Million Dollar Question – ‘If Your Ran Topps’ Flagship Product, How Would You Release It?’

Million Dollar Question – ‘If Your Ran Topps’ Flagship Product, How Would You Release It?’

This week’s‘Million Dollar Question’ comes as a result of a recent email conversation I had with ’30-YOC’ reader Matt about Topps and their over-saturation of the baseball card release date calendar. Matt shared a link with me to from that was a pretty lively discussion about how Topps releases their flagship product and what could be done to improve that set and the collecting experience for loyal builders of the set. In my opinion, some of the points were horrible, some were interesting, and many were not practical at all. Still, it was nice to see such lively chatter and care from a handful of collectors that are passionate about the hobby.

Matt and I went back and forth with ideas that we had on what minor and major changes Topps could implement that we thought would be an improvement.  That has led me to this week’s Million Dollar Question – ‘If Your Ran Topps’ Flagship Product, How Would You Release It?’

Currently, the Topps set is released in four waves – Series 1, Opening Day, Series 2, and Update. Series 1 is released in January, Opening Day in March, Series 2 in June, and Update comes out in October. Normally, I would like this approach as it allows you to enjoy aspects of the baseball season as they unfold – players starring on new teams, emerging rookies, in-season trades, All-Star festivities, and more. What this also does, is overcrowd the calendar – quite a bit! And while I am a big fan of the subsets, I certainly don’t need 10 Mike Trout cards or Clayton Kershaw cards just from the flagship set.

So, if I was running the Topps production and product release schedule, this is how I would do it:
*March – Release the full flagship set with emphasis on new players on new teams, current team rosters, highlights and World Series cards from prior season
*May – Release the Opening Day set with one card for every player on the starting roster, plus manager cards, for every team
*August – Release an All-Star set, not sold in packs, only sold in hobby shops or through Topps. All cards to honor the HR Derby, All-Star rosters, and highlights from the game and surrounding festivities
*October – Release the Update set which will include all trades from the season and rookies not included in the March release.  Also commemorate any player that retires during the season.

Basically, I would like to take the Topps flagship set back to its roots. By limiting the amount of sets, it makes the task of completing them and staying current easier for all. And I think that an exclusive All-Star set would be a nice attraction for the hobby shops to enjoy.

I also really think that Topps fails with their Opening Day sets as they are currently presented. While I like the card’s extra ‘Opening Day’ logo, I just don’t understand how one team can be represented with three cards in a set like this while others get 7,8, or 9. I’d love to see this set get back to what it used to be – kind like the 1987 Donruss version.

So, if you had a chance to make a suggestion to the people at Topps, how would you change the way that their flagship set is offered? How would you release the cards and what would you do to maintain interest throughout the season?




10 responses to “Million Dollar Question – ‘If Your Ran Topps’ Flagship Product, How Would You Release It?’

  1. In terms of a release date I would release flagship in:

    December – I’m not too worried about having a current team roster (that’s what Update is for – I really hate airbrushed cards). When the Orioles traded Eddie Murray (My favorite all time player); I was glad that he wasn’t in his new Dodgers uniform because it allowed me another baseball season to collect Murray cards while in his Orioles uniform.

    I would release Update in:

    October (More specifically the release date would coincide with Game 1 of the World Series).

    As far as changes go….

    – Use 1991 paper stock.

    – Increase the set size of Flagship to 792.

    – Decrease the set size of Update to 132.

    – Sell Flagship and Update together as a factory set as well as separately.

    – Take All-Star cards out of Update and put them back in Flagship.

    – Bring back Turn The Clock Back cards, but with a twist. For example a TBTC card celebrating Rickey Henderson passing Lou Brock would be the exact front of a 1991 Henderson card but the back would be a write up about Rickey passing Lou Brock’s record.

    – Make Record Breakers, Future Stars and Team Leaders fixtures once again in Flagship.

    – I would get rid of Opening Day completely.

    – I would make Chrome cards insert cards in random packs instead of Chrome getting it’s own release date.

    – I would make Mini cards insert cards in random packs instead of them being an on line special set. The Mini cards should be like the old Topps Mini Leader cards (1986-1990) just a select set of baseball’s best.

    -I would have SP cards in Flagship, but only of Hall Of Fame players.

    – Bring back Sweepstakes cards where the winner gets to go to Cooperstown or Spring Training for a week.

    and finally I would get rid of autograph, relic and redemption cards allowing for lower wax & pack price points. Don’t get me wrong autos and relics have their place in the hobby (Tier 1), but Flagship should be simple fun and celebrating the future & the past of the hobby.

    -Oh yeah, one last thing I’d bring back the gum!

    • Matt- Excellent stuff!!! I’m not in the same page in regards to the dates of the releases, but I love your ideas of going back to what the old 792-card set offered.

      Thanks for your help with this MDQ!!

  2. I like the Opening Day idea. I’d buy that.

  3. The purpose of Opening Day is its an entry level price point. That is all. Topps base brand used to be entry level priced, but all the autos and relics have bumped the price beyond the kid with a couple quarters in his pocket. Thus Opening Day. Me, I’d abolish Opening Day, put all the autos and relics in the premium brands and make the Topps base brand a base brand again. I’d also go back to multiple series–each with unique inserts which come one in every pack, like the coins or the deckle edge or the 3D or the posters or minis…you get the idea. Series 1 in December. Series 2 in February. Series 3 in April. Series 4 in June. Series 5 in August. Series 6 in October. Nothing “seasonal” about each series–just more cards. In short, I’d take Topps back to its roots, back to what made it the greatest hobby in the world. The card season would unfold on a parallel track to the baseball season (cards will never be “current”–can’t be done; Topps tries its best and still you get Dickey as a Met in series 1). As opposed to gimmick and manufactured short prints, you’ll get short prints naturally based upon seasonal demand. Might be fewer people care in December than in October, so maybe Series 1 will be the short printed series. You probably won’t know for a few years. Nobody knew, when I was a kid, that the late series were short printed. Heck, I never even knew there were series 6 and 7 for some years because our shops didn’t order any–just tried to get rid of what they’d already bought.

    Go back to unique borders–preferably with bright and often odd colors (every Topps card design since about 1991 looks exactly the same to me–certainly the last 3 or 4 years are all but identical). Do away with all the foil print and high gloss and just go back to a nice base brand that you can buy a box of for under $30. Is that too much to ask? Oh, and do away with factory sets altogether. What’s the fun in that?

    • Stubby- Thank you for the great commentary, that was a refreshing way to look at it.

      If you had a 6-series set of cards that was issued throughout the year, how many cards would you release when done? Just curious as this sounds like the set would be a monster!!

      And I love the thought of nabbing a box for under $30. Sadly, those days appear to be long gone…

      • 132 per series. That’s 792, if my math is correct. Just like the old days. Oh, and I’d go back to posed shots (with “In Action” subsets); all those action shots look alike to me. I can get the action on TV. I want to see players in poses I could duplicate myself…makes it easier to imagine being the ballplayer.

        Yes, none of it will ever happen. Topps does what they do precisely because the beancounters have formulated what precisely to do to maximize profit. The way it is is the way it will be until the market changes and sales drop off to a point where small moves won’t correct. Sure they made a huge profit without much effort in the 80s and early 90s, and the profit today for them is nowhere near that, but they still make a nice profit.

      • Stubby- A set that large of just posed images would be tough to stomach for a collector like myself. I need change and after a year or two of that, I would feel like it was all the same.

      • The 1965 set was boring? The 1970 set was boring? 1972 was boring? 1975 boring? No, 2000-2013 have been boring. Put all the pitchers cards next to each other. They all look precisely the same–same angle, same crop, same motion…for all I know, they have one card and they just pop a different face in it and airbrush the logos. You’d be surprised how different the posed shots look…because you can actually focus on the player. Willie Mays posed cards never looked like Hank Aaron posed cards. But Bryce Harper action cards look exactly the same as Mike Trout action cards. That’s the truth of it. Just sayin’.

      • Stubby- Personally, I feel that if the sets featured only posed images it would not take long before we saw the same images used over and over, and in consecutive years too (like Ernie Banks in 68 & 69). While some action cards may seem to have repetitive imagery, at least they are showing the player playing. I’d take that over another card showing the same guy with a bat on his shoulder while forcing a smile.

        Just my two cents.

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