Address Focused On Collector Loyalty; Also On ESPN About Bartman ball
Friday, February 27, 2004

It is possible to get some business done on the beaches of Hawaii. At least that's what more than 300 attendees of Krause Publication's annual Hawaii Trade Conference attempt to do each year when licensors, manufacturers, distributors, service providers, store owners and a select group of collectors come together to talk about the state of the sports collectibles industry.

This year, McFarlane Toys CEO and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane was asked to be the keynote speaker for the conference's opening breakfast, based on his success with the McFarlane's Sports Picks line.

Rocky Landsverk, Krause's Sports Department Editorial Director and Editor of Tuff Stuff magazine, invited Todd to speak because "from a business standpoint, his company has defied our industry's slump, and to the best of its ability counteracted it, by bringing us a new line of collectibles that has taken the hobby by storm and brought in new collectors, and just as importantly, solid secondary market values."

On Tuesday, Todd delivered his speech and focused on collector loyalty. According to an article published Thursday in eSCD (Sports Collectors Digest), Todd had this to say:

"If you take a fair product, treat your fans fairly and mark it up to a fair price, they will be loyal. If you take advantage of them at the consumer level, then you're done. We haven't raised the price of some of our Spawn figures for seven years. We don't have to maximize profits. Luckily the leagues have allowed me to be a true partner with them. I told them that if you allow me to have slow, manageable growth, we're going to be here for 15 or 20 years. If you need me to maximize profits, we'll be in trouble. I've seen it happen in the collectibles market and the comic book market."

In addition to other comments during his talk, Todd addressed why he makes sure McFarlane's Sports Picks are an accurate portrayal of players' likenesses. "I could never imagine offering products that were not realistic. I never bought a single Starting Lineup figure in my life. Why? I didn't think it looked like the player," he said. "It was like, 'That's Ken Griffey Jr.? I have his cards; there's 27 things that don't match up.' With the hockey ones, they tucked their shirts in. I offered $1 million to anyone who could show me a picture of a hockey player who had tucked his shirt in all the way around. I never had to give away the check."

In an interesting twist to a commonly asked question, when Rocky introduced Todd, he asked the audience "Where were you when you saw your first McFarlane's Sports Pick figure? Do you recall the amazement you felt?" For more information about Todd's speech and the conference, check out eSCD.

In related sports collectibles news, Todd appeared on ESPN SportsCenter on Thursday night with Dan Patrick. Todd, Dan and Grant DePorter, managing partner of Harry Caray's restaurant in Chicago, talked about the high-profile destruction of the infamous "Bartman ball." It was fan Steve Bartman's "interference" on a playable foul ball that many Cubs' fans believe led to the team's ouster from the National League Championship last season. Todd came in second in the online auction for that ball that sold to the restaurant for $113,824.