Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Topps Now, Year 2

It's year two for Topps Now. Topps kicked off its second season of "instant" cards with a Spring Training set for each team, some of which included optional autographs. The Brewers were not one of the teams with an autograph option, but I was tempted. 

Had I not sent my "20% off" coupon out to Zippy Zappy for a friend of his -- it was a Trout card, after all -- I may very well have sunk $40 into buying one of those sets. Even after sending off that card, I was still tempted to plunk down $50 for it. I checked with some regularity to see what 15 players would be included in the set.

I checked and checked and checked. By the time the period for purchasing the sets had nearly ended, only eight of the fifteen cards had been posted. As much as I wanted to pull the trigger, I couldn't convince myself to do it. I just didn't trust Topps to provide decent players for the Brewers set in light of some of their selections for the flagship and Heritage sets. 

In the end, I'm apparently not the only one who eschewed buying that money grab -- Topps sold only 32 Brewers sets. I am kicking myself, though, for not buying into it on the potential that the Brewers could be in first place in the division at the All-Star Break. 

And then Eric Thames hit the scene. Thames exploded into the national baseball consciousness by an incredible hot streak of home run hitting against the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. That led those now-much-less-lovable winners -- John Lackey and former Brewer/still lardass Chris Bosio -- to insinuate that Thames was on steroids. I'm assuming that was because Thames had the temerity to hit a homer against the Cubs. 

As an aside, the Cubs did not accuse Ryan Zimmerman of juicing even though Zimmerman has hit just two fewer homers in 42 games than he did in 115 games all of last year. Did Zimmerman really change his hitting approach to hit more fly balls, or did he just become acquainted with the clear and the cream? My answer: he changed his hitting approach and got lucky with how many balls left the park. Also, again, it's small-sample-size theater here too. If Thames or Zimmerman hit 13 homers in 28 games in the middle of August, we'd say they were on a hot streak. Do it in April, and John Lackey says, "check him for steroids!"

Of course, Lackey is a self-important prig for whom a Google search of "John Lackey is an idiot" returns 20,800,000 hits from sources as diverse as Yahoo Answers in 2011, the Daily Upper Decker website in 2016, a long-running forum dating back to 2014, and some Red Sox fans, who immortalized Lackey's absolutely stealing-money 2011 season. Even "The Big Lead" called him "exactly what's wrong with baseball." And he even filed for divorce from his first wife while she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

I'm pretty sure that Lackey walks around in the summertime saying, "How about this heat?"

So, back to Topps Now.

I decided this year that I would not purchase directly from Topps because I could save a few dollars on each card by going to the eBay secondary market. I jumped all over both of the cards that Topps put out to celebrate Thames's excellent start, and I got them for about $7 each. The guy I bought them from made money, I saved money, and we all win.

Here are the Thameses!

I'll note that Matt Prigge covered the fact that Topps has upped its game in terms of the shipping container this year -- and considering that the purchase of a single card is a $10 venture, it's well past time for that.

When my shipping envelope from the eBay seller arrived, I pulled the cards out. Immediately, I noticed that these cards feel different from those from last year. They feel thicker -- perhaps more substantial -- as compared to last year's cards. Design-wise, I think I prefer last year's set, though. For comparison, here are the non-Trade Deadline, non-Prince Fielder retirement cards from last year:

Based on this selection, I'm very concerned that Eric Thames will not be a Brewer next year considering that every single Brewer to feature on Topps Now last year is gone. I don't count Arcia slapping hands with Carter as featuring him. 

The other thing: the rainbow back is a new feature. Last year's cards were just glossy on both sides:

Basically, last year's Topps Now was nothing more than a really expensive extension of the Topps flagship set in terms of the paper quality.  This year, though, it's almost to Stadium Club levels, I suppose:

Or something like that. 

As one would expect, Topps's orgasmic delight in everything Yankees continues to manifest itself. Last year, it was the Sanchize, Gary Sanchez, who appeared on 11 Topps Now cards -- literally one card for every 5 games in which he played last year. This year, it's all Judge all the time. Judge has appeared on seven Topps Now cards, including one card that celebrated his breaking a TV during batting practice, and six autographed parallels of that same card. 

Topps is just doing what sells, of course. They've issued a ton more cards during the first two months of the season than last year -- the Zack Greinke card on sale today is card #173, which celebrates an occurrence on May 22. Last year's card 173 was Yankee Starlin Castro's walk-off home run on June 22. In other words, Topps realized that the demand for these cards is high and will issue however many they decide makes sense on a particular day...even if they ignored the Brewers comeback from 6 runs down against the Mets a few days ago in lieu of issuing two Topps Now cards for Derek Jeter (RIP). 

Perhaps Topps will issue a Topps Now card for when the Brewers do their "Re2pect Bobblehead" giveaway. And, to be fair, Topps did not issue a Topps Now card for David Ortiz picking up an honorary degree from Boston University over the weekend. Maybe Topps should have done a card for this story....Ortiz's claim that he failed a PED test and had the results leaked because too many Yankees tested positive.

All this led me to do a Twitter poll. Please ignore my typo on the second line.

Just in case the results are not showing: 59% of the 44 respondents said they did not like Topps Now. 48% dislike it and ignore it. 27% of people love it but do not buy it. Only a quarter of respondents -- 25%, or 11 of the 44 -- buy the product, whether they love it or dislike it.

I fear that Topps risks doing with Topps Now what it does with every good idea it has: beating it into the ground with a club so far that everyone hates it and refuses to buy it. Topps only does things for one reason: to make more money for The Tornante Group. To that end, perhaps we should expect Topps cards for BoJack Horseman or Judge Faith

Shall we expect more Topps coverage of League 1 in England next year, since Tornante has been approved to purchase former Premier League Club Portsmouth F.C.? Maybe he can talk his pals at his favorite club, Arsenal, into giving Topps some additional swag?

I'm just glad Eisner isn't a Manchester United fan. 

But I digress, as always.

Topps Now is a good idea executed with the ham-handedness that we have come to expect from the exclusive license holder. It's all about the maximization of short term profits without regard for a longer vision of creating new collectors. If there was a vision for new collectors, Topps Now would be a great opportunity for it -- by making the cards less expensive or available on a $1 per game subscription for kids or something like that. But that's not in Topps's business plan currently, nor is it likely to be for the foreseeable future. 

Topps would rather cut up bases and stick them in cards to sell with a Derek Jeter autograph for $4,999.99.


  1. Nice write up. I haven't pulled the trigger this year. But I'm also in house selling/buying hell right now. Should be over in a few weeks. I liked the concept of Topps Now last year. I guess the biggest problem I have is Topps never really set standards for what feats get a card. And you are sooo right, Topps will beat this concept, a concept now copied by both Panini and Upper Deck, to death.

  2. Not to twist the knife on your regret but you didn't actually need the Trout card to get the deal, just the code on the back. It was something generic like Spring25.

    And not to defend the steroid accusations because they're silly but the Cubs haven't played the Nationals yet so Zimmerman is off the hook...for now. Haha.

    I can't really complain about the Cubs being overlooked but they've actually had a few walk-offs skipped when it seems like 99.9% of them get covered. I'm surprised we didn't see an unveiling of the new seating area (Judge's Chambers) get commemorated.

    And the problem with doing anything cheap "for the kids" is that it will just get exploited by the adults.

    1. Like the Pulaski Yankees giving kids free tickets to their home games and an adult putting them on a FB Buy/Sell group for $100..

  3. Man, that Dennis Leary son brings me back to road trips with my college buddies. We would sing the chorus with such glee flying down the highway with the windows rolled all the way down. Good times for sure.
    You're not alone on your dislike for Lackey. He's my leas favorite Cub and it's not even close.
    By the way... love me some Eric Thames.

  4. I grabbed the team set with my discount. Grabbed a couple of others off ebay.for 6 bucks a card. What gets a card and what doesn't never has made sense to me

  5. I'm amazed.. Just checked the number of Jays cards made for the season so far and 7.. The Spring Training one they sold 46 sets.

    I should look into whether they've changed their shipping model or not.

    1. International shipping is now a $10 flat rate. Pretty sure this is a VERY recent development. Still not great, but standard for any cards shipped up here from just about anywhere now.

    2. The options they have..
      I can handle the FedEx one much more than the others lol

  6. Topps does listen to the collectors, but they probably listen more to the collectors who spend a lot of money. Even with all of the Gary Sanchez cards that were released, the speculators/collectors on the Blowout forums were clamoring for more and more, and some of those guys are the eBay flippers that we're all buying our cheap cards from. I think that if anyone were clamoring for an opportunity to give me their money, I would print whatever it was they were asking for.

    And like others have said, anything Topps does out of goodwill or 'for the kids' will be exploited and undone by the speculative collectors. I guess the good side of it is that those folks subsidize all of the base cards, inserts, and singles that we can snag cheaply on the secondary market.

  7. I stopped following Topps because of Topps Now and missed your Poll, but would have voted Dislike it and ignore it, too. Lackey is a d.b. I attribute Zimmerman's production to it being a contract year. Nothing more. I trust some injury-laden seasons for some players (Stanton, for example), but others like Zimmerman & even Werth I put down to not living up to potential and thus cheating the fans.

  8. I'm probably a little more pro Topps Now than most, but I understand your complaints. I've had fun collecting all the Pirates because they've been pretty much middle of the road in terms of cards produced. If I was a Brewers or Dbacks fan I would be upset with the lack of choices. The opposite could be said about the Red Sox and Yankees. They have so many cards that it would be impossible to keep up with unless you have a big time budget.

    My biggest complaints have been photo choices. Showing the guy in the field when it is a hitting milestone seems to go against the idea of NOW. This almost caused me to quit NOW last year, but the photos got better for the Pirates after the All Star Break.

    1. Funny thing: the D-Backs have had 6 or 7 cards already this season. Topps has taken notice of their doing well. Brewers...not so much.