Beckett's Best Attributes
The most obvious advantage of having magazines devoted to cards of individual sports is depth of coverage. While its competitor has a single page each month featuring hot cards and sets for each sport, the Beckett mags have more room to cover what's selling, and more importantly, why. Specialization also allows for product reviews, something Tuff Stuff simply doesn't have room for any more.
In the world of pricing, Beckett is king. Its book values are seen as the gold standard by nearly every collector, and the magazines have more pages devoted to prices for each sport and seem to include pricing for new sets quicker. Beckett also gives a low to high range for each card it prices, which more accurately reflects the selling environment in the sports card hobby.
Last but not least, the Beckett magazines are cheaper. Collectors who only collect one sport can save themselves a dollar or two each month by buying something written especially for that sport.
Tuff Stuff's Best Attributes
While the Beckett publications have become more scan and reference material, Tuff Stuff retains the original purpose for most magazines: to be read. Its roster of regular columnists covers a range of hobby topics, and the feature pieces are usually well-written and nicely researched. Substance over style seems to be the editorial thrust.
With less of an emphasis on driving web traffic for business purposes, Tuff Stuff offers advertisements from a variety of dealers, manufacturers and businesses. Readers get a sense of the true scope of the hobby and an idea of what is available. From cards to supplies to all manner of other sports collectibles, you'll probably find it advertised in Tuff Stuff if you look hard enough.
Where It Stands
For the time being, collectors win by having both alternatives out there. Freedom to choose is always a good thing, and both companies appear comfortable with their places in the market.
The sports card industry is never static, and changes from one year to the next can sometimes be jarring. But neither Beckett nor Tuff Stuff appear to be going away any time soon. Collectors can rest assured that the Beckett family will continue to have its finger on the pulse of what's hot like no one else, while Tuff Stuff carries on with its tradition of documenting the depth and breadth of the hobby. Everyone loves a win-win situation, and with respect to sports card magazines, collectors should find that to be the case.