Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Answers for the Topps Roundtable.

I know that some of the bloggers who participated in Topps Round Table discussion have already posted their answers to the questions on their blog. I have already sent my response to Mike Mader, and will post them here now.

I know that not all of my answers will be posted. I answered them as best as I could. I did tell Mr. Mader that he could edit my responses for space reasons (and you'll see why...if you're still awake trying to read all of this).

Here goes:

1. How long have you been collecting? What are your favorite players, teams, sets, etc. to collect? Which card in your collection means the most to you and why?

I have been an active collector for the last 22 years now (I was introduced to baseball cards in 1987 by my mother, but not really serious about them until 1988). I primarily collect Topps Baseball Card sets, and have every complete base and traded set since 1976. Since 2000, I started collecting the basic insert & reprint sets (the non-relic or non-autographed cards) that came with each year's product. I also own many of the Topps "vintage sets" (the Topps 206, 205, Cracker Jack, Allen & Ginter, Turkey Red), along with various sets (minis, Big) from the 80's and 90's, and the Archives/Fan Favorite sets from early in the decade. If I were to add all my cards together, I have in my collection (officially) 45,364 cards.

If there is one card in my entire collection that means the most to me, it would have to be the 1992 Topps #541 Jose Tolentino. Not because he's my favorite player (he's not, that would be Ryne Sandberg), or because he played for my favorite team (he didn't, I root for the Cubs). But because it is the one card that reminds me of how important it is for me to complete a set. Tolentino's card was the last one I needed to complete my 1992 Topps set, and while it would have been easy to wait and buy the factory set, the 1992 Topps set became the first set I ever completed on my own. The chase just to find #541 reminds me never to give up when it's hard finding the cards I need to complete a set.

2. In the time that you have been collecting, what is your favorite story, memory, experience, etc?

If I had to pick one story or experience (and there have been many), it would have to be the first time that I really became "hooked" to the Hobby of baseball card collecting. It was in 1988 (I was 12), and some of the neighborhood kids were sorting out baseball cards on the sidewalk. I just sat there and watched them trade, shout that they got this player or "look at his numbers..." And then suddenly, they looked at me and asked if I wanted some for myself? No strings attached. They were giving me the cards that they had doubles of. I couldn't say no, and right there and then, I was the proud "owner" or about 200 1988 Topps Baseball cards. It was after that moment that my interest in baseball, and of course, card collecting, began.

3. What are the effects on the hobby of major card companies moving toward exclusivity deals with sports leagues? Given that this could be the direction that the industry is headed, what should card companies do to continue to provide a quality product to collectors.

As a Topps set collector (and a big fan of the products), I'm really mixed about the "exclusive deals" with the sports leagues. Competition makes for better products. And my biggest concern is that whoever has the "exclusive" will slowly become "lazy" with the products that they put on the market, as if there wasn't any effort put into properly building them. Even though it is hard for me to accept that in the last year that Topps no longer has the "rights" to produce NBA and now NFL cards (along with not attempting to re-capture the NHL market, although Puck Attax was a really nice product), it is my hope that the resources the company had budgeted for those sports can now be utilized to rejuvenate the Baseball card market. As long as Topps is still in the Baseball card game, I am happy.

4. Pick a timeframe- 5, 10, or 20 years. In that timeframe, what has been the single best and worst development in the hobby?

I think in the last 20 years, the best development in the hobby is the innovation, the technology, and the products that each of the companies produced. Gone are the days where it was one product per company and that was it (and that included the traded/update set). The pictures were clearer, the card stock brighter, and how each company wanted to out-do their competition made for a great Hobby experience.

The worst? Probably a combination between the lockouts/strikes and other issues that all the leagues went through (the strikes in MLB and NBA, the lockout in the NHL, the ongoing struggles in the NFL), plus all the "speculators" that invaded the hobby, thinking that their stash of cards would "increase in value" the way that vintage cards seemed to do. When the bottoms fell out, and it was found that these "collectors" weren't going to make their money, that's when the reputation of the Hobby came crashing. We're still trying to dig out of it, and it was not just one side to blame for the mess. But slowly but surely, the Hobby will get back the popularity it once held in the late 80's.

5. What are your thoughts on prospecting? Do you do it personally? Why? Has the clamoring to find the next big rookie affected the quality of products, either positively or negatively?

I don't prospect. I don't find anything wrong with it. I understand why people do it. But I'm not THAT aware of who the next "greatest player" is going to be, nor do I have the time and energy to do what prospectors do and collect the way they do. As a set collector, I don't really worry about a certain player or his cards unless I need that player's card to complete a set I'm trying to build.

I think since Ichiro and Albert Pujols took the baseball world (and the baseball card world) by storm, prospectors have been trying to find this next "greatest player." I think that the prospect heavy sets like Bowman are great for those who like to gamble on a player's future. But after a while, it becomes more about "how much can I sell 'player x's' card for before the bottom drops out" than about the player himself or "how great the set looks with 'player x' in it."

6. We are collecting tangible products in an increasingly intangible world. As our lives move more and more online, what will the effects on the industry be? Will the next generation of kids be as excited about collecting cards as we are? How should the major card companies respond?

It doesn't matter if it's stamps, postcards, dolls, comics, buttons, whatever; it is human nature for people to collect things. And the Hobby of collecting cards, regardless of the subject, will never go away. Whether a person is online or not, the interest in collecting will always be there. But now the industry has to find a way to utilize the internet to create and market a product so that it is seen by the correct demographics through the proper channels of advertising and marketing. Meaning it would be best, for example to heavily market the gaming cards like Topps Attax, and the ever popular Topps brand (low price points) to kids and their parents, and the higher priced products to the more serious collectors.

I'd like to think that kids nowadays can be excited about collecting cards as we are. It's just that there are so many choices that a kid can have. If there is one thing that the major card companies can do, it would be to market their products (and I mean the proper products) on the sites where the kids go, without over-extolling the reasons why they should buy them. It's one thing to see cards online, or even on the pages of a magazine, and admire them from a distance. It's entirely different to get those cards in your hands because now a kid can claim that he or she has touched the card, and is in possession of the card that they saw online.

If we're talking about the Hobby of Card Collecting in general, then I have no doubt that children can be excited over doing so, especially if they like a certain show, movie, or sport and there is a product out there for them. It's just that with all the buzz generated by "collectors" about the more expensive products and the perceived "value" of the cards, then kids start to get away from "how great this product is" to "how much money can I get for it."

7. How has new media changed the way you collect? How should the major card companies utilize new media to connect with their consumer base? How can new media change and/or revitalize the hobby?

New media, whether blogs, forums, social sites, or company websites, have not really changed the way I collect. I've been a collector from the very beginning, and my collecting habits won't change any time soon. If there is anything it has done, it has made me more informed about what is out there and has fueled my interest in other products that otherwise I would not have even noticed before. Information is power, and new media (plural of medium) have given the collector the opportunity to be more involved in the Hobby then ever before. It's given the average collector a voice. And those voices are getting stronger and louder every day.

8. How has the recent rise in counterfeits and scams affected the way you collect? What advice would you give the major card companies to help combat this?

Since I don't really collect autographs and relics, it doesn't affect me or the way I collect. Because I don't collect by player or by team, I'm not concerned about getting the best card of that player, or every card for a particular team. I collect sets based on loyalty to the brand (or type of set), and if the retro sets (I became a student of the Hobby thanks to these kinds of sets) pique my interest, I may well invest in the set too.

If there way I could think of to deter counterfeiting, specifically on relics, it would be to find a way to include a picture of the actual item that the relic came from on the card itself. The note telling the collector that it's a real piece of something is one thing, but to see the actual jersey, patch, or even bat that the piece came from makes us realize that the piece truly did come from something. As for serial numbered autographed cards and more "valuable" relic cards, include scans of all the cards on a website somewhere (with watermarks to prevent copying) that shows what the cards looked like before they were inserted into the products. That way it would be easy to see if someone is selling a card the way it was meant to look like, or if somebody altered it.

9. The poor economy has affected all of us in recent years. In what ways would you like to see card companies respond to provide interesting, affordable products for collectors?

By going back to the basics. Not the pre-1989 basics of one set per company and that's it. But by creating products where the autograph or relic isn't the main selling point. It has to be all about the regular cards again and the players on them. Make THEM more important than the rare inserts.

10. We've done autographs. We've done just about every kind of relic/game used product you can think of. What's next? Where do we go from here?

Improve the quality of the designs of the base cards that make up the majority of your products. Outside of the flagship cards and the reprint/retro/heritage/vintage lines, the designs of the other products that came out were weak and unappealing. Which is why many set collectors tend to ignore them.

11. If you could say one thing-anything- to Topps and know that the CEO will read it, what would you say?

Where to begin? As a loyal Topps set collector, there are a couple of things I'd like to say, knowing that the CEO of Topps will read it:

Please increase the number of cards of your base brand back to 792, or if you must have 110 cards per sheet, 880. There are now 30 MLB teams, meaning that there are at least 750 players on MLB rosters on any given day (not including those on the DL) during the season. Even the team's third string catcher and the mop up reliever deserve a card if they played that year. When I started collecting, it was fun sorting the cards by team, knowing that you had enough to build an actual 25 man roster, and still have room for the manager, a few key rookies and prospects, the All-Stars, league leaders, and any other random subsets. I got to know the players on EVERY team that way. There are 28 other teams out there than the Yankees and Red Sox; and it seems that unless a middle relief pitcher or benchwarmer plays for either of these two teams, they're not getting a card.

For your other sets, if you're going to limit the base set to 110 or 220 cards, at least give each team equal representation (or close to it) so that team collectors have something to shoot for (instead of the same token one or two players). If it's too much to ask, (and unless it's not allowed per the MLBPA rules), please bring back the Major League Debut sets (last seen in 1990-1992). Even the guys who pitched 1/3 of an inning in a Major League Baseball game is 1/3 more innings than many of us will get to do. After all the hard work, all the struggles, all the hardships these athletes had to go through just to get to the majors, it would be nice for Topps to give even these players a piece of cardboard history.

And finally, ENOUGH WITH THE MICKEY MANTLE LOVEFEST!!! We know that Topps "retired" then "un-retired" card #7 because of the Mick. And I do respect the impact that Mickey Mantle has not only on the Hobby, but for the Topps Company. But five years is more than enough time to pay homage to the man. Give the spot that you've held for the Mick to a current player now. It's just time.


JayBee Anama


cynicalbuddha said...

Not bad, not bad, you missed the obvious answer to the last question though. On card Autos! enough with the stickers already!!

Ken Hastings said...

Your answers to number eleven were perfect.

AdamE said...

No mention at all on #11 about monkeying with the base set card numbers? How could you not mention the Gordon atrocity or the vararion cards.

TDLindgren said...

Good points, JayBee. I'm with on all of them except...Mickey Mantle! I love all the regular issue cards of the Mick and hope they never stop! :)

John Bateman said...

Well Said

Ted said...

As a Topps collector myself, I agree with many of your points. I used to collect when i was younger (I had many, MANY of the 87, 88 and 89 Topps cards) and have recently gotten back into the hobby. Its really something to see how everything has changed so much since then. Like you said, one year, one set. Now it seems Topps releases a new product every month. Then with each of those sets comes a base set, ten or so insert sets and a whole mess of auto or relic cards that seem very out of ones favor to get from a pack (could be due to speculators feeling around in the pack to find which has those thick relic cards). I enjoy the collecting aspect and will stick with it, but I will have to limit what gets bought. It all just seems overwhelming with so many sets per year. Not that they shouldn't make them, its nice to have a big selection of product to choose from, but I certainly feel bad for the wallets of those collectors who feel they need everything.