Monday, February 17, 2014

The Golden Opportunity that Topps Missed

I know I've criticized Topps a ton of times so far this year, and it isn't even a fourth of the way through 2014. Really, a lot of their decisions boil down to the fact that they've gotten really cocky without any competition, so they're basically mailing in the same old shit every year, with the same similar design with a few subtle changes.

So with all they're doing, you'll be shocked to hear that now I'm criticizing them for something they didn't do.

You see, because I've been getting mostly hanger boxes of the product, I've been getting a lot of parallels. And the gold ones and shiny red ones I can definitely deal with, and keep in a separate part of my collection.

It's the other ones that are screwing me up

I pulled two different versions of a Hyunjin Ryu card. A shiny red parallel that, you know, actually sort of means something, and a lime bordered one. It's one of three meaningless parallels I pulled out of that box. Lime/Avocado Green, Target Red, and '91 Fleer Yellow. Three that are unnumbered, unglossed, simply colored-bordered versions of the base cards. Keep in mind that there are Blue Ones for Wal Mart shoppers, and Purple ones for Toys R Us shoppers, which makes the total five. And unless somebody gives them an excuse to make a black or orange one, that's (thankfully) all we're getting.

Five worthless parallels. Last year it was just the retail-exclusive ones, too, which makes three. But this year they added two more.

I was looking at some of the cards, like the Coco Crisp I also pulled out of the box with a yellow border, and the Ryu, and I was comparing them with ones with borders that fit the teams. It's cool when you pull a red-bordered Angel, Cardinal, Red, Phillie, National, or even Diamondback. Any other team, especially an ill-fitting team like an Oakland A or a Colorado Rockie, while it's cool, it doesn't work. They only look cool with lime and purple parallels respectively. The Crisp one actually looks pretty awesome with the yellow border, because it FITS!

And then it dawned on me.

With all the parallels in Topps 2014, Topps could have very easily just varied the color of the border by the team, instead of just making parallels of a white-bordered set. For instance, the Yankees would get Navy borders, the Red Sox would get maroon borders, the Pirates would get yellow borders, etc, etc. Then the parallels, and the random colored borders that serve no purpose other than just being a useless parallel set, would actually mean something.

But Topps would never do that in a million years, because they can't take such a risk without any real competition. Besides, do you even know how much time and money it costs to personalize a border to each of the 30 teams? It would be radical, different, and very risky, but Topps is afraid, and therefore absolutely unwilling, to take any risks.

That being said, if Topps ever color-coded the base cards for each team, not only would I buy it, but I'd stop talking shit about them.

I'm more than willing to make some samples for them someday. It's better than just plain white base cards. They've been doing that for 6 years, and there's been zero improvement.

All they can do is make parallels of the entire base set just because they can. And keep overlooking great ideas, even if they're waved in front of their faces like money or Stephen Strasburg.

It's sad. Topps just isn't even trying anymore.


  1. I agree with you, really. I would love to see Topps get back to using team coded color in the base design--colors that "fit", as you say. Or even colors that clash, as when, in the 60s, purple meant Mets or A's and Green was for Giants and Senators. But colorful cards that instantly tell you what team it is. But it will not happen because Topps is trying to sell cards. And, as other types of collectors have moved away, the most fanatical of the new groups of collectors are the rainbow chasers. So its hard for me to fault Topps for playing to whatever crowd is most fanatical at any given moment. That's why we have parallels, that's why we have autographs and carpet samples, that's why we have minis, that's why we have $150 packs. Because certain groups will buy it and buy a lot of it. Me? I loved Topps Total. And I keep reading online that lots of other people loved Topps Total. But, at the end of the day, nobody bought it. Except me. And maybe a few others. But not enough to make it profitable for Topps. And they are in business to make a profit.

  2. Ahhh... Topps' parallels. Some people love them, other can't stand them. I understand why they make a bunch of different colored borders. It give player collectors and team collectors an additional thing to chase. My main issue is that Topps put three different unnumbered parallels into hanger boxes. What's up with that? Anyways... I really like your idea of team specific colored parallels, but you're right I don't see that happening anytime soon (but who knows... maybe an exec will read this post and do something about it).

    1. Execs don't read blogs, let alone mine. They can't take constructive criticism from anyone who doesn't work at Topps and/or have lots of money.

  3. I don't think it's radical at all. I also don't see it being that hard to do. Swapping border colors is done lots with fonts and accents. It's just a couple of clicks (I think) -- kind of like doing a photo. We'd just have to be prepared for some strange-looking miscuts every now and again.

    1. For Topps, I think it's easier to produce hundreds of thousands of cards with white borders than just hundreds of cards with multi-colored borders. I disagree with this, but it's sadly how they work.

  4. I like your take on the isues at Topps in regards to production problems and some of the perceived arrogance that has popped up with the company since they became the sole licensed MLB trading card company. However, I think another big factor in this picture is money. The internals at Topps have been much more aware of their bottom line in recent years after the company did some shuffling and some other smoke and mirrors with the amount of debt the company was carrying. There are five parallels because it is perceived to be helping their bottom line. Honestly, that's the only thing that I feel drives the majority of Topps products. How is this product good for Topps? The collector is factored in there somewhere, but it's not first or second on the list.