Topps Takeover, Pt. 3: Just Because It’s Been Done That Way For Years Doesn’t Mean It’s Good

This is the third post in a series about what I will do with the Topps flagship set after I’ve bought out the company with the money I’m getting from the very nice Nigerian Prince I’m helping out (joke, joke, joke-itty joke, joke, joke).

On Monday I mentioned that there won’t be any more foil, but there actually is more thought behind it than “Nah, I don’t like it, get rid of it”.

Foil on cards was introduced just over 20 years ago to make cards seem “high end”. At first they were on parallels and inserts, and before very much longer they were incorporated into the design.

Now it’s gotten to the point where having foil no longer makes a card high end, it’s just another design element. Ignore for a minute that Panini products don’t have team logos, and just think about the card design. Does 2014 Topps seem that much more “high end” than the foil-less 2014 Pinnacle? You may not like Pinnacle, but I doubt you ever said “I’m not collecting it because it doesn’t have foil”.

So my thinking is this: If it costs extra yet gets taken for granted, why do it? Does 2014 Topps with foil really look any better than 2014 Opening Day without? Would anybody really miss it if it quietly went away? Would it have unintended side effects like making player names legible again?

After I was done thinking about the necessity of foil, that line of thought took me to a more controversial place: Relics.

I think by this point everybody has at least a trace of doubt about how authentic any relic card is. It’s cool to think that a piece of jersey is one that once made contact with Clayton Kershaw’s skin (to pick a random example and make it sound as creepy as possible), but that’s assuming that the card company and their jersey supplier and any other people in the pipeline are on the up-and-up. It’s not like KPMG is auditing this stuff, it all ultimately comes down to trust.

Add to that the general feeling I get that relics are largely “over”, and people aren’t as enthused about them as they used to be.

One final thought about relic cards: If the thick relic cards are gone, then that gives “pack feelers” one less thing to feel.

But what really comes to mind is that this is a business, and in a business one thing you examine is “Return On Investement”. If we sink a certain amount of money in buying relics, will it result in at least a like amount in sales?

I’m not sure it does anymore. So I’m pulling the authentic stuff. Maybe people will care, maybe they won’t. We’ll see.

What do you think? Does foil make a difference any more? Would you miss relics if they went away? Would you be just as happy with “manupatch” cards and other similar cards which don’t claim to be anything other than decorative?

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11 thoughts on “Topps Takeover, Pt. 3: Just Because It’s Been Done That Way For Years Doesn’t Mean It’s Good

  1. Don’t have much of an opinion on the foil. I have my doubts about the relics. I haven’t actively sought any out. I’ve recieved some in trades they look pretty cool and I won’t turn any down but I really don’t think they are worth the money. The biggest key should be to make the hobby affordable to kids again.

  2. I’ve been enjoying reading about your improvements to Topps. I look forward to seeing them next year!

    In all honesty, I don’t care about foil on cards. BBM doesn’t do it. Calbee doesn’t do it. Japan’s card industry survives. And BBM uses foilboard for many of its inserts, which actually detracts from the appearance in several cases. The use of foil signatures for parallels is nice sometimes. I like the holographic foil they use.

    You haven’t gotten to parallels or inserts (really) yet, so I’ll save my thoughts on foil usage there for those posts, if they come.

    What about relics? I think the low value is due to oversaturation. Not everybody needs relics in their collection, and like autographs, many relic subjects aren’t popular, and frequently come in high quantities. BBM includes, on average, 2-3 relic cards per release. I think autographs are the general “box hit” if there is one.

    NPB relic subjects tend to be better players, too, so the “common” price of a relic starts higher as a result.

    I like relics, to some extent. They’re less expensive than autographs for some players. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford an Ichiro, Pujols, McGwire, or Bonds autograph, but I can have a piece of their bat or jersey. Yes, authenticity is an issue, but card companies can work harder to obtain more provenance for a particular item, especially for active players. I have no doubt that the jerseys used in BBM’s products are authentic, because there are just so few of them. Contracting with a team or player to buy from the source and making those contracts or bills of sale publicly available (blocking out certain information – price, for example) would help immensely.

    Relics are more important to me in non-sport and odd sports cards – Olympics, movies, and TV shows for example. Many times I prefer the relics, especially if I care about the movie/character more than the actor or actress behind it.

    The relic system needs to be overhauled, perhaps, but not abandoned.

  3. I like foil… but I don’t need it. Like many things in life… moderation is the key. As for relics… I like them. But as I mentioned recently on another blog, I wouldn’t object to Topps getting rid of them. There are so many relic cards floating around the hobby, I can collect the rest of my life and still have plenty to collect. In fact… if Topps stopped producing them… maybe the battle between supply vs. demand would even out and relics would maintain their value a little better.

  4. I agree completely. If you’re going to use foil, do so sparingly, and NOT in a way that makes anything hard to read. So, yeah, I say ditch it, too. At least for a change of pace, if nothing else.

    And relic cards can absolutely go. Keep autographs (on card!). They’re much more interesting and personal.

    Wish this were actually going to happen…

  5. I don’t need foil. I will confess to being a bit of a sucker for shiny refractors, but they don’t scan for beans and neither does foil. I actually find most foil lettering close to illegible.

    I can’t get into relics. I was enormously bent out of shape when a pair of George Vezina’s pads were cut to go into a card. Some modern guy? Go to town. Those pads should have gone to a museum.

    Autos, I’m still kind of fond of, assuming it’s someone I’d want to have. I got a Garth Iorg hand-signed card. That’s pretty awesome.

    • You’ve touched on something that’s bugged me for a while… Taking something that’s cool in and of itself, and then hacking it to bits so it can be made into inserts. That’s just wrong.

      I’m not big into autos or relics, but I feel like getting an auto of anybody is cool, and relics are “I hope I can sell this on COMC”.

  6. I hate the foil. Problem is, Topps has pretty much boxed themselves in. I believe part of their exclusive agreement with MLB requires an entry-level price point product. Thus Opening Day. Right now, ask Topps why Opening Day can be sold for half the price of the flagship when they’re basically the same cards and they can say “the foil”. Take away the foil and they can’t justify charging twice as much for the same cards.

    As for relics, we’ve pretty much reached the hobby’s “death spiral”. Everybody wants and expects them, even if they don’t really care. The thrill of the hit has become a necessary selling point. Because every collector–even if they intellectually could care less–emotionally wants that momentary high of the hit. And relics are waaayyy cheaper than autos. Assuming each little carpet swatch is legit (granted, a large assumption), you can get thousands of those off each game worn piece. Paying for an athlete’s time to sign–that’s a much bigger expense. Besides which, the relics and autos are the ONLY thing driving the high end products where the profit margin is huge.

    From a collectors’ standpoint, you’ve got some cool ideas. From a business standpoint, Topps would lose their collective shirts. Yes, it could be done, done well, and at a profit. But it wouldn’t approach a Topps sized profit.

    This is why I miss Pacific. Pacific was run by fans and collectors and it showed. Even though Pacific was one of the first to jump on the foil bandwagon, their products were always innovative and fun and they usually included players (like middle relievers and back-up catchers) that the others didn’t want to waste cardboard on.

    • So many excellent points, I don’t know where to start… I will say that while I’m trying to be fairly realistic on my ideas, but you’re right in that I’d probably run Topps into the ground in a couple of years because I don’t understand the lottery mentality… I just don’t get that rush that other people get, for me it ranges from “cool, now I don’t have to buy this” to “Crap, I hope I can sell this thing on COMC”.

      I also miss Pacific… Their designs weren’t always the most tasteful, but they were always fun to collect and I absolutely miss the player selection.

  7. Foil Spoils Cards. I hate foil like poison. I shouldn’t have to turn cards to different angles to read what the heck the guy’s name is.

    relics could go away and I wouldn’t care. I think they had run their course before i even got back into the card hobby. I was excited when I first encountered them but everyone else was yawning. Dump them.

    VERY selective on-card autos would be pretty neat.

  8. Pingback: Topps Takeover: The Designs I’m Using For Next Year’s Archives | The Shlabotnik Report

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