Saturday, April 4, 2015

Call Your...Wait, What?

I'm not even entirely sure where to start this one.  Remember Topps' Call Your Shot promotion?  The scratch-off programs the last few years have had various degrees of success, but seemed like a nice little added value to products.

The Call Your Shot promotion seemed like an interesting extension of that concept.  Rather than each card winning you something, most likely a 70's or 80's common, the odds went down but the quality of the prizes seemed to increase.  Collectors had a chance to scratch off a box for either an autograph or auto/relic.

Let's make no mistake about it.  This looked like a pretty clear sticker dump.  But I was ok with that.  There were some names on the autograph list who didn't already have Pirate autographs, and it seemed like a great chance to get some new autos onto the market beyond the same 3-4 players the Pirates recycle in each and every product.

Seemed is the operative word here.  I gave Topps the benefit of the doubt in assuming that they would print out some cards and slap an old sticker on them.

But hey, why invest $.30 in creating a new card if you can just send out those thousands of cards you have lying around that you won't send out to collectors to replace the cards you have no intention of making!

Yep, Topps is sending out back stock from previous products to fill the Call Your Shot prizes.  No special stamp or notation, not a new design or card.  Just Topps doing collectors a favor by clearing out all those cards they never sent out when...they were supposed to be in packs in the first freaking place.

It seems like many of the autos are coming from Five Star.  I've seen people saying they received autos of Fergie Jenkins, the Shields above, Jason Heyward, and Cole Hamels from Five Star as their CYS prize.

Others prizes seem to be 2013 Bowman Platinum autos and some 2013 Topps autographs.

Adding insult to injury, it appears that some collectors are simply receiving an autograph from the very, very broad player "group" for which they won an auto (100+ names in most cases) rather than the more exclusive list of 20 or so names that the winner screen said their autograph would come from.

I shouldn't be surprised.  I shouldn't make any assumptions about Topps going above, beyond, through, past, or anywhere within artillery distance of collector expectations.  But daaaamn.  This just irks me.  I get it - the redemptions they have sitting in their warehouse are a sunk cost from a business perspective, while the stickers are a value that they can continue to bleed out for essentially an unlimited number of years.  It's a self created and self serving cycle - Topps releases a product with a large number of redemptions.  Some redemptions are filled when the player returns the card.  Many redemptions go unredeemed by the relatively close deadline (ie Five Star was released in the middle of 2013, and its redemptions have expired and thus are now being shipped out in another program in the beginning of 2015), and absolutely refusing to accept anything that comes in even a day after deadline.  For something like the Five Star auto /386, how many redemptions were actually sent in on time?  200?  300?  The remainder is simply recycled value for Topps - the redemption counted as one of the hits in the box, but if it wasn't redeemed Topps still retains the actual value of the item.  On top of that, some redemptions are never even produced (or perhaps even intended to be produced), and are switched out for replacements - you know, those cards Topps promised as redemptions yet still has sitting in their warehouse.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that Topps owes collectors nothing.  They scratched off a card - a lottery ticket essentially - and are getting something virtually for free, less the shipping fee Topps charged.  And you're right.  If that's the way you look at the world, please enjoy your new redemption card and continue shelling out your money for Topps products.

But this, to me, is a whole new low.  Admittedly there was no guarantee or clarity as to what you'd get from the promotion.  But it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable to think - hope - that even if you got some junk autograph of Jesse Crain, at least it would be a new and different Jesse Crain autograph from those already out there.  Maybe it would be his first White Sox auto.  Maybe even if he was one of the most common players, the number of copies for this card surely would be limited.  And maybe, just maybe, it would be worth a couple bucks to a collector, or a piece you'd like to keep for yourself.

Instead?  You find the card you get in the mail is identical in every way, shape, and form to a card which already has 10 copies on ebay.  Or sells for $1.43 on COMC.  Or is the same one you had a redemption for from that box you opened for your birthday last month, but Topps wouldn't honor it because it was 6 days past their arbitrary deadline.

...well, maybe in that last case karma would at least be giving you a warm half smile and eye wink.

And maybe I'm just the guy ranting and raving over nothing.  Maybe this is something that is little more than an afterthought to most collectors.  But if we're stuck with one single, solitary manufacturer of licensed baseball cards for at least the rest of the decade, I feel like collectors deserve a little more effort and consideration than a corporation offloading their sunk cost trash onto us.

But then again maybe I should just be happy I didn't have cause to pay $10 for a poorly designed Ike Davis sticker autograph because it would have been his only one as a Pirate.

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