30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Playing Cardboard God

Every Tuesday and Thursday after school, I have a small group of students who hang out in my classroom and vent their frustrations.  Sometimes they ask me for advice, but most of the time they just need a place to get things off of their chest.

Today, I'm following their lead and venting some steam of my own in regards to my all-time favorite baseball card company: Topps.

2017 Topps Bunt #73

Last week I read over on Cards on Cards that Topps dropped Topps Bunt from their lineup.  Part of me was a little bummed, because it was a cheap and simple product with a solid design in 2017.  On the other hand, one less Topps baseball product is exactly what the hobby needs (in my humble opinion).

2017 Topps Bunt Blue #73
2017 Topps Independence Day #ID-5

The past few years, I've grown more and more annoyed with Topps flooding the hobby with their excessive number of parallels and cheesy inserts.  It takes me back to the 90's when our hobby was oversaturated with stuff, supply exceeded demand, and card values plummeted.

If you're one of those collectors who could care less about card values, then this might seem like a good thing.  Trust me.  I'm not in this hobby to make money.  But I'd like to know that I'm not throwing my money down the drain either.

And if we ever hope to get kids back into collecting, don't you think that they'd want to pull something of value too?

I honestly don't have the end all... be all answer to our hobby's problems.  However, I have a few ideas that I feel would benefit our hobby in the long run.

#1:  End the Topps monopoly.

2008 UD Masterpieces #81

Competition breeds innovation.  Topps doesn't need to be creative, because they don't really have any serious competition (well at least when it comes to my wallet).  Sure there are companies like Leaf and Panini, but there are a percentage of collectors out there that want to see team logos on their trading cards.

#2:  Limit the number of products card companies can release each year.  

Did you know that Topps released over forty baseball products last year?  Don't believe me?  Here's a list that I was able to produce:

Topps Series One
Topps Series Two
Topps Update
Topps Allen and Ginter
Topps Allen and Ginter X
Topps Archives
Topps Archives Signature Series Postseason
Topps Archives Signature Series Player Edition
Topps Archives Snapshots
Topps Bunt
Topps Chrome
Topps Clearly Authentic
Topps Definitive Collection
Topps Diamond Icons
Topps Dynasty
Topps Finest
Topps Fire
Topps Five Star
Topps Gallery
Topps Gold Label
Topps Gypsy Queen
Topps Heritage
Topps Heritage Minor League
Topps High Tek
Topps Holiday
Topps Inception
Topps Luminaries
Topps Mini
Topps Now
Topps Opening Day
Topps Pro Debut
Topps Stadium Club
Topps Tier One
Topps Transcendent
Topps Tribute
Topps Triple Threads
Bowman's Best
Bowman Chrome
Bowman Draft
Bowman High Tek
Bowman Platinum

Now I'm not 100% positive all of these products were actually released... but at the same time, I'm not 100% certain that this list is complete.  There could have been a few products I missed.

Honestly... if that doesn't open our eyes to overproduction, then I'm not sure anything will.  It also helps explain Topps and their lack of creativity.  Simply put, they're spread too thin.

My solution?  Major League Baseball should limit the number of baseball card products produced each year.  Since Topps is currently the only company to hold an MLB license to make trading cards and I have the opportunity to play Cardboard God, I'd limit them to 10 to 12 products in 2019.

Here's a peek at my suggested product line for them:

     Product #1:  Low-end, kid friendly product (ex. Topps Kids, Topps Bunt, Topps Total, etc.)

     Product #2:  Flagship product: Series 1, Series 2, and Update would count as one product.

     Product #3:  Chrome flagship product: Series 1 and Update would count as one product.

     Product #4:  Mid-range product (Stadium Club, Archives, Topps Gallery, Topps Gold Label, etc.)

     Product #5:  High-end product (Museum Collection, Five Star, Triple Threads, etc.)

     Product #6:  Topps Now (for online exclusive fans)

     Product #7:  Heritage

     Product #8:  Retro themed product (Allen and Ginter, Gypsy Queen, T206, Murad, Turkey Red, etc.)

     Product #9:  Bowman Draft

     Product #10:  Another minor league/prospect product (Bowman Chrome, Topps Pro Debut, Heritage Minors, etc.)

     Product #11:  Collector's choice.  Give collectors a list of options and allow them to vote on a product.

     Product #12:  Topps's choice.  

Honestly... twelve products feels like a bit too much... especially when you consider that some of us collected back in an era when Topps only produced one set each year.  However I realize that some collectors have gotten used to products like Chrome, Heritage, and Topps Now, so twelve seemed like a happy medium.

This number would drop for Topps if Major League Baseball would be willing to grant other companies licenses to produce cards.  For example, if MLB were to give Upper Deck their license back, then Topps and Upper Deck would each be granted 5 to 6 products each year.

#3:  Rotate certain popular products.

Obviously limiting the number of products that card companies can release would force the to put some of their popular products on the chopping block.  To counter this problem, they could produce a product wheel releasing certain products every few years.

2014 Allen and Ginter #223
2005 Topps Turkey Red #310
2012 Gypsy Queen #252

For example, let's take a look at their retro themed products.  If Topps put Allen and Ginter, Turkey Red, and Gypsy Queen on a wheel, we would only see each of these products once every three years.

The same theory could be applied to their low-end, mid-range, high-end, and minor league products as well and still give collectors what they desire without flooding the market.

#4:  Limit the number of insert sets and parallels too.

Card companies would try to bend the rules by creating a bunch of different insert sets and parallels to counter their limited number of product lines.

If I were a Cardboard God, I'd limit them to four (maybe five) parallels or insert sets per product.  However, I'd allow them to transfer their unused balance to another product within that same year.

2017 Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection Relics #CCR-JAL
2016 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-AK

In other words, if Topps decided that Heritage would only have two insert sets (Clubhouse Collection relics and Real One autographs) and no parallels, they could pass their two unused parallels/insert sets to Topps Chrome (or any other Topps baseball card product), which would now have the ability to create six parallel/insert sets.

2000 Topps Gallery Gallery of Heroes #GH10
2015 Topps Chrome Refractor #1

Setting this limit would force card companies to choose wisely about the inserts and parallels they create and design, which would hopefully result in interesting and beautiful inserts and parallels for us to collect.

#5:  Certify all game-used memorabilia cards properly.

2015 Topps Strata Clearly Authentic Autographed Relics #CAAR-CKW

There are two major reasons why memorabilia cards aren't what they used to be.  One of those reasons is collectors don't know what they're actually holding.  Topps was smart to start putting MLB holograms on some of their game-used jersey swatches.

These holograms allowed collectors to look up and see exactly what game their swatch of jersey was used in.  Topps should attached these holograms to the backs of every game-used memorabilia card and add a tamper proof seal to keep collectors from removing them and affixing them to other cards.

Card companies should be required to acquire all game-used memorabilia of current players from Major League Baseball and no longer use third party sources.

And there should be a well-written certificate of authenticity on the back of each card to give collectors a sense of security.

I'm not sure of what's the best way to acquire retired and deceased baseball player's jerseys.  Any ideas?

#6:  Make game-used memorabilia cards and autographs tougher to pull.

1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey #GJ2

The other reason game-used memorabilia cards have lost their luster is they're way too easy to pull and they literally litter our hobby.  Autographs too.  Card companies should make both of these items tougher to pull, so that collectors can remember how it feels to pull a "hit" from a pack.

#7:  All autographed cards should be hard-signed and witnessed by a company representative.

I'm tired of hearing stories about mothers, brothers, and wives signing cards for players.  It's simple.  Send representatives to Spring Training and to games throughout the season and have them sit down with players to sign the cards.  I realize that this would require some forethought on the company's part, but since they're no longer producing 40+ products each season, they'll have more time on their hands.

Still waiting...

As an added bonus, this would also reduce the need for card companies to use redemption cards.

I'm sure that there are plenty of other ways to improve our hobby... but this post has already taken me over two hours to write and I'm exhausted.

So it's your turn.  If you were a Cardboard God...

What would you do to improve our hobby?

As usual... I look forward to reading and responding to your comments.  Who knows... maybe someone over at Topps will read this post and consider some of our ideas.

Happy Tuesday and sayonara!


  1. Amen! I would issue licenses to three companies and limit the total number of sets as well as the overall number of inserts each company could produce each year....they would have to figure out how to divvy up insets across the products. I got out of the hobby in 1994 when the industry started producing so much stuff I couldn't keep track of it. We are in the same boat again I feel. However, gone are the day that kids are going to collect in mass like we did. The hobby has embraced the "lottery" feel of products and moved away from set builders. Too many other things to separate kids from their money besides just cards. Once our generation is gone, the sports card industry is really going to struggle.

  2. A lot of these are similar to my general thoughts. I like the idea of rotating products over multiple years so that there's not so much glut too. But my main issue is for Topps to embrace Flagship as the card of record for the hobby that everyone—especially kids—should be encouraged to build.

    Outside of that the biggest issue for me is for Topps to really define what the sets *are.* Topps's tendency toward 200-card sets of stars and rookies with a bazillion variations and inserts means that each new product is increasingly indistinguishable. Especially with the photo reuse between Opening Day, Flagship, and Chrome.

    Some of the lines like Ginter and Stadium Club have a decent identity. Others are an enigma and I can't get a feel for what they are.

  3. I don’t mind bunt being dropped. I’ve never cared for the look of it, and the online things made it another thing only the rich could win at. The new Topps Big League Baseball seems like it is a nice addition. If they could perhaps make it in place of Opening Day and add most of the roster with maybe a silver (1 per pack) and gold (1 in 36 packs) parallel kind of like Total, I would totally buy it. I would only allow 3 high end releases. I don’t collect them, and I don’t really recognize half of the names of sets you listed because I can afford all of them.
    I think Allen & Ginter needs to be an every year set just due to its popularity, similar to Heritage. Maybe let them do a Heritage Minors set early in the year with most of the minor league rosters of teams, and a Bowman set at the end of the year for the 2018 Draft Picks and guys who had a good season. I would change Archives into either a ‘Cards that never Were’ set, or make it like the ‘01-‘05 years where it had players in designs from when they played and some original cards.
    I love the idea of limiting parallels to maybe 3 kinds per set. I like the certifying autographs and game used cards but not the limiting them. If they could get a jersey or two of every player in the Bigs and inset then normally and have the patches as ‘big hits’, then they would still have something with that big pull feel, and every player would have a memorabilia card. I think this Big League set could help kids stay collecting as long as the price point is good.
    I think Topps has some good products, so they should keep releasing many of the lower end sets, but pull back the higher end stuff. I wouldn’t mind keeping Stadium Club, Archives Signature, maybe Finest and Gallery if they were redone some. I’d be ok with scrapping Allen/Giner X, Fire, keeping Bowman Platinum and maybe adding an old-school kind of Bowman’s Best. Get rid of the rest that wasn’t mentioned earlier. And finally, let Upper Deck and Donruss give Topps some competition. Couldn’t hurt.

  4. Great post. It almost feels like we are coming to another "bubble" with collecting. Coming from collecting football the past few years Topps is far less annoying than Panini. They release one to two products per week and even their high-end products are really starting to feel cheap.

    A shared license and limit on products release would be great, but as long as the money keeps coming in, ALL card companies are gonna pump it out.

  5. Bunt is essentially being replaced this year by another low end product--Big League.

    I agree with pretty much everything you said. I think some products can co-exist in the mid-tier range like Stadium Club and Archives. I do like the idea of putting the retro sets on a cycle. Allen and Ginter is starting to look stale so a break would be nice.

  6. I agree with everything in this post, especially the inserts/parallels cap. Perhaps included in that should be a variations cap, because those REALLY seem to be getting out of hand lately.

  7. I have a bad feeling in my gut telling me that your list of products released in 2017 is missing a few online exclusive stuff. Like the 5x7 or 10x14 wall decorations (blarg!).

    I agree about there being too many products. I don't know how anyone keeps up with it or has the energy to really care.

    Also even though I'm a huge prospect guy, I've felt that products like Pro Debut and Heritage Minors have overstayed their welcome. And for that matter the "high end" prospect stuff is meaningless because the only prospect cards worth a damn in the long run are the Bowman Chrome prospect cards.

    1. Yeah, I think there was at least one such oversize set last year. I would also count the Topps Now branded online sets, such as Road To Opening Day and Players Weekend, as separate products. Also, he left off Bowman flagship!

  8. I am with you; no exclusive license, limit the amount of products released, cut inserts and parallels ( drop variations and gimmicks all together).

  9. No more exclusives period. We need competition as u said to drive innovation and creativity. This goes for all sports

  10. I agree with many of the above points, but I'll also go with some of my usual rallying cries... I would like:
    - An original retro set with a 1950's/60's feel rather than YET ANOTHER fauxbacco set.
    - More efforts to thwart pack-feelers
    - Card numbers which are legible to the slightly-visually-challenged.
    - Clear labeling of variations and parallels.

  11. Great points throughout!
    Especially to Kill the exclusive contracts,
    Limit the inserts (I like five or six inserts sets, but keep them to 25 or less for the whole year!),
    Make them readable (numbers and text) to those of us post-20-year-olds,
    and make some claim as to what the heck the swatch of cloth actually IS on the front of the card.

  12. As long as the demand is there, they’ll keep pumping all these sets out unfortunately. True change will only come I think from a shift in the collector base or convincing other collectors that too many products is damaging to the hobby. A similar thing happened in the car industry. So many different models and brands. Economy took a downturn, people stopped buying, and the industry as a whole almost went bankrupt. They realized they needed to stick to core brands and models. Ditch all the rest. I’m not sure the hobby has the long game in mind.

  13. Your #1 is mine as well. I want Upper Deck back. I don't care how many products they put out but I'd like Topps, or any of them, to take more pride in their work. Too much sloppiness. Agree with 5, 6, 7. In addition, I'd like the companies to demand better quality signatures from the players. If that means cutting the quantity so be it. I'm sick of seeing scribbles and initials. Take care or don't do it.

  14. Thank you for all of the wonderful feedback! Like I said in the post, I hope Topps takes the time to read your comments.

    SumoMenkoMan - As much as I don't want to accept this... I feel you're right about kids returning to our hobby.

    Nick Vossbrink - Agree 100%. That's just another reason Topps should limit the number of products released. It'd help collectors actually focus on what's out there... plus allow the people of Topps to dedicate more time to individual products and help create an identity for them.

    Jeremya1um - I'd be willing to compromise and allow Topps to keep more of their lower end products if it meant that Upper Deck and Panini received the MLB licenses.

    Base Card Hero - Panini releases one or two football products a week? Wow. I wonder if they produce more football sets than Topps produces baseball sets. Just the fact that this is an issue is scary. I agree. As long as collectors dig deep into their wallets... card companies are gonna produce cards for us to spend our hard earned money on. I just wish that they'd look at the big picture, because it'll affect their wallets too.

    ketchupman36 - Looking forward to seeing Big League. I really hope it ends up being like Topps Total.

    Nick - I could write an entire post on variations, but I'll keep it to these comments. I agree... they're totally getting out of hand. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Topps released a product called Topps Variations where player collectors were forced to collect 10 different variations of the same card. Oh wait. They already have. It's called Tek.

    Zippy Zappy & Brett Alan - Oh it is. I honestly didn't have the patience to dig through all of their online releases. Heck even Topps Now had different sets. I'll update the post with Bowman as soon as I'm finished with these comments.

    Corky - Great minds think alike, right?

    Sport Card Collectors - Yeah. I considered writing a post encompassing football, hockey, and even basketball... but time (to research) and the length of this post made me focus on the sport I collect the most.

    shlabotnikreport - Nailed it. I'm about to go blind trying to read the small text on cards. And the little code at the bottom of the card that Topps uses is useless for guys like me, because I can't see it without a magnifying glass. I'm seriously thinking about picking one up on Amazon for specifically reading the backs of cards.

    GCA - Yeah... I'd love to know the history behind the swatches of cloth. If card companies only used jersey acquired from MLB, collectors would be able to look up the holograms on the MLB website and see who, when, and where the swatch was used.

    SumoMenkoMan (Part 2): Love the card industry comparison.

    Hackenbush - I'm tired of seeing scribbles too. I don't blame players for having a few versions of their signatures, but they should use their full signature if card companies are paying top dollar for them.

    Scribbled Ink - Loved the post you published last night on your blog!