Saturday, November 19, 2016

Motion for Reconsideration

Lawyers like to file motions. When we do it, we are asking the Court to do something. We are literally saying to the Court that we would like the Court to act -- to move -- and do something that is to our client's benefit. So, we might file a Motion to Compel Responses to Discovery when the other side in litigation refuses to answer a particular question or produce certain documents. Or we might file a Motion to Dismiss a complaint if we want to test the sufficiency of the facts and allegations contained in the complaint.

Sometimes, we will even ask the court to think about the issues all over again. That is when we file a Motion for Reconsideration. We ask the Court to look at what was argued, try to add some new twist or citation to a case that the Court missed, and say that the Court's original decision -- how the Court approached the issues in a previous motion -- was wrong. 

The thing about these motions is that they rarely succeed. Courts do not simply "change their minds" -- the judge came to his/her decision for a reason. Courts hate these motions, too, because the motion says, in essence, "judge, you came to the wrong decision, and if you weren't such an idiot and found this case, you would have gotten it right."

These motions are not fun, and making a reconsideration of things and admitting that something went wrong is even less fun. 

And yet, I'm at that stage with my baseball card collecting.

I'm reconsidering how I am approaching collecting, what I'm collecting, and why I'm collecting. This is for a few reasons:

1.  Topps's Flagship Flogging 

Topps is taking all the fun out of new cards to me because all Topps seems interested in doing is extracting every last dime it can out of every collector while spending as little as possible.

Earlier this week, I did a count on the number of different avenues this year that Topps recycled the photos from their flagship set and design. Assuming we are talking about a player who appears in every Topps set, we are talking about nearly sixty different variations. That includes (you ready?): 

Flagship, Team Sets, Gold, Vintage Stock, Black, Pink, Platinum, Rainbow Foil, Clear, Framed, Black Printing Plate, Cyan Printing Plate, Magenta Printing Plate, Yellow Printing Plate, Black & White/Photo negative, Factory Set Sparkle Foil, All-Star Game Silver, 5x7 Red, 5x7 Blue, Chrome Sapphire, Chrome Sapphire 65th Anniversary, 10x14, 10x14 Gold, 65th Anniversary, Toys R Us Purple (1st Series only), Mini, Mini Blue, Mini Red, Mini Gold, Chrome, Chrome Refractors, Chrome Green Refractors, Chrome Orange Refractors, Chrome Red Refractors, Chrome SuperFractors, Chrome Black Plate, Chrome Cyan Plate, Chrome Magenta Plate, Chrome Yellow Plate, Chrome Prism Refractors, Chrome Black Refractors, Chrome Purple Refractors, Chrome Gold Refractors, Chrome Sepia Refractors, Chrome Pink Refractors, Chrome Blue Refractors, Chrome Blue Wave Refractors, Opening Day, Opening Day Blue Foil, Opening Day Purple Foil, Opening Day Black, Opening Day Black Printing Plate, Opening Day Cyan Printing Plate, Opening Day Magenta Printing Plate, Opening Day Yellow Printing Plate, Opening Day 10x14, Opening Day 10x14 Gold, Topps Holiday, and Topps Limited.

That, of course, does not include the multiple varieties of Topps's available factory sets -- which includes Hobby, Retail, Retail with an Ichiro Chrome insert, Retail with an Ichiro Coin Relic, Retail with a Mike Trout Chrome Insert, Retail with a Mike Trout Stamp Relic, and Retail with a Mike Trout Gold Stamp Relic. Those don't count separately above because the base set cards in each of these varieties are the same.

This also does not account for the fact that a truly complete flagship set includes one hundred five photo variations. It also does not account for the reuse of the same card design on the Update and Chrome Update sets.

Finally, it also does not account for all of the digital cards that use the same photos. For 2016, BUNT had one base card and 10 base card parallels. So, to be completely accurate, Topps actually used and recycled these photos literally seventy times.

2.  Why Would Topps Flog Its Flagship Photos?

The complaints about photo recycling on cards over the past several years are numerous. We collectors hate it when Topps is lazy like this. Using the same design on multiple products is just as annoying and boring and lazy.

Why would Topps do this? 

It's simple math, of course. Since it has been ages since Topps actually had its own photographers, Topps has a contract with Getty Images to get its photos. Getty charges Topps for each photo. I don't know how much Topps pays per photo -- it may be less than the $575 that you or I would pay for Editorial Rights, though I'd bet it is higher, since getting the rights for one photo for a double page cover spread with 1 million in circulation for 5 years would cost nearly $11,000

These numbers are what came up for this photo:

If we assume that Topps has a deal with Getty to pay Getty something very reasonable per image -- say $100, since Topps is agreeing to use Getty almost exclusively other than limited situations like that Ben Zobrist Topps Now card -- then your Topps Flagship base set without short printed photos costs Topps $70,000 in image rights to create. With the short-print photos, we're now looking at $80,500. In all likelihood, Topps is probably paying more per image than $100 but we are not privy to that information.

In any event, it is very much within Topps's monetary interest to recycle and reuse each image as much as possible. This includes using the same photos across the various products that Topps issues, which again is something that we collectors have complained about on multiple occasions. 

Then, add in the fact that it costs money for Topps to employ graphic design teams to come up with new card designs or to work on replicating old product designs. Reusing the same card design for multiple products allows the design cost to be spread over those products, including physical cards and the digital platform. This also reduces production costs, as replicating printing plates for the cards is made easier by having a template that can be adapted to multiple platforms fairly easily and reusing the flagship templates over and over and differentiating sets by applying gold foil.

It's lazy. It's all about the money. It's all about extracting as much money from those of us in the collecting world as much as Topps can. While I do not begrudge Topps making money, I do hold a grudge when Topps does it in a way that is ridiculously cheap while trying to play it off as being cool, innovative, and keeping the best interests of collectors in mind. They aren't doing that.

3. Tracking Parallels Is a Pain in the Ass

This goes without saying in many respects. I've been working on cataloguing my Bowman parallels. I was cruising right along up until I got to 2012. That's where things started breaking down and parallels started proliferating like rabbits in a cage. I've been trudging forward in fits and starts ever since.

4. Topps Is Focused on High-End Cards

Another reason that the Flagship images get flogged and repeated over and over is that Topps cares less and less about the average collector's experience and cares more about the "Sick Hitz" crowd who chase the high-end hits and buy stuff like that Topps Chrome Sapphire Edition set that costs just $1,500

5. The Fall Is Always a Time When My Focus Is Diverted

I know a lot of you are not college football fans. I am. I have season tickets for UGA Football -- a not inconsequential thing, since the cost for season tickets requires an annual contribution for each of my two seats over and above the actual cost of the tickets. Then, factor in that going to games for my wife and I leads to going to Athens the day before the game to meet up with her uncle and grandmother to have dinner. That means a hotel stay -- 2 days, in fact -- at the highest rack rate that Athens will allow for hotels. 

It's fun, and it's expensive. I wouldn't change it -- especially when you get moments like the one shown at about the 2 minute mark below.

In person, it was even cooler to see. That was our "Fourth Quarter" hype. It actually is pretty quiet in the stands, but the crowd goes nuts after it and so does the team. 

So, What Are You Saying?

What I'm really saying right now is that I'm in my late year doldrums. I am tired of fighting against Topps's continued exclusion of the Brewers from its sets -- such as including just one player in the "Holiday" set at Wal-Mart in a set of 200 cards and having ZERO players in the Chrome Update set...again. 

Topps's exclusive license in baseball has been terrible for collectors and good only for Topps. Topps has put less and less effort into its flagship sets and is more focused on the higher margins of selling JPEG files on its BUNT platform. That's why we have the set designs we have had for this year and next year. It's also why I would expect the number of reuses for the Topps photos/design from the flagship set to increase next year. It will be more and more gimmicks using the same cards -- perhaps a release of just a vintage stock set with the flagship design and incorporating Heritage gimmicks like gum "stains" and intentional errors?

I would put nothing by Topps.

That said, I'm still thinking about where I go with my collecting. One of the things I'm looking at focusing on is trying to add more of those police sets from the 1980s to my collection. In some respects, those sets are no different than the proliferating parallels that Topps has now -- same photo and only a minor difference in what police department/local business sponsored the set. But I enjoy that chase a lot more than the current chase.

The good thing here for me, though, is that I am judge and jury on my own motion. I can reconsider my collecting any time I want.

Yes, I'll still go after the base sets that Topps farts out each year. But, I'm going oddballing more and more now. 


  1. Let's not forget all the image reuse across brands with different designs. If I had time and cared I could count the number of times Topps used the same Yount image across it's higher end stuff. Using Getty must be cheaper than employing staff or freelance photographers, but you're right it sucks. And this year seems to be Topps taking it to it's extreme. It's almost like they're saying look MLB we don't need competition to flood the market with tons of crap. Ahem. That said I think 2005 was the year of parallels though. Though not recycled images. But you also had multiple companies with MLB licenses. I mean Robin Yount has over 1000 cards issued for him in 2005.

    Ahem great post though. I'm awarding you your Topps Sheriff badge. Take them to task.

  2. I have to agree with you here..

    Of course, I'm of the mindset that rather than 50 sets by one company each year, they could cut it down to 10 well-made sets. They can still have the "Hits" stuff for those ones.. Hell they could even call it "Topps Sick Hitz!"
    But churning out so much product every year isn't good..

  3. Wonderful, clear post, Tony. Very well written and Thank you for that. I certainly rule in your favor. As you well know I'm new to the hobby after so many years off and I am absolutely discouraged and displeased with what I've seen from Topps this year as I re-familiarize myself with things. I find Topps' behavior distasteful. I forked out a lot of money this year to build a set. I enjoyed doing it, but won't do it again. If I want a set (base only), I'll just want till the end of the season and buy a factory set or something. Anyway, you bring out some really serious concerns about the company of Topps, its business model, and its blatantly taking advantage of its consumers. Really unpleasant, but I feel better for your recent posts in knowing that my feelings and impressions aren't both unwarranted and alone. And I'm sorry that you're experiencing late-year doldrums.

  4. Amen, Tony. ou pretty much summed up my opinion of the ridiculous stream of junk Topps turns out every year. I manage to ignore all but the few base cards I need for my fantasy team binder and the odd Orioles cards that folks send my way. I can't imagine being a fervent team collector.

    As for college can count me as a fan. I sometimes shake my head at the destructive extremes some 'fans' go to but as for a gameday experience there is nothing like it. I've been to games in some great venues but never Athens. I'd love to be there for a game played 'between the hedges' some day.

  5. Oh man... this is the third "rethinking my collecting" post in two days. Hopefully someone at Topps is taking notes.