Cards and comics among offerings in McAllen
There was a time where Topps had the baseball card market locked up. The same can be said for DC and Marvel comic books. It was a time when a young boy or girl would wait anxiously for the next Spider Man edition to appear on the stands or opening that pack of cards maybe meant completing the set.
That entire landscape has been bulldozed, flattened and rebuilt. Yesterday’s fun hobbies for kids have transitioned into a hardcore competitive industry that, over the years, has built a wider audience. While there may be fewer superhero style comics printed, which used to rule the industry, now there are more options and that has drawn in that larger comic book base. That’s just fine with brothers Chris and Adan Salazar, owners of Hobbies and Heroes at 5401 N. 10th Street in McAllen.
“Movies, sports and other channels have helped grow the buying base, and that’s been an incentive for the companies to keep printing a greater variety of comics,” Adan said. “Now there are more targeted markets, there are more titles for teens, for adults, for women. More comic characters are turning into movies.”
Chris enjoyed reading Iron Man comics as a child. At that time, Iron Man was a secondary character – he took a backseat to the likes of the big three – Batman, Superman and Spiderman. Robert Downey Jr. and Hollywood, however, have turned Iron Man into one of the biggest box office superhero sensations. “He wasn’t very popular when I read his comics,” Chris said. “He was just mediocre when it came to superheroes. Now he’s one of the flagship characters.”
More than $248 million is spent monthly on the top 300 comics per month, according to the website statisticbrain.com. That doesn’t include magna comics, the Japanese bound books that target teens and adults. Hobbies and Heroes prefers to stay with the traditional comic books, or graphic novels as many call them today.
The store also offer sports cards, figurines and the latest in those figurines – Funko Pops. Modeled after bobble heads figurines, Funko Pops have tapped into the collectibles industry almost overnight. It has a wide range of characters – from athletes to superheroes to the whole group of characters from the Big Bang Theory, and much more.
“They have taken off in the last 18-24 months,” Adan said. “They have grown so fast it’s going to be hard for the company to continue to grow at that rate. But whoever set up their licensing and marketing did an amazing job.”
Not only has the comic book and figurine industries changed, so too has the baseball card industry. Once, buying single packs was the way many collectors attempted to complete a set. As more and more companies began printing cards, collectors started collecting entire sets at a time or started collecting their favorite players. Now, the full sets have taking a backseat once again as the companies have become more innovative.
“Things changed around 2000 when the companies started doing things like putting a piece of something a player used in a game inside a card,” Chris said. “You can find pieces of a shoulder pad or of a jersey or helmet or ball. It’s made it more fascinating for collectors to have chance to get a card that has something that was actually used in a game. Sometimes there are authentic autographs on a player’s card. It’s definitely changed the way people collect cards.”
As in most other businesses, the brothers face competition with the internet. E-commerce, especially Ebay for cards and comics, have become competitive and, Adan said, digital comics will continue to grow slowly. “That’s why the bigger audience base is so important, especially for the local comic book or card store. Kids don’t read as much these days. The video game industry has eroded a lot of the sports cards and comic book industry.”
Sites like Ebay are filled with sports card collectibles. Chris said these type of sites with no overhead can easily offer consumers any card they want. The biggest difference – and one of the best reasons – to visit the local store or dealer is you see what you are getting. “You never really know what you are going to get when you order a card online,” Chris said.
The card season is doing well this year, especially in Texas. All the rage is in the Dallas Cowboys’ rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Chris said as long as the Cowboys keep winning, those two cards and figurines will remain at the top of the popularity list.
This story by Henry Miller appears in the January 2017 print edition of Valley Business Report.