Thursday, August 25, 2011

2012 Topps: Everyone's Has Opinions, Mine Are Correct. Topps Should Listen.

A few days ago, Beckett gave us the scoop on the 2012 Topps set (image "borrowed" from their site).  Across the blogs, the universal opinion seems to range from "terrible" to "meh."  If I'm Topps, that's NOT the reaction I'm looking for - especially for a self-proclaimed "game-changer" of a product.

Now, I also generally have feelings of "meh" towards the product - and I've decided to make myself a little promise.  IF the set stays the way it is advertised right now, I will NOT be buying any of 2012 Topps.

Why do I say that?   Mostly because the 2012 set appears to be nothing more then the 2011 set except with gold replacing diamond.  The base set design is fine but everything else about the set screams boring, not game-changer.

However, this isn't a post to rail on Topps.  This isn't a post to pile up more scorn on the blogs.  And no, this isn't a post just for me to type in an uproar.

Instead, this is a post with answers.  This is a post with suggestions.  And frankly, this will hopefully be a post that can show Topps what "game-changer" actually means.

How to Fix 2012 Topps - or If You Want to Call Something a Game Changer, You Better Bring Your A Game":

1.  Set size - Part 1:  Does Topps like set collectors?  I would have to imagine they do (after all, who else is going to track down a David DeJesus auto or a Dominic Brown short print)?  Set collectors do - because set collectors have some sort of need to have all the cards (and yes, I'm a set collector first and foremost).  As such, how about changing the game to benefit set collectors.
Here's a quick little rundown of how to do this:
A.  Are the cards in the set "regular" or "standard" sized (such as the 2011 base set)?  If so, make sure the set has a multiple of 9 number of cards in it.  Don't make set collectors have to use up an extra 9-pocket page just because you somehow think a 100 card insert set is better than a 99 card insert set.
B.  Are the cards in the set "mini" (meaning Allen & Ginter or Gypsy Queen mini sized)?  If so, make sure the set has a multiple of 15 number of cards in it (that's how many pockets a mini page has).  Once again, don't make set collectors waste pages because you think a 20 card set is somehow better than a 15 or 30 card set.
C.  Are the cards in the set some other size (either larger or smaller than the two above options)?  If so, consider getting rid of that design.  Being difficult just to be different isn't game-changing, is freaking annoying.

2.   Set Size - Part 2:  Along with appealing to set collectors, let's also appeal to those who buy a lot of cards.  Make your base set have a decent number of cards in it.  Suggestion, what about a 900 card base set?  Or, if you prefer to have two series (and I'm guessing you do for monetary reasons), how about making Series 1 and Series 2 each 450 cards.  Take some of your insert ideas and turn them into subsets (go back and look at the 1991 Score set for inspiration as to how to make a 900 card set interesting without short printed gimmicks).

3.  Card stock:  You promised us a game-changer - and while I'm sure you already regret those words being uttered, you've got to try to live up to your bravado.  Here's how to change the game in terms of the card stock - ditch the flimsy white cardboard crap.  Why not print the base set on card stock akin to either Heritage stock or else something like the 1991 Topps set card stock.  I don't think people like the flimsy white crap, and I'm also certain that most people don't need all the foil and gloss on their base set.

4.   Hits:  The problem with hits is that they really aren't hits any more.  It used to be exciting to pull an autograph because they were really, really rare.  Now you throw two autos in a product like Topps Lineage and many collectors still don't care.  Stop pandering to the hit seekers, especially in base Topps.  (And, for the record, why the heck is hit-seeking by buying base Topps anyhow?)  Can you imagine if relics and autographs actually had a bit of value on the secondary market - they could (once again), if you'd make them actually difficult to pull.  Make each hit serially-numbered, and take a little care in the design.  Either do what Fleer used to and show us the actual product that you cut up to make the relic and/or tell us when the object was actually used by the player in question.  In addition, if it's a uniform, make sure the picture shows the player in the same uniform that is cut up into a tiny square (or whatever shape) on the card.

5.  Useless Hits:  Speaking of hits, get rid of all cut autos - especially in your base set.

6.   Inserts:  I understand that many people want insert sets.  However, when it comes to base Topps, the inserts sets should serve a few purposes.  Either they should be fun or they should stand-out in some special way.  I think a 45 card mini sticker set (with at least one representative from each team) would be pretty cool (and remember, if they are minis, make sure they are a multiple of 15 in terms of set size).  I think a set of 36 full-sized stand up cards (a la Lineage) could be fun.  I think the vintage legend variations are played out and for the love of all that is good no more gimmicks like the sparkles or different colored card backs.

7.  Online - Part 1:  You promised a game changer, so let's change the game here too.  How about a one-per-every-other-pack insert set akin to Topps Town (except not ugly) with an online code to a virtual card.  Furthermore, allow trading of virtual cards and for each person that completes the full set allow them to redeem the set for an actual physical set.  Make that redeemed set a parallel (kind of like the diamond sparkle set from this year).  To earn a little extra cash, allow people to just cash out the specific cards they want (rather than the full set which you send for free). Some people will collect all of their team and cash out (giving you extra money) while others will spend a boatload racking up code cards and cash out the full set (giving you money from all the extra cards they bought, not for shipping).

8.  Online - Part 2:  Fix your website.  Make sure you release a full checklist (even if that can't happen until the official release date) of what is in your set.  Did you know I contacted your own customer service and they told me that they couldn't provide a list of the relics that were released for the 2010 Allen & Ginter set.  What kind of message does that send?  You don't even know what you are releasing to people?

9.   Checklists:  Speaking of checklists, make sure you put a full checklist in each box of your product.  If you wish to split your checklists up into individual sized cards, make sure there is a full set in each box.  Why do I only get two out of four checklists from each box of Lineage that I've opened?  That's all kinds of stupid.

10.   Game Changer:  Frankly, most of what I've discussed above isn't much a game-changer.  Mostly it's a combination of thinking about your consumers and doing a few things the way they used to be done (especially in regards to card stock).  As such, since you promised to change the game, you probably still need some sort of "hook" to make the set seem special.  Here are a few ideas (note:  please only choose one, don't over-gimmick your set):
A.  Free Product giveaway:  How about a one-per-box (or rarer) code card good for free product of a yet-to-be released set.  Think how cool it would be to get a card good for a free pack of Allen & Ginter for instance.  Even better would be if you mailed the free product out a week before the official release date.  Do I want Ginter before everyone else?  You bet.
B.   Super relics:  Instead of taking a jersey and chopping it up into tiny bits and inserting them, how about a (rare) redemption card for the whole jersey?  You could do the same for autographed baseballs instead of sticker autos.  Personally, I don't have any use for a full jersey but a lot of people would probably like it (and those that don't could recoup some cash by making use of sites like eBay).
C.   Point Cards:  Remember the Fleer Fresh Ink Point cards?  Basically, the idea was to rack up a bunch of points and then redeem them for a specific autograph.  How about instead of that, you place cards with "auction points" on them that people could use to try and purchase items for free from your website.  Each auction point would be a one-time use only (so if you have 100 points, you could bid 100 points on one item or maybe 10 points on 10 different items).  Of course, make shipping free (and you could "control" prices somewhat by setting the starting bid).


Those are my ideas - now let's hear yours.  What should (or shouldn't) Topps do for the 2012 set in order to have a true game changer?  Feel free to add to my ideas, modify them, or even scrap them entirely - the floor is now yours (and, if we are lucky, Topps will actually read this)!

3 comments:

moremonkeys138 said...

You've got some interesting ideas. I touched upon this the other day. Seems everyone definitely has an opinion on how 2012 should be configured. As I mentioned in mine, I really doubt Topps is dropping foil from their cards, if they do, they end up looking like Opening Day. Which is boring. Maybe a better use of foil and not excessive?

The points I agree with most that you present were about the Hits and set size. The set should be much bigger. Too many guys get left out. The website being up to date is also something they really REALLY need to work on, especially when it comes to checklists. I can't even imagine chasing an insert set and not knowing what is in there to make it complete.

Only thing we can hope is that they are releasing the information about the set this early (usually series 1 is October, right?) to gauge buzz and maybe change something because it is early enough to do so.

Reivax said...

I agree. Topps website is one of the worst ever. It's clear from the design that they don't want us there. Why can't I go in there, input a player I collect like "oscar gamble" and it will show me every card ever printed by Topps with Oscar Gamble on it, the card number, set, and so on.

And if you had the checklists on line, you could just get rid of the concept of a checklist card completely. I think even people in rural villages in Mongolia have Internet in this day and age. Save 6 cards a year and devote them over to more players.

Ryan G said...

We've all chimed in with our own ideas, but I'll respond to yours.

1. I'd like the divisible-by-9 idea, but I know printing sheets fit a specific number of cards. I believe the magic number for Topps presses is 110 - someone can verify this for me. To reach a divisible-by-nine set, without SPing or DPing cards, that means a 990-card set - fine by me, but if you think about it, with Traded/Update that's what we have now. (See below.)

2. I agree - a bigger set size. With several fewer teams in the 1980s, the Topps set was 130+ cards larger. More teams, more players in the bigs, but less cards. As I just pointed out, including Update as a third series gives 990 cards. But one look at the types of cards in all 990 cards of Topps is much different than, say, Upper Deck. UD kept subset cards to a minimum, other than one TC in series 2 per team. I would like to see Topps do several series over the year, though. And just issue proper "traded" cards as the season progresses, in the extended series. If series 1 hit in February, and series 7 in October, you'd have plenty of opportunities to release traded cards.

3. I don't have problems with the cardstock. I think the current cardstock is better than '94 Stadium Club. Besides, the less expensive it is, the less expensive the base set is overall. I just wrote about a '98 product called Dugout Axcess - extremely thin cardstock but I like the cards enough that it doesn't matter.

4. The real hits are still there in extremely limited quantities. How often do you see a World Series Champions relic? A Diamond Duos dual-relic card? 60th Anniversary autograph? Autograph-relics? The problem here is that there are really high-end mega-hits for case busters, and these essentially worthless box hits, but nothing in the middle. Subject matter is the biggest deal, because most of the players are of low-level interest. Where are all the pieces of Ichiro's bat? Pujols' and Jeter's jerseys?

5. If the person's deceased, cut autos are the only way to go. But we don't need cut autos of some struggling backup second baseman. But I never pull them, so it doesn't matter.

6. The gimmicks are lame. Agreed. But I like a good variety of inserts, if as you say they're appealing. The stand-ups, stickers, 3D, etc are cool, but we'll be tired of them pretty quick if they don't have other appeal.

7. Building an online set to redeem for a full set sounds like just an added step for a parallel. Could be fun though.

8. You'd think that could be done. Agreed.

9. Why not put the checklists back into the set? Put them on the back of all those league leader cards that waste space in the base set. Or make them an insert set, with a quality front design. (Or, just go back to the inserted paper box topper checklist, or have them one every couple packs or so.)

10. All three of your ideas sound like gimmicks. They'd be neat, but I'd rather just have a quality flagship set with a deep checklist and appealing inserts.

I'm probably out of space...

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