I’ve found that I don’t typically share the same opinions about the hobby as a lot of the bloggers and twitterers out there.
While several of you out there like to claim every quality control issue is a product of the Topps monopoly, I see it as a simple quality control issue. Was every production run perfect before the monopoly? Are things really worse now? I admit Topps Chrome last year was bad, but I sincerely doubt it spurred from laziness.
While most of you bitched and moaned about how they can’t get their reprints to match exactly, I took a different stance and said “hey, this is probably on purpose and maybe we just don’t fully understand why.”
When people said that Topps getting the exclusive would be the end of the hobby as we know it, I called timeout. Exclusive licenses aren’t tenured things, and you would be damn sure Topps would lose theirs if the products stunk and no one was buying. MLBP ain’t stupid. Only their condescending press release statements are. Topps is still motivated by sales and wants to put out the best product possible to steal more market share and prove they’re worthy of more exclusive licenses.
There are the people who are complaining about the 2012 Series 1 sell sheets and wanting to know what’s so “game changing” about it. I’m in a different camp there, too. I don’t think Topps meant that buzz-word to apply to series 1 specifically. I wasn’t at the National when it was said (or at all, sigh), but from what I read, I always interpreted it to mean 2012 as a whole. I think it’s a lot of exaggerated crying that we’re seeing so far.
What we can take from all of this is that collectors are frustrated, and a lot of them probably are taking it out on Topps because that’s the most obvious outlet for their anger. I think that’s like blaming your hand for what your elbow is doing.
Now, personally I don’t think Topps has been squandering their monopoly. If they’re being complacent, how do you explain the Million & Diamond card giveaways? I think the Koufax, DiMaggio estate, and Mays signings are examples of effort. I think they’re still trying new lines like Gypsy Queen and Lineage. Even though we panned one before the fact (then all of a sudden became it’s BFFs) and was curious about the other (then panned it after the fact), they drew our attention and to some extent our dollars. Updating the autograph checklist for Topps Tier One to actually include more top tier players and more hall of famers and less scrub autos was a great step in the right direction. The anniversary push and sending celebrity players to talk shows to promote was a new tactic to me. I think they’re trying, but some people like to complain and use easy excuses.
So, why do I say I’m worried? It has nothing to do with Panini. I think everyone already knows what to expect from Panini.
I’m worried, because I’m afraid we’re going to start to see two Paninis on the shelves if Topps continues with what they’re doing in 2012 Series 1. What am I talking about, you say? Take a look at some images I cropped from the sell sheets.
Yes, they’re taking cues and templates from Panini and producing the multi-purpose cards that we love so much. There are more examples of this as well.
I think on this particular insert, it really looks like a Panini card. While I appreciate the usage of space on the non-variant more here, it’s still a little sad that it’s been designed with a multi-purpose agenda.
There’s also a non-either version of this, of course. Does that stripe in the background remind of you of a certain manufacturer?
Some of you may be saying to yourself that Topps has put relics and autos on their inserts before. What about Topps 60 from this year? To that, I say “true, but it wasn’t multi-purpose per se. There was no specific element on the insert that was meant to be cut out to put that jersey as we’re seeing above. They just plopped it in the middle. Same with the sticker auto. Just slapped across the middle. You don’t see the image pre-faded for the auto like you see on Jeter, Seaver, and Ty Cobb (who ain’t signing, by the way). And I heard no complaints from anyone about that, except when it came to secondary market value. But going the way of Panini isn’t going to solve that. Not diluting the market with an abundance of autos and relics will solve that.
So, I have to wonder. Did Topps see Panini creeping up behind them and so they decided to appropriate portions of the business model? Is it really that much more cost effective to produce cards in this manner?
We’ll see how it all shakes out. I have plenty of thought as to how the industry should work and steps that could be taken to inject a little life into it. A “new” player like Panini could be an interesting boost. Assuming Topps doesn’t meld into them first.