Time Sensitive Releases and the Future of Collecting – One Year Later

Remember this post?  Probably not, but now that a year plus have passed and people are more accustomed to Topps Now, I wanted to revisit the topic.

Originally, I said that the print-to-order, online exclusive, 24 hour (sometimes a week) purchase window cards scared me.  Now, I mostly see it as a nuisance.  Let’s go over a couple of my original points here.

Engagement – What’s interesting is that the engagement still seems pretty high on the social media front.  Sure, #ToppsNow has become something of a sarcastic meme, but it’s still getting talked about regularly.  However, I don’t see these cards getting the mass media attention that a few of the cards did.  That luster has worn off.

I also expressed concern about having to check twitter or email every day in fear of missing out on cards of players I collect [at the time, I didn’t collect current players, but that has since changed after the 2016 championship, as seen below (spoilers)].  The program is predictable enough that you know what players or moments are going to be featured on a card ahead of time, if you’re paying attention to the games.  There is still the very unfortunate issue of the autos and relics that are limited and sell out right away.  That still requires a constant refresh and for you to be able to ignore your work to try, and that alienates people and encourages attempted scalpers.

Price – Enough time has passed that I imagine my concerns about people buying the cards, despite not really having the means, are unfounded now.  The price hasn’t dropped, but I hope that they’ve all realized that ebay is their friend.  The bulk sellers reduce the price and many are willing to liquidate even lower after a certain amount of time, so it’s not hard to get them for less than $10 if you want.

Of course, this also seems to be reducing the print runs for the 2017 cards quite a bit, and so we might start to see a bit of a cyclical thing happening where prices raise enough to entice new buyers which will increase print runs and lower prices and the waves ebb and flow a bit.

Colon – Bartolo’s home run card was the poster child for the program and it was going for high dollars for a bit.  How is it doing now?  Well, sales seem to be as high as $25 now, but I also see recent sales at around the $10 mark.  Other Bartolo cards are available for as low as $2 plus shipping.

What’s next? – Where does Topps go from here?  They’ve made some small improvements to the program.  There’s a points system for frequent buyers, although that mostly helps the people that buy everything to flip.  I still think they could do more.  One comment on my first post suggested the idea of a subscription service or push notifications to your phone.  I think that would really be a huge benefit.  Imagine signing up for a team and getting notice sent to you that there’s a new card that day.  It would hopefully increase sales and give Topps an idea as to how many fans of each team are registered to gauge demand.

I’d also like to see more contingent incentives come into play, because that’s part of what got me to buy my first Topps Now cards.

That’s a lot of happy faces

Yes, I took the plunge.  After game 7 last year, Topps offered a set of cards commemorating the win.  The price point was a lower per card average than I was used to seeing and since I vowed to collect the players from that winning team, it seemed appropriate to make this my first acquisition.

Scanned to be cropped, but left without

Here’s a few more from the set.  Topps offered two versions.  There was a regular set and then a set with an auto.  Knowing how highly priced the autos can get from Topps Now, at least for the time being, it seemed like a good preemptive strike on that front too.  So, for less than $10 per card, I got the set and an auto, which could have been one of 4 players, and the potential for low numbered parallels.  Not bad.

And to you, too, Topps

Before we get to the auto, however, I want to mention another one of the nice program perks.  Free cards occasionally pop up.  That’s a really nice, unnecessary gesture.  I will say, going back to the price discussion, that this particular card is the cheapest one I’ve seen in person at $3.00.  At this year’s National, I saw a different Topps Now card at $4.00.  Maybe by the next Chicago National in 2019 I’ll see them in the dollar bin as predicted.


Here’s the autograph.  This card can still fetch close to $100.  That’s a price I would never pay in the open market.  That means that if I were to sell it, my set would virtually pay for itself.  I’ll be honest, I considered buying multiple sets and flipping the extra sets in hopes of getting different autos, but I didn’t have the cash at the time anyway.

To wrap this up, I’ll say that I’m surprised at how quickly these cards became a pretty normal part of the collecting landscape.  I’m also surprised at the quality of the cards.  These are nice, sturdy cards that look great.  I’m happy I decided to get these, although I still can’t imagine getting any singles or the weekly sets at their current prices.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t bought more Topps Now cards since, but I’ll save that for another day.  My time is too sensitive to write about that right now.

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