Thursday, August 12, 2010

The definitive voice of the industry...

...all hail me!

Just kidding.

Actually when it comes to commentary on the hobby, I often keep my thoughts internalized since I have only been collecting for just over a year now and there is still so much more to this hobby that just escapes me due to lack of experience.

However (and unfortunately) over such a short time, I have definitely learned much of the pitfalls and negatives that come along with the hobby...from financial recklessness to blog politics, to one's man trash is practically everybody's else's trash as well. I still learn something new every day and having now opened enough product, I am able to form some of my own opinions about what is going on with products, especially since Topps became a monopoly.

This week I have seen several blogs that have expressed displeasure about Topps products and the lack of originality from product to product. Others have mourned the loss of Upper Deck, which seems odd to me to hear these types of stories NOW, since this has been old new for several months. My suspicion is that now that products are coming out, the reality of a monopoly is finally starting to sink in.

If you will so indulge me, I would like to pitch in a few thoughts based on a greenhorn's perspective...

When it comes to the Topps product line this year, I would have to say that where my greatest displeasure lay is with having the same card subjects in every product. What I mean by this is that because of long-term contracts signed with athletes, I can guarantee that generally the same list of B-level players, unknown rookies, and a smattering and incredibly difficult to pull superstars are in every product. I tire of seeing Shin-soo-choo, Josh Outman, and Aramis Ramirez in every Topps release.

As well, I also get tired of cards from Legends like Ty Cobb, Christy Matthews, Honus Wagner, Dizzy Dean, Tris Speaker, Cy Young....These are legends and heroes of the game, but often times the image is just recycled from set to set and just digitally placed on a different card design. I really feel that Topps should mix up the Legends a bit more and teach us about some of lesser known players of the era. Again, I am fairly new to collecting, so maybe this is all blasphemy to you, but if I tire of seeing these images over and over again after only a year, that can't be a good sign.

Recycled images of current players is also a major problem. Not so much from the same year, but looking at this year's Ginter release, how many of those images look familiar from LAST year? Combine that with dreary gray Peak Performance relics from Topps Flagship some odd flat olive-grey base color on Ginter and you are left feeling a little gloomy after a box break, to be quite honest. Thank goodness for the shiny Topps Tribute for those willing to pony up.

Also, from a new collectors perspective..."HOLY MOLY, easy on the pricing there, fellas!" I understand that Strasburg is white-hot, and everybody wants a piece of the action, but these ridiculous mark-ups are starting to take a toll, at least on this collector. When I entered this hobby I had visions of being a set collector, but with these outrageous prices for hobby boxes, I have learned to be happy with what I get out of one box and a smattering of ebay purchases, and then move on to the next product. Simple economics explains why Topps is taking advantage of Washington's new talent, and short-term it is a fair strategy, but you can sense the angst of collectors out least the 99% of us that DON'T pull a Strasburg! IMO, I feel that Topps has had the ultimate opportunity to win over collectors by offering a family of quality releases at reasonable prices that would grow a happy customer base...but they are blowing it by going for greed and the quick bucks. If I could draw a parallel, it almost feels like Exxon or BP Jacking up the price of gas to $4.00 bucks a gallon for a few months, and then releasing massive bonuses to all their employees every December. Does not leave you with a very good feeling at all.

And as for customer service, this is unfortunately another area where Topps is failing, but it does not matter because they are the only show in town. I have had my negative phone experience with them regarding a horribly damaged box of of Bowman (overpriced Bowman at that) as well as a few unreturned emails. Again, it feels like Topps is thinking short-term, and don't care about the long-term effects of poor customer service and (apparently) quality controls

So in summary, while I don't HATE Topps and think that they are destroying the hobby and should be marooned on Mars with Beckett representatives, I do think that the creativeness could use a boost, the repetitive card subjects need a shuffle, prices needs STABILIZATION, and customers relations could use a bit of a refresher course. Treat your consumers well, for not every year is going to be a Kerry Strasburg year.

Thanks for listening.

Kirk out.


  1. A thought popped into my head while reading this post:

    Topps could release to different versions of every product that they made this year, one where you have a shot at pulling a Strasburg and one where you have no chances at all of pulling a Strasburg.

    Can you imagine how much of a price difference there would be between the two products? With this you wouldn't be left with all of the collectors that are considering leaving the hobby after such a "blah" year driven by the Chosen One.

    In reality this would never happen, but in my sounded like a good idea to me.

  2. hmm, I must have been buying all the versions where I had no chance :) I imagine that the retail boxes and blasters are sorta what you are talking about...and actually people have been finding stuff in retail boxes that were case hits or nonexistant in hobby boxes.

    I think the fixed prices in retail are nice, but I also want my guaranteed hits. What can ya do?

  3. I can't help but feel that the "one man's trash" line is directed at me.


    Rehashed photos, lazy design, and overpriced boxes? Sounds like a recipe for another cardboard recession, eerily similar to what happened after the last 'boom' in the early 90s. The late 2000's are almost like the junk wax era all over again - there are A LOT of unnecessary products floating around.

    For now, I'm with you and just picking up a box here and there, along with singles. I'm perfectly happy with redirecting my spending money elsewhere, and towards much less nerdy things like video games.

  4. The Topps monopoly is just an excuse. Topps had some duds before this year, as did Upper Deck and every other company. There will always be hits and misses. Life goes on.

  5. I'd like to see a new set with the a checklist like the '03 Fan Favorites. I've been trolling through those on theBay and there is a nice mixture of players in there.