One of the hottest topics in our hobby right now is the reduced wear found on modern jerseys in the NHL, and the quantity of jerseys available. What I want to do with this article is illustrate some of these points and open up for discussion in the comments and forums some concepts regarding these issues.
The Vintage Years
Many collectors are disappointed with the lack of wear on jerseys these days. This is really a multi-faceted issue. In the vintage years, one set of jerseys (home and away) were worn per year. Some teams even recycled their jerseys year to year and player to player to reduce to cost to the team of purchasing new jerseys.
This was clearly the pinnacle for jersey collectors. The teams did not see a market for selling old jerseys, so collectors could obtain them cheap. The game-worn memorabilia presented in man-caves was not prominent, and the word man-cave hadn’t even been coined yet. The demand was low and unseen by teams that were getting rid of old jerseys (sometimes in dumpsters) and the length of time these jerseys were worn produced huge amounts of wear. These teams used their old jerseys until they couldn’t be used any longer and had to be replaced.
Now we are at an age where not only people in our hobby are collecting these jerseys, but the general fan is looking for their one or two jerseys of their favorite team or player to have as memorabilia. Businesses have been formed around the hobby directing the flow of distribution of the game worn jerseys we collect.
Different deals from these distribution companies produce different results. Some teams handle their jersey sales in-house, others out source their distribution. Its hard to know what team is selling where at times.
The distributors each have different sales methods and tactics which affect the end product our collectors have the opportunity to receive. For New York Rangers collectors, they get to see 5 (home/away/alternates if applicable) sets of jerseys through the regular season, and a new set for each of the playoff rounds their team makes it to. At minimum, there will be 10 jerseys available for each season long player throughout the regular season. The increase of quantity through, has not seemed to push prices down, even as jerseys remain unsold.
Other team collectors, such as the Detroit Red Wings, have it a little better. Their team only wears 1 set of jerseys through the regular season with 1 set for the playoffs (not including SCF). That’s only 2 jerseys for each regular season player, with prices comparable, if not better than that of the 10 jerseys per player team.
The Economics (Read More)
The differing strategies play of different points of economics in the business. With collectors identifying THE jersey(s) they want, they are force to pay the price. With a team that has distribution similar to the Rangers, the distributor knows that the collectors will pay the big price tag for a few of the 5+ sets that they have available. This is instant profit. The remaining sets may take longer to sell and discounted rates, but they already sold the bulk of their stock up front for the most money and thus, are not in need to sell the remaining jerseys faster. This strategy shows that there are more profits with more quantity.
A smaller number of sets means less stock to sell and the stock gets sold quicker. The objective for these distributors is time. The longer stock sits on the shelf, the less money it is making, so the faster they sell these jerseys, the better. Comparing this distributors prices to another, the price seems better even if it is higher because of the rarity of the jersey.
The more expensive a players jersey, that hard it is to sell, which is increase by the number of sets available for this jersey.
Distributors that have contracts with teams like the Rangers attempt to keep the pricing at a consistent level, while producing more product and thus increasing their profits. With 82 games in a season, you are lucky if the jersey you are buying sees 8 games (Specialty games and one-game wonders will reduce this count). This is why you are seeing less wear on these jerseys. As the company sells their jerseys (and they will…someday) at higher quantities and profits, your quality of product will decrease.
Some distributors, less concerned with maximizing profits (but still profiting) are good for collectors in the hobby. These jerseys see close to 40 games a piece (Specialty games and one-game wonders will reduce this count) and the wear on them will be great (comparatively to the way the game is played these days). The value of the jersey holds due to the quantity.
As you span the league and compare jersey quantity to distributors, the teams that sell the jerseys themselves average 2 jerseys a season + 1 playoff set if applicable. Teams that have distributors sell their jerseys on average, have an increase count in sets.
I find it easy to discover distributors that place a greater importance on product vs profit. I think the economics of the hobby are very interesting on how demand can drive quantity, but in this hobby, as quantity increases we feel the quality will decrease.
Some distributors offer the collector services with an increase price or quantity, such as tagging, game tracking, population reports, and authentication. Some distributors that drive high prices and quantities do not offer these services along with their product and still can demand their prices and they sell.
Could the reason be the team they represent? The market they are hoping to sell to (fan over collector)?
What ever the answer may be, the distributors/teams that keep their prices and jersey count low and still offer added benefits like tagging and tracking are earning their respect in this hobby.