Even in the internet age, sports card magazines have their place in the hobby. Various publications have come and gone over the years, leaving two contenders on the shelves of card stores, bookstores and grocery stores.
One is actually a family of magazines from Beckett Media, the company that is considered by most to be the industry leader for product information and pricing. Beckett puts out monthly magazines for baseball, football, basketball and hockey and a bi-monthly magazine for racing. Add in the bi-monthly "Plus" magazines (quarterly for hockey) that have a couple feature articles and expanded price guides and Beckett has its own sports card publishing empire.
The other choice for collectors is Tuff Stuff, a monthly magazine created by F + W Publications. It's a true alternative to the Beckett mags in the sense that it offers one-stop shopping for articles and pricing for all of the "Big Five" sports, in addition to columns and features. If Beckett embodies strength in numbers, Tuff Stuff represents an army of one.
Beckett bills itself as "The #1 Authority on Collectibles" and "The Hobby's Most Reliable and Relied-Upon Source." Tuff Stuff proudly trumpets its status as "The #1 Guide to Sport Cards and Collectibles." Both offer price guides and new product previews. Both are always looking to drive readers to their websites. Can either side claim superiority in the market of sports card publications? Or is there a niche filled by both sides that the hobby can't do without?
While neither company appears to be giving up, if one were to drive the other out of the publishing game, the survivor would have free reign to shape the sports card publishing industry as it sees fit. That would mean an enormous amount of influence on the sports card industry, affecting everything from the book value of cards to the opinions of collectors on upcoming releases.
There's also a question of editorial direction. The Beckett magazines have grown increasingly light on feature articles over the past few years, choosing to focus more on the hottest current releases. The company's website has followed suit, offering less news (or at least making it harder to find) and becoming more of an e-commerce hub for the hobby.
In contrast, Tuff Stuff continues to follow the same formula it has for years, mixing market info, features and columns each month. While both companies have added coverage of sports collectibles beyond cards, Tuff Stuff has embraced the idea more completely, with content each issue on sports figures, autographed memorabilia and limited-edition collectibles. Whether this is a positive or negative for the sports card collector is largely a matter of personal preference.