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)!