Blog Bat Around – 2009 and Beyond…
Wow, 2008 really showed me how many superfluous sets there are out there. In my mind, there is really only a need for four types of product a year: Base set (which is your typical Series 1 cards), Bowman Rookies (your rookies and prospects), Retro/artistic (the Goudeys/Allen & Ginters/Masterpieces), and your High end (Sterling, Exquisite, etc.). Each of those sets have their own role and is essential to the baseball collecting world. The Series 1 cards are practical for newcomers to the hobby such as children and young fans that buy up baseball cards at baseball stadiums across the country during games. The rookie card set is also essential for prospectors. Bowman pretty much has a monopoly on the value of modern day rookie cards despite Razor being the new kid on the block. It will always be that way until someone else gets MLB licensing. The artistic looking cards appeal to everyone – old school collectors and young ones alike. They look good and for the most part, you can tell a lot of work and quality went into producing these cards. High end cards are important too, but there needs to be more quality and less base cards. When you’re paying upwards of over $150 for one box with only 5-6 cards, nobody really cares about the 1-2 base cards. They’re irrelevant because you are targeting a crowd that wants those auto and relic hits. Remove the base cards.
Now that’s established, we can talk about which sets should return and which products should be killed off. I think we all know the obvious answers to the ones that should be killed off: Upper Deck X, Spectrum, Documentary (possibly worse than X), Ballpark, Heroes, Ultimate Collection; Topps Heritage, Regular Bowman, Bowman’s Best, Opening Day, Stadium Club (possibly the worst re-release ever), Topps Chrome. All these sets are either irrelevant or terrible. They can all be compacted into the above four sets. Turn them into inserts or something, but they don’t deserve to be standalone sets. How can any baseball card company make any money off only four sets, you ask? Well, they can’t, but here’s my idea: put time and effort into the quality of the card and card designs, and put together a huge set (not YSL huge, but enough to keep collectors occupied and high end collectors searching), and then release each of the sets in two parts. For example, release Series 1 during Opening Day, then release Series 2 in September or something. You could do the same with rookies by releasing prospects in one part of the year, then rookies in the second half, but you keep it all under one product name such as Bowman Chrome. In addition, keep the release of these products in limited supply, so the consumers always want more. Maybe, it’s too idealistic, but that would be my view of a perfect year of sets. You have 16 sets total: 8 sets from UD, 8 sets from Topps – broken down to 4 sets in the first half of the year, and 4 sets in the second half.
As for sets that should be kept, I think UD is making a huge mistake by pulling out of Masterpieces. Masterpieces to me is like their go to answer against Topp’s Allen & Ginter sets. Both are well done, but I really like the frames that come with the Masterpieces. As for Sweet Spot, I really like the set, but the 2008 release was atrocious. They got the right idea with the price, but unfortunately, the cards you got were crap. I like the idea of pulling them and using Sweet Spot as insert cards into other sets. UD really doesn’t have an answer to Topp’s Bowman brand as a set for rookies so they could come up with a new product in that category. As for high end, I think both Topps and UD do a horrible job of producing. I hate Sterling, Exquisite, and especially Triple Threads. Here’s an idea: take a hint from Donruss-Playoff and product something like Prime Cuts IV. Everyone went so crazy for these cards, it drove the eBay price up from around $150 to nearly $200 per box. Inside, you get quality cards (albeit a couple base), and an encased box hit! Imagine that; encased cards are actually a good idea. Now just remove the base and put all relics/autos. Yes, I know you need to include some no-name players but as long as your ratios are somewhere like Prime Cuts, you have a winner. Set the price at $150 and you should be good.
As for Topps, keep Bowman Chrome and Allen & Ginter only. You don’t need any other sets. Get rid of Draft Picks & Prospects and regular Bowman. Insert Bowman’s Best as and Bowman Sterling into Chrome as inserts. Allen & Ginter is fine as it is. Don’t screw with something that works. As for high end, see above – restructure something like Sterling into something worth buying like Prime Cuts. When you produce cards with jersey and patch windows, make the die-cuts spell out something that makes sense rather than putting random statistics (i.e. see Dave’s post on this subject). I actually like Topps Finest a lot in both design and price so I would like to see that around.
Now moving on to card type, this is an absolute must: GET RID OF SO MANY PARALLELS! There shouldn’t be parallels with more colors than colors of the rainbow. I absolutely hated UD Heroes for that very reason and to some effect, Masterpieces has that problem as well, but not as dramatic. Keep it simple like the Bowman set, which I love: refractor, xfractor, blue, gold, orange, red, superfractor (7!) Thanks, I would really appreciate that. Gimmicks are stupid – I don’t really care for them so include one if you must to humor yourselves, but no more. Another thing: Topps Moments & Milestones + UD Documentary = urge to kill rising. Seriously?! I don’t even know how you explain yourselves with these. It’s one thing to produce these types of cards with different pictures and photos depicting the events that happened or the accomplishments, but this is just plain and simple, lazy work. Yes the back of the cards are different, but I really hate how all the front pictures are the same and have nothing to do with the game that they’re referring to (for Documentary). It’s worse for Moments & Milestones because there’s just a different number. On top of that, there’s parallels! Worst decision ever. This is just as bad, if not worse, than watering down the quality of cards in the 90’s with the flooding of the market with GU relics and autos.
In summary, I just want to see the products streamlined for quality and not quantity. I know I will never get my wish, but at least it’s got to start somewhere. I’m actually glad there’s only two companies now duking it out for supremacy over the baseball card world. I just wish they lived up to their name in their heyday.