Sports Cards in general seem pretty hot these days. 2010 Baseball has slumped since Stephen Strasburg went down - but Jason Heyward, Starlin Castro, even Buster Posey and the Team USA Signatures in sets like 2010 Bowman Chrome and 2010 Topps Chrome should keep those sets alive. Football is doing well as usual - and as usual - it rides on the back of the NFL Rookies, which as of now seem pretty strong. So far there really hasn't been a 'stand-out' product, but its early. Basketball had its 1st year of Panini in 09/10 - and they look to be listening to collectors demands for more on card autographs. Planned sets 10/11 Panini Prestige, 10/11 Panini Limited and 10/11 Threads will have plenty to chose from.
But honestly, not too much of that will bring in 'new' collectors into buying on a regular basis. Aside from special talents like Strasburg, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Ken Griffey Jr. and many others - its tough to get people interested in collecting unless its the 'rip & flip' make a bunch of money type mentality. Maybe those talents come around often enough to make it profitable for the card companies to do business with the current demand, and not necessarily grow the collector base much.
Aside from a collector liking a player/team and/or hoping that card goes up in value - what other incentive is there to attract new collectors into the market?
Recent examples of adding value to cards beyond the typical means include the popular Topps Attax Baseball & Football Sets along with Panini Adrenalyn XL Football & Basketball. Here for the most part you are gathering cards with codes on them - that allow you to play online. The cards have 'value' over and above the eBay price - because you can play & win with them over and over. Collectors actually pay pretty good money for non-autographed & non-jersey Ultimate or Rare Cards (essentially 'base cards' to most collectors) because of the cards high rating and ability to win matches.
Who knows if these kids will be interested in buying 2010 SP Authentic Football - but they are buying 2010 Panini Adrenalyn XL Football for sure - and its possibly because the cards have value outside selling it online or at a card store. Open an Adrenalyn XL booster box - then go whoop butt online and achieve a top rank almost sounds more exciting than busting a box and hoping I get a Tim Tebow or Sam Bradford autograph so I can 'get my money back' from the break.
Adding value to cards doesn't always mean that we need to throw a signature or jersey piece on it - or even make it #1/1 or serial numbered. I also think that a players performance could do more than make a card sell for more on eBay. Maybe companies would exchange cards (for either top performing or poor performing players) for something else or give you a 'special set' if you send in the 'regular set'.
I'm not sure on the details, however I do know that it might help bring new collectors into the market if we can show them there is value to collecting cards outside selling them on eBay when the guy gets hot.