Have Signature Cards Become the Base Cards of Today?

1990 Upper Deck Reggie Auto

Have signature cards become the base cards of today? If we travel back in time to the first in-pack signatures cards, they would be of course in 1990 when Upper Deck included Reggie Jackson signed Baseball Heroes cards in their High Series boxes. At that time the hobby was leaving the Error Craze behind and entering the Insert Craze.

1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations F. Thomas

Signature cards were popular but they were not as popular as your basic inserts. For a time collectors left collecting a player’s rookie card as their card of choice and pursued the player’s rarest insert, even if occasionally that insert card was released two or three years after the player’s rookie card.1992’s Fleer Rookie Sensations inserts was a prime example. Many preferred Frank Thomas’ Rookie Sensations card over his Leaf rookie card from two years earlier.

Slowly though, the basic insert began to lose ground to the more popular signature and game used cards that were inserted into packs since Jackson’s was released in 1990. The signature card itself, whether as an insert or a redemption began taking over the collecting world until it seems that now, it is the card that everyone pursues. Base rookie cards seem unimportant to the modern collector who much prefers a card of a young star player that includes his signature, a game used bat or uniform piece, or both. They now sometimes pay thousands of dollars for these cards, and if not, it is usually at minimum in the hundreds.

2013 Bowmaqn Chrome Draft Aaron Judge Auto

2013 Bowmaqn Chrome Draft Aaron Judge Auto

Has the signature card replaced the base rookie, or base first card, of a player as the card that best represents him in a collector’s PC? Has the signature card become the modern day’s basic insert card of the 1990’s? It seems so. The craze for inserts in the ’90s eventually fizzled out and the rookie, or first card (with Bowman becoming a staple in the collecting world there are lots of first cards that don’t qualify as rookie cards) gained prominence once again. But not for very long it seems as today everyone is trading and talking about the latest signature card, not the rookie or first card of a player. Collectors now buy cases of product to increase their chances of hitting a nice looking rare signature card, leaving the thousands of base and insert cards aside to try to get rid of later.

Are base cards even important anymore? Does anyone try to complete base sets at all? Is doing that too boring for the modern collector? It seems PCs involve only the collector’s favorite players or favorite team. With the thousands of rare cards release every year, to the point where if you wanted to complete a master set of a certain set, you would need to find and buy literally over 10,000 cards, of which many will be numbered to under 5 or even 1/1’s, it is easy to see why most collectors gave up on set collecting and reduced their ambitions to players or teams. It is less frustrating and, in a way, more enjoyable (you actually have a better chance of completing you PC of a player or team than you would a set).

2016 Bowman Chrome Connor Green Auto

2016 Bowman Chrome Connor Green Auto

I, personally wonder why collectors aren’t more frustrated with collecting today. If they pursue signature, relic, game-used cards of prospects, which is what they need to do if they wish to even have a reasonable chance of getting the player’s card at an affordable price, they still set themselves up to have a worthless PC in the future as 99% of these prospects never make the major leagues, of if they do never have a HOF-type career which would justify their inclusion in a majority of collector’s PCs. Budget-minded collectors must spend hundreds of dollars so that they don’t spend thousands of dollars later on the few cards of prospects who actually make it and succeed spectacularly. They think they are saving money in the long run but most of the time they actually aren’t. Depending on how expansive the prospect collecting is, and for many it is quite wide so they don’t have some falling through the cracks and succeeding without them in their collections, a collector can expect to see 100s of the cards they spent $100.00-plus on become $5.00 throw-aways in bargain bins at their LCS or on eBay within a few years.

Is it all worth it? I guess so because the behavior continues. Personally, I don’t have the wallet to act in this way. I gave up long ago on modern signature/relic cards and am stuck back in the 80s and 90s completing sets I collected in my youth. For me, that is much more satisfying and a lot less expensive.

2016 Topps Now

Two Topps Now Examples

Two Topps Now Examples

Topps Now is the latest marketing strategy by the grandfather of baseball card producers and is something every collector needs to pay attention to. For those who do not know what Topps Now is here is the rundown taken from the Topps website:

Imagine your favorite player throwing a no-hitter, and then getting a card of that special moment the very next day! Starting April 4, baseball fans everywhere will get the opportunity to do so.

The Topps Company is proud to introduce TOPPS NOW, a Topps.com-exclusive product that will depict the greatest moments and milestones from the 2016 Major League Baseball season almost as soon as they happen. The physical cards will be available the very next day to purchase through Topps.com, but for just 24 hours, and will not be available for purchase again.

“TOPPS NOW was inspired by input from our passionate baseball fans,” said Clay Luraschi, Topps ’Vice President of Product Development. “Magical moments will be captured on baseball cards the very next day, giving fans everywhere a chance to own a piece of history almost immediately.”

The first two cards in the TOPPS NOW set include Francisco Liriano (card. No. 1) and the Kansas City Royals (card No. 2).

TOPPS NOW cards will depict great achievements and performances throughout the 2016 season. If a player hits four home runs in a game or has a walk-off home run, baseball fans can expect to see those cards in the TOPPS NOW set the next day. TOPPS NOW combines the magic of baseball cards with the timeliness of a special moment to get cards into the hands of baseball fans and collectors in a way that has never been done before.

TOPPS NOW adds to an already great portfolio of Topps’ Major League Baseball-exclusive cards with a new card design. In addition, at the end of each card’s selling window, Topps will announce the number of cards that will be printed for each card.

Fans can also let Topps know every night what they think should be on a TOPPS NOW card through Topps’ social media accounts utilizing the hashtag #TOPPSNOW.

Now that you have the basics, you might respond, Hey! that’s great I am going to join up for this new card distribution method.” Or, perhaps you are uninterested, “Ten bucks for one card, what the hell is Topps thinking?”

2016 Topps Now Francisco Liriano

2016 Topps Now Francisco Liriano

Either way, one thing you can’t do is ignore it. Why do I say that? For a few reasons. The first is that Topps considers all these cards to be eligible for rookie card status. For those who don’t much pay attention to RC’s anymore (like me) and much prefer the first card of a player, then this might not cause much of an effect. Most player’s first cards come much earlier than when the player first achieves an appearance in the major leagues. But some do slip through the cracks, not many, but some. And those players, along with all other players who gain a Topps Now card in their rookie debut season will be considered as an RC by the company with the RC logo printed on the card.

For hobbyists who collect RC’s, this could complicate matters substantially. If rookies playing in 2016 make an impact to an extent that Topps make a card for them in Topps Now, and if that rookie did not get treatment in the sets issued in 2016, meaning he will not be on a regular issue card until 2017 then those 2017 cards which would have become RC’s may not technically be RC’s anymore. Even if they still become RC’s they might not be desirable to RC collectors as the Topps Now RC card, issued the year previous, might become the desired RC card.

With the development mentioned above, it could lead to extreme scarcity for RC cards, especially for 2016 if Topps Now cards stay at the print runs now being shown (between 500 to 1400 of each card). With such small print runs, these RC’s could become the next chase collectable for RC seekers who haven’t joined the program. Already (as of Apr. 14th, 2016) there are RCs of the following players in Topps Now: Trevor Brown, Trevor Story, Tyler White, Kenta Maeda and Nomar Mazara. Of the fifteen cards printed so far, seven show RC cards. With print runs under 2000 you can see how these cards are going to become quite desirable if these rookies make more and more of an impact in the future.

2016 Topps Now KC Royals

2016 Topps Now KC Royals

A second reason to pay attention is for those hobbyists who are player collectors. If you are a player collector who desires one of every card of a favorite player, then Topps Now might be something you will need to join in on. Although presently the non RC cards that have hit eBay have been in the $9.99 price range (the original selling price through Topps) it might not stay that way as more and more collectors get wind of this new card distribution method. Player collectors of Chris Davis, Addison Russell, Albert Pujols, Brandon Crawford, David Ortiz, Francisco Liriano, and Bryce Harper have Topps Now cards they might want to collect. Even team collectors have a Kansas City team card in Topps Now that they might want to add to their collection.

Whether Topps Now will catch on to a large extent remains to be seen. It might be a interesting blip in 2016, or it might be continue on into the future becoming a desired area of collecting by baseball hobbyists. At $9.99 a card, I will pass on it myself. I’ll let you decide on what is best for your collecting needs.

 

2016 Topps Buybacks: An Exercise in Stupidity

2016 Topps Buyback cards

2016 Topps Buyback cards

With 2016 in full swing, and much of this year’s product already on the shelves of dealers and department store chains, including Topps flagship product, you probably have come across some of this year’s Topps Buyback cards.

This is Topps 65th Anniversary and it is reflected on all of the Buyback cards in various lines of Topps product.

Topps, after realizing that just inserting random cards from years past, was an asinine gimmick, decided to stamp the cards with an insignia. Which to most collectors, including myself, is even worse.

If Topps ever wanted Buyback cards to make any sense they would purchase only those cards that are popular with collectors. Forget the 1987 Topps commons and insert a 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle, Forget an ’86 common and put in a 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson. Most of all, and I can’t emphasize this enough, don’t stamp the card!

When Topps stamps a card it doesn’t create a new card, it degrades a vintage card. Just as if you accidentally spilled some ink on the card, a Topps 65th Anniversary stamp on a vintage card makes it less desirable and drops it in grade. If you had a 1983 Topps Tony Gwynn rookie card in its original form, and a second one with the stamp which would you want? The answer is a no-brainer, why would I want a damaged Gwynn card?

To further the stupidity, this year Topps has decided to not only stamp the buyback cards but make them tiered with the stamps changing color. Although no specific numbers were given Topps did explain the color scheme itself. It is the following:

  • Black – Standard
  • Red – Limited
  • Blue – Rare
  • Silver – Scarce
  • Gold – one of ones (1/1)

Topps also included signature cards in the mix. The signature cards would be the exception to this whole 65th Anniversary debacle as they become similar to cards signed by players at the ballpark with proof of authenticity.

Returning to the tiered color scheme, WTF is Topps thinking this will accomplish? There are only so many times that Topps can think their customers are idiots before it will affect their sales. If most collectors think that stamped buybacks are just damaged cards, what will changing the color of the object of the damage do? Absolutely nothing.

Perhaps Topps needs someone to give them a much-needed piece of advice. I can be that someone…

Dear Topps,

I would like to inform you, as a representative of your concerned customer base, that your 2016 Topps Buyback promotion for your 65th Anniversary is embarrassing. You should rethink your priorities, fire or at least reprimand the people in your marketing department who thought up this scheme, and return to promotions that actually make sense.

If you do decide to continue with buyback promotions then do it correctly. There are only two kinds of buybacks that your customers are interested in. The first are cards that have significance in the hobby. Get us excited with RC’s of Hall of Famers or at least star players. Who of your loyal patrons would be upset pulling a RC of Roberto Clemente or even more recent and less expensive inductees like Paul Molitor or Wade Boggs. Thurman Munson or Alan Trammell would be a couple of non-Hall players that RC’s would be fun to pull from Topps packs of 2016. But don’t stamp them. Keep them in their original form. Every one you stamp creates one less collectible card.

The second kind of buybacks that are acceptable are the signature cards. You did it last year with the Topps Heritage Signature cards, you can keep up the good work. Perhaps put a slabbed signature in random boxes, or even just a redemption card in random packs so that cheaters don’t go looking for those boxes that seem a bit heavier that the others. Just don’t put signatures on the important rookie cards. Leave the important cards alone.

Thank you,

Your ever loyal customer,

The Ignorant Itellectual

 

 

Got an Extra $15,000.00 Hanging Around…

Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection Logo

Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection Logo

If you are not going to buy a car, why not spend it on a box of baseball cards. Why the disbelieving face? Yes, yes I’m serious. It launches early this year, and it’s care of Upper Deck. Called 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection, it’s UDs way of sticking it to the regular Joe. Another in a long list of cards that will hit the market which will be out of reach for the average consumer, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection will have some amazing collectibles inside it, but wasn’t it always better when a card gained its high price tag through time. It meant that when it was released everyone had a shot at having it in their collection. Sports Cards, once the patches and swatches and 5/5’s and 1/1’s entered the market, began their journey into the realm of social class.

According to Beckett Media, here is what 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection is:

Limited to just 200 boxes and with a five-figure price point, Upper Deck proclaims that it will be “blurring the boundary between trading cards and artistic collectibles” with this product. Each box will contain over 50 cards and the roster of signers could be one of the most impressive ever assembled. Even the box itself is being touted as a collectible as each one is numbered and has an autographed acrylic box topper in the lid.

For starters, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection has a 25-card base set where each card is signed by a notable or legendary athlete. As expected, longtime Upper Deck spokesmen Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, LeBron James, and Tiger Woods are featured. They will be joined by the likes of hockey’s Bobby Orr, Mark Messier, and Mario Lemieux, football’s Joe Namath, Jerry Rice, Peyton Manning, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, and John Elway, baseball’s Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire and Nolan Ryan, and basketball icon Larry Bird. Rounding out the checklist are golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus along with boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson, NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, tennis star Maria Sharapova, retired UFC star Georges St-Pierre, and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

The autographs are split into several tiers (Silver, Gold, Red, Copper, Green, Blue, Purple, Sonic Blue, and Clear) and are limited to just 20 copies each.

There will be dual autographs called Masterful Pairings that are seeded once per box. The regular version these pair up two living athletes which are produced in varying quantities while the one-of-one Masterful Pairings Autograph & Cut Signature takes one of these talents and combines them with a vintage cut of a sporting icon from the early 20th century.

As a throwback to old-school trading card sets, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection has a Master Collection puzzle made up of 30 cards. Depicting multiple athletes together, there are three tiers to collect with the basic Logo Collection puzzle being numbered to 125 while the Silver version is limited to 50 and just 25 Gold puzzles will be made.

Upper Deck’s long-standing relationship with Michael Jordan has produced many desirable cards over the years, but this time, their Jordan Diamond Legacy cards are an instant classic out of the box. Every set will have one of these cards and they will have three (/30), four (/15), five (/5), or even six (one-of-one) diamonds embedded into them. Every 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection box also contains a one-of-one Artistic Renderings card, which features autographed original art.

Perhaps the most compelling inserts of all are the Mystery Redemption cards. These cards can be exchanged for some hobby treasures such as game-worn uniforms, championship rings, autographed uncut sheets, game-used equipment from Hall of Famers, and premium signed items from Upper Deck Authenticated or even a motorcycle signed by Michael Jordan.

I’m trying to figure out the point of this product. Is it trying to further create a niche market for collectible cards? Is that niche even create-able? If I were a rich man, and liked to collect memorabilia, are there not things much more desirable and not in anyway artificial than this product? Let me see if you follow my logic…

Except for the redemption cards which will get you some great memoriabilia, the rest is just added fodder to an already crowded marketplace for autographs and patches and game-used equipment cards. If you are an autograph collector, what is the difference between an auto in this set and one in another? Nothing really, even if it is a 1/1 or 5/5 etc. If you want a Griffey Jr. auto, that’s what you want, Where it comes from doesn’t really matter as long as it authenticated.

Here is a Griffey Jr. auto sold on eBay for less than $60.00:

Ken Griffey Jr. Signature

Ken Griffey Jr. Signature

There are many others selling in the $50.00 to $1000.00 range. A Griffey Jr. signature is not a rare thing. I’m not sure why anyone thinks that just because the signature is put on a card that is a 1/1 or 5/5 it changes value. It is still a Griffey Jr. signature. It’s very sad yet quite humourous that people are spending money on these gimmicks. Let me give you a hypothetical example to prove my point.

Let’s say I’m a card company, and I’m thinking up a way to sell my boxes of cards for more money. Not because they will cost much more to print, but because I want to make more money per box or per card I print. Let’s say my budget is 1 million cards. And let’s say there are 500 players to print cards for. The simplest way is to print 1 million cards of 500 players. But the sales point for this set in a box might only be $30.00.

I want a higher price. Well one way is to add specialty cards inside. So let’s hire Griffey Jr. to sign 1000 of the 1 million cards. we take 1000 of his base cards and have him sign them. Now we can sell a box for $50.00. But wait, how about we change the border of 10% of the 1 million cards to a gold colour. Now we just made our cards tiered at no extra cost in printing (it’s just changing the amount of colour of the inks in the same process).

Now the Griffey Jr. auto is two-tiered as well. The gold parallel signature is now only 10% as common as the base card signature. It will be worth theoretically ten times as much, which means I can market that in the sale of my boxes: “Find the Griffey Jr. Gold Parallel signature card” and now sell the box for $100.00. Yet the gold or regular version of the card cost exactly the same to print. Now what happens if I change 1% of the 1 million cards to a border colour of platinum, now the Griffey Jr. signature is worth 100 times more that the base signature again at no extra cost.

Do you see where this is heading? Now add a print run number to the card (costs nothing as you have the different images on a computer, the printing stays the same, the image just changes). Now for a tiny tiny change where the print number is stamped… and so on and so on.

These gimmicks which in the creation of the cards cost nothing or very little, turns cards that were once worth $30.00 a box to $100.00 a box. Wow you now have a Platinum parallel Griffey Jr. signature card and I have the base signature card. Dude it’s the same card, but not even that, Dude it’s the same signature for God’s sake.

If I was rich, and wanted true memorabilia, I would hunt down signed bats, signed balls, game-used equipment and uniforms myself, I wouldn’t need Upper Deck to give me a lottery chance at getting it. Because essentially that is what this product is, a $15,000.00 lottery ticket with some cards thrown in in the process. I’m not sure of the cost of the diamonds they will be using in some of the cards, but I’m sure they aren’t going to be worth what it cost to the buyer in getting them, if they did it would be much easier to sell the diamond itself than the card with the diamond embedded in it. It’s why, back in the day, the Mint stopped minting silver and copper coins because people were melting them down to sell at a price higher than the face value of the coin itself.

Memorabilia is memorabilia, Card companies do not need to artificially create it in their cards. Players will be wearing uniforms, using bats and gloves, without card companies involvement. Card companies already have memorabilia, it’s the cards themselves. There is no need to complicate the process by mixing the two together.