It's official. Press Pass is leaving the hobby. The lone NASCAR (and Parks and Recereation) manufacturer is closing up shop. After rumblings in recent days, the company made it official on their Facebook page. It reads:
We're disappointed to announce that Press Pass is closing day to day operations, effective immediately. We are very thankful for the years of support from all of our customers and consumers and will greatly miss our interactions with them.
Over the past 22 years we've strived to produce compelling products that serve the interests of our end consumers. While it has not always been perfect, we have truly enjoyed our successes, and the relationships that we've built with so many who share our passion for trading cards.
And while they weren't the biggest company in the hobby, Press Pass was a player. However, their closure leaves some questions as to what the repercussions are for collectors and what it might mean for the industry as a whole.
What happens to the NASCAR license?
Racing cards aren't as big as baseball, football, basketball or hockey. But there's a market for them. It might take a bit, but we haven't seen the last NASCAR trading cards. But who's going to make them? Pinnacle, now part of Panini's portfolio, and Upper Deck both made NASCAR cards for a short time in the late 1990s. It was a different marketplace then. NASCAR was growing fast.
Panini has been aggressive with its license acquisitions of late, making a massive push back into college cards and landing a NFLPA-exclusive deal starting in 2016. This is on top of their exclusive NBA deal and MLBPA license. Simply put, if Panini wants the NASCAR license, they probably have the most resources to make it happen.
Upper Deck is moving more into niche markets. Outside of their NHL exclusive, which isn't as big as baseball or football, and Marvel, they've landed deals with several smaller bodies like Notre Dame, the CFL, Euroleague Basketball, the AHL and Hockey Canada. Racing seems like it could fit with the smaller scale.
And then there's Leaf. Over the past couple of years, they've acquired smaller companies like Ace Authentic in tennis, Sport Kings and Famous Fabrics Inc. They also formed a business alliance with In the Game and took over the manufacturing of their hockey cards.
If Topps were to enter the NASCAR market, it would be a first for them. There's also a slim chance that a new company could emerge.
What happens to the company's assets?
There are two types of assets Press Pass has that affects collectors: trademarks and inventory.
Trademarks are essentially the Press Pass brand. It's possible another company might come along and purchase the company name, logos and any trademarks they might have. This is similar to what Upper Deck did with Fleer. It's possible this could happen, but outside of the Press Pass name itself, there's not a lot to go after as several of their brands came with generic names like Five Star and Total Memorabilia. There is some value, but probably not a lot as little was done outside of racing in this regard.
And then there are the cards themselves. If Press Pass is sitting on a lot of unsold stock or inventory, it's possible collectors could see a massive flood of product in the market. This happened with Inkworks and it took the entertainment side several years to absorb it all. And even then, many sets still have depressed prices. If Inkworks is the model, any excess inventory could hit a few ways. Major dealers could scoop a lot of it up and sell single by single, box by box. This is a long-term approach. Another company, perhaps Leaf, might acquire a bunch and sell it as a repackage type of product.
It's also possible that Press Pass wasn't sitting on much stock or liquidated a lot of it already. We'll know in the weeks and months ahead if there's a sudden influx of Press Pass product surfacing.
What about outstanding redemption cards?
When it came to redemptions, Press Pass was actually pretty good. They didn't have a lot of them. But that's a small consolation to those left waiting on them. That's because they're not going to be honored. Also, anyone hoping to get replacements for damaged cards or awaiting any exchanges aren't going to get any help from this point on.
This is a contrast from when Inkworks went bankrupt. They left a short window for collectors to send in any outstanding redemptions they might be holding. It doesn't help matters today as far as unopened product goes, but at least it was something.
Business reasons or not, even if it's just a handful of collectors that Press Pass is leaving behind, it stinks. These are the folks who supported them over the years and this is bound to be their lasting impression of the company, and, possibly, the hobby as a whole.
Is this a sign of things to come?
Press Pass isn't the first company to stop making cards/cease operations/go out of business. They won't be the last. The market is constantly changing. It's not 1991 anymore. Card collecting isn't done by the masses anymore.
With more and more licensing bodies shifting towards exclusive deals, bigger companies like Panini and Topps have greater control over the market as a whole simply because there are fewer deals. Throw in exclusive player deals and it makes it even harder for smaller companies to create compelling products and compete. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but when you're looking to niches within an increasingly niche market, it's tough. And that's not going to change.
Does this mean doom and gloom for the hobby? Unless you're privy to company books, it's tough to say for certain. This is a time of transition. One would think that several smaller card companies are at a crossroads right now where they need to decide if they're going to continue business as usual and hope for the best, change course by scaling down or looking to other trading card avenues, or get out entirely.
It's going to take time to get answers to these questions. We have reached out to Press Pass in hopes of getting some and will update if we hear back.
What are your thoughts on Press Pass going out of business? Did you collect their products? Do you have concerns? Let us know in the comments below.