Tree moving forces rule the economy of the card collecting market: supply, demand, and distribution of cards as a link between supply and demand. These three forces are well studied and stocked in the context of mature, well-developed markets. The card collecting market is an immature one with a lack of own experiences what causes the need to apply approaches and methods that were developed for more mature markets. For instance, borrowing ideas of supply, demand, and distribution from collectable fine art.
There are five distinctive concepts of supply:
- ‘In print,’ when a deck is available from the publisher and can be easily found in esoteric and New Age shops, as well as on the internet.
- ‘Out of print,’ when a deck is no longer available from the publisher. It can be found in the secondary market with some difficulties and as a rule at a higher price than the same deck which is ‘in print.’
- ‘Print-on-demand’ is the deck’s distribution method when a publisher uses third-party facilities to print the exact amount of copies that were ordered.
- ‘Limited edition,’ when small printings with a high level of quality keep prices high and attract the interest of the collectors’ community.
- ‘Mass production’ of low priced decks in big quantities (sometimes with a free or discounted delivery).
On the demand side collectors obtain the set of rewards besides financial profit:
- The collectable items with an essential cultural, historic, and esoteric meanings.
- The artistic values in cards.
- Esteem and respect in the collectors’ community.
Today, two of the most visible aspects of distribution within the collectable cards market are an increasing stream of decks created by emerging artists, and questionable artistic quality of new cards. For new collectors, the current market situation looks uncertain and full of risks. Current distribution channels are mainly universal marketplaces like eBay and Amazon that do nothing to lower the uncertainty level because collectable cards form a very narrow niche within their marketplaces. If you glance at the fine art market experience, you discover the significant role of intermediaries in shaping the collective meaning of art quality. 5 An army of dealers, brokers, consultants, and critics shape the aesthetic experience of collectors. In former times, they did it offline, nowadays – on the new online art platforms.
While an invisible market hand balances supply and demand, collectors play a special role within the market, bringing knowledge and shaping the tastes of the public.