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Blog Bat Around: Fixing Topps

Chris, author of the Stale Gum blog, has resurrected the Blog Bat Around idea and introduced the first topic for 2011.  In his words:
Michael Eisner has just fired the entire Topps Product Development staff and chose to hire you to take their place. Mr. Eisner has given you carte blanche to do whatever you want with Topps Baseball -- as long as you keep it under $2/pack.
If you were in charge of Topps, and based upon what you've seen of 2011 Topps Baseball Series One, what (if anything) would you have done differently?
Before I can answer the question, I believe that a little background on myself is necessary (that way you can see where my opinions and ideas originate).  I am, first and foremost, a set collector.  I have a limited budget and like to use eBay to help supplement both my collections and my wallet (for use on future sets/packs).  Finally, I root for the small market Reds, not a team like the Yankees or Red Sox.

All of that needed to be said, because it lends a bit of credence to my ideas:

Note:  Although not explicitly stated, I'm going to assume that the idea is I get to change anything about (or related to) Topps 2011 base set.  I'm not going to discuss (much) the other sets that Topps produces throughout the year.

1.  I don't know what it costs to produce a single baseball card, but I believe that the raw number of cards in each pack needs to go up.  I remember my dad buying me packs of cards that contained 20 or so cards in them in the early 90s.  

2.  I actually don't mind the number of inserts so much as I mind the ratio of inserts to base cards.  If the number of cards per pack is boosted a bit, the number of inserts can stay exactly the same.

3.  Keep the base set white bordered, with full career statistics on the back.  Keep the card numbers, player names, and team names easy to read (which means reducing or eliminating foil).

4.  Use the Target "throwback" cards not as a retail only parallel, but rather, as the main design for the base set.  Get rid of the Wal*Mart black variations completely.  For the 60th anniversary, keep the diamond parallels.  Don't do another parallel like that until the 70th anniversary (i.e. make the parallels actually special).

5.  Add variety.  Diamond Duos / Legendary Lineage, 60 Years of Topps / Cards Your Mother Threw Out, etc.  These are simply two names for the same cards - stop rehashing the same insert sets each year, that's what Topps Heritage is for.

6.  I don't mind the short printed gimmicks.  Heck, if you don't collect them and happen to pull one, put it up on eBay and recoup some of your investment.  In fact, I hope there is always something akin to the short print gimmicks so that there is that chance of a return on your investment in the base set.  Without that, everyone ought to simply wait until close to Christmas of the next year when Target knocks the price of the complete base set down and purchase the set then.

7.  Instead of rehashing old insert set ideas, make one insert set a "preview set" of all your upcoming sets.  Maybe a ten card "informational" set depicting the different set designs, quirks, checklists, etc.  Whatever makes sense for each set.  

8.  Keep the manufactured patches.  They must be cheap to produce (because Topps keeps doing so) - but they seem to have decent resale value.  It's really nice to be able to buy a blaster from Target, flip the manu-patch and Throwback cards on eBay and end up spending less than $2.00 total for the blaster.  

9.  Make series 1 and series 2 each larger in terms of total base cards (this helps off set the issue of duplication since we've already made individual pack sizes larger).  792 cards is the classic total, let's return to that.  

10.  Make all sets (both inserts, base, parallels, etc have a size equal to a multiple of nine).  I hate wasted pages in my binder where I have a 10 card set and need a second binder page to hold a single, lousy card.  Make the sets 9 or 18 cards, no more 10 card sets especially!

11.  Avoid all redemptions.  If you can't get a card signed (or whatever) in time for distribution, simply don't use the card.  Otherwise, honor redemptions for a longer period of time (say a decade).  The 12 month or 24 month redemption deadlines are the worst.

12.  No one likes sticker autographs.  Seriously.

13.  Fix your webpage.  Seriously, I learn more about your sets from other people's blogs than I can from you guys.  That's pathetic.

14.  We get it, you like Mickey Mantle.  No more of him in the base set please.  You can, however, make him a short print variation - but keep the player names rotating throughout the years, I don't need or want the same checklist of players each year.

15.  Keep the wrapper redemption idea.  I didn't buy any Hobby packs for series 1 (not my fault though, an eBay seller screwed me over) but the idea seems neat.  A nice way to "reward" hobby purchases, even if they are over the internet.

16.  Get rid of the gold parallels.  If you are unwilling to do that, at least go back and use the gold foil stamping for the serial number.  The black stamping looks super cheap (probably because it is).

17.  Push the release of Series 2 back a bit.  With a larger Series 1, give collectors a bit more time to try and complete that series before all Series 1 packs are pushed off the shelf in favor of Series 2.

18.  The Topps Million Card Giveaway was pretty cool, even though I didn't get anything any good from it.  The biggest improvement would be to make a single online "collection" that one could add to each year with different codes.  Allow the trading of "expiring" cards (say after 5 years) for new codes to get new cards if you are afraid of having to maintain too many cards in a warehouse or something.

19.  Get rid of the Topps Updates set (or whatever goofy name you plan to call it this year).  

20.  Send me boxes of your product to review ahead of time so I can inform you of changes that need to be made so that no similar blog bat around topic is needed ever again!

So there you have it - twenty changes and suggestions for Topps 2011.  That may seem like a lot, but the truth is, this is probably my favorite Topps base set in the last decade!  All things considered, Topps did a great job (so far) this year - keep it up!


  1. Right on with #10, that's always been a big pet peeve of mine.

    I would add, lose the photoshopped cards, that's what series 2 and 3 are for. I have to disagree with the update set. Always like to see my guys in their correct uniform.


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