 29,940 Inkworks autographs (plus whatever's in the boxes) hitting a somewhat small corner of the hobby. That's almost 50,000 autographs that have already been released going into circulation in a matter of months. The result has been a flooded market, which is both good and bad.

From a collecting perspective, it's been great. In just the past two weeks I've received three cards that were always priced higher than I could afford until now. The first was a Robert "Freddy Kreuger" Englund card from a Charmed series. A few months ago it sold consistently for about $50-60. I was able to trigger a 'Buy It Now' for $30.

Next up was an autograph from an underappreciated movie, Hellboy. Lead actor Ron Perlman isn't a huge Hollywood star but the guy has had some memorable roles over the years, most recently in the awesome FX series Sons of Anarchy. In Hellboy he plays the main character. Before Inkworks went under: $50. I got it for half.

My final find was a bit of luck. It was a 'Buy It Now' that was just posted when I came across it. This one comes from the Hellboy set once again. It's of director Guillermo Del Toro who has since rocketed to fame with Pan's Labyrinth and is pegged to tackle The Hobbit if it ever gets going. Not long ago, this card sold for $100-200. This one was just $40. I did luck into an all-time low for the card I think though, as ensuing copies have crept back up into the $80-100 range. A once tough card, Ink Vault seems to be bringing a steady stream of them now.

The fact that the market being flooded with Inkworks autographs isn't the only reason prices are so soft. It also has to do with who's selling the cards. Razor's clients are mostly sports card dealers. In my experiences with both sides of the hobby, non-sport dealers are much more patient as a whole when it comes to holding onto their inventory. It's been more stable than the performance-driven sports side. As a result sports dealers look at moving their inventory as quickly as possible, which often results in undercutting the competition. Plus, if you're bread and butter normally revolves around names like Albert Pujols, Michael Jordan and Lebron James, you might not recognize the value in the director of a moderately successful film.

A lot of the cards I've been picking up have been coming from dealers who carry a lot of sports cards, which makes me believe that's their primary area of focus. Even at the deflated prices, Ink Vault is offering everyone tremendous value and a pretty easy way to make a few dollars. That is for everyone except those non-sport dealers who have been with the hobby for the long haul and have seen the value of their inventory shrink with each ensuing week.

It's in situations like these where I'm glad I'm not a dealer. I know I'd have a tough time marking a once $200 card that I pulled from a $60 box of cards down to $50 just so I can move it. Even moving $10 cards down to $5 is tough when margins weren't great even when the hobby was rolling at full steam. If sports collectors are worried about the number of dealers in their neck of the woods, non-sport collectors should be petrified. When times were good there were only a handful of dealers to pick from. I suspect the fallout from Inkworks' closing is going to make that handful even smaller when you consider the double-whammy of fewer products being released and the severely lowered value coming from almost 50,000 autographs coming into the hobby all at once.


babootsna said...

There is also the $14.99 packs put out by Fairfield Company that are sold in Targets.

I've gotten a couple of them and the last one did not have an autograph in it. I called the marketing company and they didn't even argue, the customer service rep said he would replace the missing auto.

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